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'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.