Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ON REALLY, REALLY LOVING FOOTBALL


Will Tim Tebow succeed in the National Football League? I have no idea. Who am I, Jesus? Now, on the more pertinent question of whether I would prefer Tebow succeed in the National Football League,* I am equally torn: I enjoy watching him play, and I find the schematic possibilities of Tebow intriguing, and I find much of the criticism of him to be based in irrational hatred. That said, I have inexplicable moments of irrational hatred for Tebow myself; sometimes, he comes across more like an Oliver Stone caricature of a football player rather than an actual football player, and this bothers me, too. What kind of person actually refers to the "juice level" in a room? I'll tell you what kind of person: A football player, and by "footbal player," I mean, "the stereotypical notion of an ideal football player that NFL coaches carry in their head." This, apparently, is why the Broncos drafted Tebow in the first round: Because he LOVES FOOTBALL MORE THAN YOU DO. DO YOU LOVE FOOTBALL? NOT AS MUCH AS JOSH MCDANIELS DOES. NOT AS MUCH AS JON GRUDEN DOES. NOT AS MUCH AS TIM TEBOW DOES. NOW DROP AND GIVE ME TWENTY.

I'LL WAIT.

I'm not trying to pick on Tebow: If he really is this intense, then I wish him the best, and I hope he never gets so jacked up on one of those philanthropic tours of poor nations that he attempts to circumcise a tiger. But this is the funny thing about football: In an essential way, every coach is exactly the same. Josh McDaniels, the head coach of a professional franchise, is searching for the same attributes in his players as a high-school coach in McCook, Nebraska. They want absolute dedication. They want "football traits," whatever that means. And this means an almost cartoonish singlemindedness is a positive characteristic.

Over at Fanhouse, Clay Travis wrote an intriguing screed about Myron Rolle, the Rhodes Scholar who was drafted in the sixth round; Travis claims that teams shied away from Rolle because of his intelligence, because they worried that Rolle was "too smart." I think that's a little too simplistic; I think teams shied away from Rolle because he didn't seem singleminded enough. It's not about being smart; it's about presenting an image that makes you seem as dedicated to football as possible. Rolle slipped in the draft for the same reason Aaron Hernandez slipped to the Patriots in the fourth round: Neither one appeared to care, first and foremost, about football. The reasons for these perceptions are completely different, of course, but equally idiotic. In neither case is there any reason to believe that Hernandez or Rolle won't be as dedicated to their football career as Tim Tebow would be just because they have outside interests, be they in medicine or indoor horticulture. It's just that football people don't think that way. Football people think like Tim Tebow does, and this is why, even if he succeeds in the NFL, he will always be overrated. 

*If I repeat the phrase "National Football League" often enough, I'm told I can secure a job as an analyst on NFL LIve.

1 comment:

WarningTrack said...

One could make the case that love of the game itself is far more important in football than most other sports. I don't usually believe in things like "wanting it more" or "momentum," but football makes me wonder sometimes. It seems so intense and exhausting that love of the game and effort matter more than in, say, baseball. Now, I don't believe this as thoroughly as the Jon Grudens of the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE do, but I believe it a little. Just a little, though.

Digressing a bit, I'm pretty bugged about the criticism surrounding Tebow. I have no problem with people thinking he might not succeed, because he might not. Most drafted players don't. But I think it's absurd that the basis for this prediction is invariably something about how atypical he is as a QB, or some completely wrongheaded assertion that, if he gets moved to half-back, the pick will automatically be judged a failure. Nevermind that guys like Drew Brees were once deemed to short, and many successful QBs were said to have lacked arm strength (ask JaMarcus Russell how important arm strength is to success).

Or, more likely, it's not a criticism of him as a player, but a criticism of the perceived over-valuation he gets for being such a positive, upstanding human being. It's not unlike people who criticize a perfectly good film out of a desire to smack down what they see as overly fawning praise for it. The goal stops being about making an objective assessment, and more about acting as some kind of analytical counterweight.

That said, criticizing the choice in a very general sense has some merit, if one views the draft as an effort over time to secure the safest players possible (which, as a Steelers fan, I can tell you is a very sound strategy). The Tebow pick is probably outside of the optimal risk/reward ratio on this front. But the Mel Kipers of the world think the arm angle he USED to use is apparently going to completely stop him from ever being successful. That's just dumb.

I'm kind of all over the place now, though. Where was I? Oh yeah: stay outta my booze.