Tim Tebow has been a great story, but I'm concerned about how this story ends. It's not the Florida fan in me, or the Tim Tebow fan in me, because neither fan exists. But the writer in me? The writer in me exists, and the writer in me is concerned. Writers love a good story, and we especially love a good ending.
|Tim Tebow leaves Florida with a Heisman and two national titles. (Getty Images)|
Not his story overall. I'm not asking for the young man to die. I'm asking for him to retire from football. Wouldn't that be perfect? Seriously -- I cannot imagine a better ending, a more fitting ending, for this once-in-a-lifetime football player than his immaculate Sugar Bowl performance, when he threw for 482 yards and ran for 51 and produced as many touchdowns (four) as incomplete passes.
We should all be so lucky as to go out like that -- knowing our limitations, knowing we have reached the apex of our career, and leaving on our own terms. That would be like me winning a Pulitzer Prize and then smashing my laptop to pieces after accepting the award. (I'm never winning a Pulitzer; I know this. It's an analogy, people.) That would be like Bobby Bowden passing Bear Bryant with 324 career victories at the declining age of 72 and then stepping down (OK, another bad example).
It would be like Jim Brown winning the NFL rushing title in 1965 and then, at age 29, retiring from football.
It would be like Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax going 27-9 in 1966, the best season of his superstar career, and then retiring at age 30.
It would be like Rocky Marciano knocking out three fighters in 12 months and then, in 1955, retiring at age 32.
When Marciano retired, he was 49-0 -- the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. That's what Tebow is at this moment: the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. His world is college football, and he's probably the most accomplished player in the history of the sport. One Heisman, two national championships, a career win-loss record of 48-7?
The undisputed champ-eeeeeeen of the world ...
But that world is over. His world -- his world as a magical football player -- is over. It ended Friday night in New Orleans, where the combination of Tebow's unique gifts as a quarterback and Urban Meyer's unique gifts as a coach produced the perfect game. Florida named its score against undefeated Cincinnati (51-24), and Tebow turned in what will go down as one of the best individual bowl performances in college football history.
So step down, Tebow. Call it a career. Go on with your life, which will be magical in its own way.
I'm being sincere about this, and not trying to rile anyone up. If I wanted to do that, I'd write 1,000 words about Tebow's NFL prospects, dismiss them outright, and dare you to argue with me. And lots of people would. They'd argue that Tebow, who lacks the arm strength and the pocket patience of an NFL quarterback, will succeed in the NFL anyway. And maybe he would succeed anyway, after a humbling draft day and a humbling early stretch of NFL seasons as a reserve, maybe even as the inactive No. 3 quarterback on Sundays. Maybe after all that, by age 28, Tebow would be ready to start for an NFL team and would turn in a respectable season that would have all of his defenders mocking people like me for saying it couldn't be done.
Is that what you want?
Do you want to see the great Tebow -- and he is great in two areas; he's a great college football player, and he's a great young man -- reduced to Kellen Clemens? I don't want to see that, and I'm dead serious. Over the years I've objected to the deification of Tebow, even wrote something along those very lines, but the deification of Tebow was never his fault. The media fell in love with him early in his career, the Gators were on television every week, and you know how TV announcers are -- they talk up the coaches and players on the field as if they're saints, savants or both. It's the nature of the business, and lots of us objected. Last year during Florida's national title game against Oklahoma, we heard Fox's Thom Brennaman actually utter the words, "If you're fortunate to spend five minutes or 20 minutes around Tim Tebow, your life is better for it" -- and we retched.
But the nausea was never directed at Tebow. At least not my nausea. It was directed at those who would beatify the young man, silly gushers like Brennaman and even his own football coach, Meyer, who believes in the same God as Tebow and therefore decided this about the Biblical verses that Tebow wears under his eyes: "It's good for college football, it's good for young people, it's good for everything." That myopia ignores the roughly 4.5 billion worldwide residents who don't subscribe to their religion, which is shortsighted and insulting, but again, it's not Tebow's fault.
Tebow is the real deal. You can disagree with his politics or his religious beliefs, if you assume (as I do) that they're one and the same. But you can't disagree with his sincerity. Whether he's right or wrong isn't the point -- he honestly believes, and he doesn't just talk about his beliefs, although he does do that an awful lot. He lives them. He's not Eugene Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons, winning a Christian service award the morning before the 1999 Super Bowl and then being arrested that night for soliciting a prostitute. Tebow isn't Rick Pitino, with his Catholic priest behind the bench and his mistress on the restaurant table. Tebow damn sure isn't Tiger Woods.
Tebow is for real. If he goes to the NFL, he'll play -- or not play -- in the fall and then he'll volunteer at a soup kitchen or in a Third World country in the offseason. I truly believe that. I truly believe in Tim Tebow.
But I also truly believe this: He'll be an average NFL player, at best -- and I don't want to see Tim Tebow be average at anything.