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Tim Tebow Phenomenon Spreading Like Wildfire

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

His celebrity is growing incredibly fast, but is it for the right reasons?

Tim Tebow Phenomenon Spreading Like Wildfire

In case you haven't heard, Tim Tebow is playing pretty football in the NFL.  He might not be the best quarterback, but the Denver Broncos have done pretty well with him under center.  He has a penchant for making big plays in the fourth quarter. 

And nobody can stop talking about him.

For these reasons, and a few more, Tim Tebow's celebrity has grown tremendously in the last few months.  He hasn't asked for any of this, by the way.  The media has keyed in on this one topic and they won't stop beating it into the ground. 

Because of that, things like this happen.  Last night, potential Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry referred to Tim Tebow during the GOP debate.

Regardless of your political affiliation, I think we can all agree that this TebowMania thing is officially getting out of hand...

Oh, and in case you were slightly confused, that was a real clip from last night's Republican Primary debate in Iowa and not an SNL skit.

Or something like this will happen.

A group of high school athletes on Long Island were suspended after Tebowing in the hall.

Jordan Fulcoly, Wayne Drexel and brothers Tyler and Connor Carroll of Riverhead High School were given one-day suspensions for their homage to Tim Tebow...

The school cited them for clogging the hallways after up to 40 classmates joined them in the Tebow craze.

Here's the video of the incident:

Tebow has been vaulted to the top of not only the NFL landscape this year by the media, particularly ESPN, but the pop culture landscape as well.  SI's Richard Deitsch wrote on this phenomenon earlier today.

"Phenomenon is an accurate description for Tim Tebow," said Matt Delzell, a group account director from The Marketing Arm.

Tebow's highest scores are in aspiration, influence, endorsement and trendsetter. The second-year quarterback ranked No. 402 on DBI's Aspiration scale this Fall, but has soared to No. 15 as oft his writing. He's No. 32 on the influence list (Swift and Gaga are tied for 28th while Hanks is at No.33 and Aniston at No. 38 ), 79th on endorsement (amidst Peyton Manning, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Shaun White, and Clint Eastwood), and among the top 85 trendsetters (on par with George Clooney, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake).

Regarding Trust, Tebow has moved into the top 75 of the DBI Index, which puts him in the same neighborhood as Tony Dungy, Harrison Ford and Mike Krzyzewski.

For a second-year athlete that hasn't even played a full season, that's impressive company. It's astounding that Tebow has become this influential basically without even trying.  His mannerisms aren't preconceived or acted out purely to gain attention.  He doesn't play up his religion any more than other athletes who thank God after a game.  But for some reason, they stick more from Tebow than from other athletes.

The blog Awful Announcing jumped on one key point from Deitsch's article about the media and Tebow.  Here's the most of the comment from their Twitter handle:

"Nationally, no sports program illustrates the manner in which Tebow moves the needle more than ESPN2's First Take, which features analyst Skip Bayless, a nearly 60-year-old man, defending the quarterback against handpicked opponents like a self-appointed F. Lee Bailey. But the proselytizing is working. The program's five most-watched shows ever have come in the last two months, and First Take's most-watched program (586,835 viewers) came on Dec. 5, following Denver's 35-32 win over Minnesota."

Tebow absolutely moves the needle nationwide as Deitsch's column proves, and maybe those of us that live and breathe sports are too close to the situation to appreciate how Tebow is getting over with the majority of America that isn't invested in sports 24/7. But First Take isn't just exploiting the way Tebow produces viewers, it is obliterating any sense of rationality in the process. There is more realism in professional wrestling than #SkipsTebowBandwagon.

Is First Take's Tebow obsession producing ratings? Sure. But at what point does ESPN admit to themselves that they are ripping out their own soul by doing this day after day after day after day. ESPN2 might as well air the Decision every morning as a lead-in to Tebow Take. Never forget the E stands for entertainment.

My thoughts exactly.  Judging from Deitsch's article, it seemed a player as wholesome and competitive as Tebow was going to resonate with fans and the public regardless.  But ESPN's near fetish for Tebow is alarming  because of what they sacrifice just to talk about him every single day.  Instead of talking about the rest of the team or about other more important issues, the discussion always comes back to Tebow.  Bayless keeps spitting out nonsense about how he would take Tebow over Tom Brady with two minutes left instead of focusing on the entire team.  They have to compare Tebow's quarterbacking to others in the league, talk about "Tebowing," whether or not he's an MVP candidate or whatever the newest minutiae is.

That's almost what makes me more upset about Tebow Mania.  Football, more than most sports, is so predicated on team play.  Very rarely can one person personally impact a team greatly.  It can happen in the sport, but even when it does the entire team plays a role.  The offensive line has to block.  The quarterback needs to make the pass or the hand-off.  The receivers need to catch the ball, the runningback needs to hit the holes.  The defense has to make stops, etc. etc.  The punters need to pin teams deep and the kickers need to make clutch field goals.  The coaches need to call the correct plays.  It's never about just one person when it comes to football. 

But so often, we get caught up in one player that we forget about the collective effort.  It's not Tebow's fault that he has gotten most of the credit for Denver's success, but it is unfair to keep propagating this narrative.  Where is the love for Matt Prater, who made two 50-plus yard field goals in their last win?  Where is the media hype for Von Miller and what he has brought to Denver's defense?  What about Willis McGahee, who is having one of his finest seasons running the ball at age 30?

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see the Denver Broncos play the rest of the season.

Instead, the discussion turns to Tebow.  Obviously he has to be covered, but there's a responsible way to do it.  Part of the reason Tebow has become such a polarizing figure is because of the nonstop coverage.  If he were treated like a normal player and not a superhero, things might not be so bad.  But that hasn't been the case.  The sports world doesn't have to revolve around Tebow, but it seems like it does on most days.  Unfortunately, we get things like "TebowCenter" on ESPN and videos like this:

The sad part is, the debates and coverage won't end even if Denver gets blown out by the New England Patriots this Sunday.  If they lose, the negative coverage of Tebow not being good enough will come back.  But if he wins, all hell will break loose.  Either way, it's a lose-lose for viewers, who will just have to put up with more of this nonsense. 

Tim Tebow should be covered.  He's a good football player and a great guy to boot.  But as it stands right now, the coverage is overblown.  Tebow Mania is here to stay.

Awful Announcing


USA Today

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