Having moved back to my home state of Alabama 18 months ago, I’ve caught Tim Tebow’s act many, many times.
His exploits in a University of Florida uniform are already the stuff legend is made of and, whether you like him or not, the guy is a winner.
Which brings me to the inferno of uproar being fanned by national sports talk show hosts from coast to coast about why the Denver Bronco’s inexplicably plucked the ex-Gators quarterback with the 25th overall pick in last month’s NFL draft.
To put it simply, Tebow is the anti-loudmouth, end-zone celebrating athlete that so many pure sports fans have grown to detest.
A lot of modern-day athletes will tell you that Hall of Famers like Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, John Elway and Emmitt Smith are past history. And that they … this new brash breed … are what’s happening now.
But what we remember about all those former greats is that they let their play on the field do the talking. And the only “taunts” they gave their opponent was a quick stare that let them know who was really “the man.”
They didn’t do The Worm in the end zone or practice celebrations in front of their bedroom mirrors the night before the game.
Sadly and whether people really want to say it or not, this new breed of athlete many think is killing the game are so often young black men suddenly turned millionaires, who flaunt their new-found riches in jewelry, cars and trouble.
Which brings me back to Tebow.
He epitomizes the kind of athlete a lot of folks want to see.
I personally have a problem with the way he ‘publicly” gets in his teammate’s faces “on the field” when they make a mistake, because the unwritten sports rule says you take that stuff to the sidelines and not air it in front of 75,000 fans and a national television audience.
But, again, you can’t argue the fire that burns in this guy, and so many people will explain his in-your-face style as a “passion to win,” or just his high-strung nature as an athlete.
The impassioned, near tearful “we’ll be back” speech he gave to the media after a home loss to Ole Miss in 2008 … a speech the team used to propel them on to the national championship … is captured on a plaque outside UF’s athletic building for all to forever see.
I heard an interview Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis gave recently, saying: “When Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson came out of college a few years ago, he had the same hitch in his throwing motion that Tebow has and nobody helped him.”
It was an obvious reference to the multitude of people who’ve come forward, most notably ex-NFL coach turned ESPN analyst John Gruden, to take Tebow under their wings this off-season and help him correct the time-consuming inefficiency in his passing motion.
Like it or not, you can’t argue with what Lewis is saying or the obvious inference to race he’s making.
But … and this is a big but … Andre Woodson doesn’t represent what Tebow does. He also doesn’t have a Heisman Trophy sitting in his house.
People get so offended whenever the race card is played in America, and I’m getting sick of it because … like it or not … race has a lot to do with this country.
It’s at the very foundation of America’s history, and should be taught in schools so young kids coming up know its origin and how to deal with it peacefully … if that’s possible.
To think race will go away if you just don’t talk about it is, well, pretty stupid.
Just like it’s stupid if you don’t think the bulk of sports fans in this country want to see more guys like Tebow playing the game … a guy who puts team first and lets all the accolades coming his way for that attitude fall where they may.
I had the pleasure of covering Barry Sanders in Detroit, when he thrilled fans for years with his low-key attitude and “team first” mentality while playing on crappy teams.
And if ever there was a player who deserved to dance in the end zone after a score it was Barry … especially after all the magician-like “now you see him, where did he go “stuff he pulled on the field.
I asked him once why he never danced when he scored, but simply threw the ball back to the ref and went to the sidelines. He looked at me kind of confused and dryly said: “Because the play was over.”
Yes, the Broncos are betting a lot that Tebow can bring some of his magic back to a team who still remembers the legendary games of that guy who wore “number 7.”
But more importantly to them, they’re bringing in a guy who … like it or not … has an “old school” knack for playing the game the way a lot of folks think it should be played.
With actions, not dance moves.