I don't ask for much, but I'm asking for Tim Tebow to be left alone. By gold-digging groupies and drug-pushing lackeys. By friends with big mouths, and by strangers with cell-phone cameras. By TMZ.
Most of all, by TMZ.
We don't have many fairy tales in sports, feel-good stories like that movie about the 5-foot-6 walk-on at Notre Dame who spent four years getting his ass kicked in practice before finally being allowed to play in his final home game, against Georgia Tech. He recorded a sack on the last play and was carried off the field by teammates. That's how the movie Rudy ends.
The real story? Rudy Ruettiger was unmasked this week as a financial fraud, a liar and a swindler who used his fame -- and a series of lies -- to pump up the profile of his company to unwitting investors, then dump the stock at an enormous profit.
There are no fairy tales anymore, not in sports. Turns out, the biggest home-run hitter in baseball was just sentenced to house arrest and probation for lying about the steroids that made his power possible. Turns out, the cleanest big-time football coach in America was shielding a predator, allowing former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky to roam State College, Pa., for nearly a decade after being told by an eyewitness that Sandusky was a child molester.
Turns out, Rudy was a white-collar scumbag.
Where have you gone, Tim Tebow? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. So I'm asking everyone else to leave the man alone. Do not tempt him. Do not rat him out. Give us the myth of Tebow. He's the last one we've got.
And just so you know, at the moment I'm perfectly willing to believe the myth of Tebow is no myth at all. I believe he's actually what he seems to be, a clean-living, God-fearing, credit-deflecting, groupie-ignoring, baby-kissing Puritan.
Seriously. I believe all of that, and I'm as cynical as it gets. Show me a half-full glass, and I'll point out that it's really half-empty, and since I'm not sure where the glass came from in the first place, I'm going to assume the waiter spit in it. Drink it if you want, but not me. I have no idea where that glass has been.
But I know where Tebow has been. I've read his book, listened to his testimony, followed his career. I can hear his voice in my head, and it's an unusual voice for a superstar. He sounds like a little kid, earnest and excited and innocent. He has the voice of a Boy Scout, not an NFL quarterback. He's so square, I'm assuming his helmet was specially made with right angles.
That's who he is now. I'm sure of it. But will Tebow stay that way? Lord I hope so, so please don't get me wrong here: I'm not rooting for Tebow to fall, as everyone eventually falls. I'm not calling him perfect or anything ridiculous like that. But it's not a stretch to say he's as perfect, off the field, as any superstar today.
Please let him stay that way, but for that, he'll need some help from all of you. He'll need the groupies to leave him alone, to not bring him down as they brought down Tiger Woods. He has managed to avoid a sex scandal of any sort -- even the sort of stuff that, in some circles, has made living legends of Derek Jeter and Tom Brady -- but for how long? Don't ask. And if you find out, don't tell.
He'll need the pushers of PED's to skip his locker, to not whisper into his ear that everyone else is doing it, that if he wants to stay ahead of the monsters who are trying to hurt him on any given Sunday, that he'd better use the same supplements they're using. And they're using the finest HGH and steroids available -- primo stuff, man, and completely undetectable.
Most of all, he'll need us to stop searching for signs of fallibility. Because he is fallible. Let's not be ridiculous here. Tim Tebow is a man, and while he's about as noble a man as I've ever seen, he's still a man. He's human. And humans screw up. Assuming he hasn't already, Tebow will screw up someday, screw up to the point that his cover will be blown and his critics will rejoice.
See! Told you he was a fraud!
The search is ongoing. Deadspin suggested on Dec. 12 that Tebow had broken up U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn's marriage.
Vonn has denied it -- and as far as I can tell, nobody in Denver had the heart to even ask Tebow about it -- but the world wants to know. Do a Google search for "Tim Tebow" and "Lindsey Vonn," and limit it to Dec. 12 and beyond, and you'll find nearly 400,000 results. The rumor has been mentioned by the Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times and People magazine.
Because people are curious: Is Tebow mortal? Is he imperfect?
Of course he is. Most of us know he is.
But let us pretend a bit longer, huh? I don't think anyone's weeping for the downfall of Rudy. But we'd weep for Tebow. And I'd need some Kleenex myself.