Monday, December 24, 2012

12/24 (Eve) Quickie

There is this phenomenon in sports newsrooms (and emergency rooms and restaurants and elsewhere) where the non-Christians are happy to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas, letting our observant colleagues enjoy the holidays with their families.

The skeleton crew lends itself to some relaxed moments, and you often will see stories hit the front page that might not otherwise. In that spirit, I'm going to lead with the Tebow debacle, because I'm working today and it's the story that interests me most. Fair enough? I promise not to belabor it, but I think it ties back to the spirit of the season:


Simply put, Tim Tebow is as team-first as any player you will meet. He is single-minded in his interest in helping his team win. He clearly thinks (and has proven) that the best chance for that is with the ball in his hands, but he has also clearly demonstrated that he's willing to do whatever it takes to help.

There are plenty of people who are tired of (or annoyed with) the "Tebowmania" thing, but that is much more of a function of being annoyed with the media than being annoyed with him. If anything, even the haters begrudgingly respect Tebow's complete commitment to winning and to his team. Throughout this season, Tebow has taken any number of relative humiliations -- being assigned as punt protector the most glaring -- in stride and with a "whatever it takes to help the team win" mentality.

What does it say, then, that Tebow was willing to tarnish that very core of his appeal -- that very core of his personality -- by telling the Jets he didn't want to be part of their Wildcat (or faux-Wildcat) inanity this week. He must know he is more popular than the team, and he had to know the Jets would leak his request (or, framed less charitably, refusal) around playing time.

He had to know there would be blowback (with the most common response something akin to how Peter King put it: He totally agrees with Tebow that the Jets have miserably screwed him around, but you can't say you won't play.) He had to know it would instantly become part of the Tebow canon -- the December nadir to bookend the moment in January during the playoffs that would define both his NFL career and Tebowmania in general.

That is how miserable he was. The Jets managed not only to implode their own season, but they made Tebow...flinch. They had him so unhappy that he went against everything he is -- and a sizeable piece of why people believe in him: both off and on the field, his subordination to the greater good... to service.

That is how screwed up the Jets are. So screwed up they could screw up Tim Tebow.

The good news is that the relationship is almost over -- it is a sign of how much the Jets fear Tebow's popularity not just that they didn't play him before, but that when he wouldn't play for them now, they honored it without fuss (until it inevitably fussed). Tebow will land with another team -- probably the Jaguars -- one that will hopefully give him a chance.

It cannot possibly go worse in Jacksonville -- or anywhere else -- than it did in New York with the Jets. The Jets had absolutely no belief -- no faith -- in Tebow.

And, it seemed, Tebow eventually lost enough faith in something he believed in -- "team" -- that he would turn away from that concept for seemingly the first time in his life.

Aside from believing in the essential rightness of his own decision in this particular case, I cannot imagine that was anything but difficult for Tebow in the grand scheme of his unyielding belief in always wanting to do what is right for the team.

Faith -- in oneself, in your team (or the larger concept of "team"), in the human condition, in people we admire (yes, like Tebow)... in anything really -- is essential, not just on Christmas but every day.

To see that faith tested in such a stark way -- by someone who epitomizes faith in football (and I'm not even talking about religious faith) -- is a pretty good reminder of the core position of faith in our lives, however it manifests itself. And it is a pretty good reminder how tenuous that faith can be.

If anything, this is a good moment to remind yourself -- to reaffirm, really -- that no matter what it might be, you've always got to maintain a little faith. Especially for those moments when it is tested.


Don't forget: Starting tonight, the greatest holiday movie of all time "A Christmas Story." 24 hours of it, and in this year's production, the role of Ralphie will be played by Russell Wilson, who -- as absurds as this seems -- deserves NFL Rookie of the Year as much as (or perhaps even more than) the rookie QB who has broken all the meaningful rookie-QB records and led his worst-in-the-league-last-year team to the playoffs AND the rookie QB who has become the most must-see player in the NFL and led his nearly-worst-in-the-league-last-year team to the cusp of the playoffs.

To those of you celebrating: Merry Christmas. And to those of you not? Enjoy the Chinese food and movies.

-- D.S.

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