It’s gotta be him or the Packers, right? I mean, there’s still time — we’ve got 25 days left in 2011 — but as of today, Tim Tebow’s run in Denver might have emerged as the most interesting story of the year.
Tebow and Aaron Rodgers are far and away the most talked about athletes in professional sports right now. But Tebow receives even more attention because there are more layers to his story. Rodgers is just an amazing football player doing amazing things on the field while being uncontroversial and somewhat ordinary from Monday to Saturday. But people prefer stories that have conflict and the ability to somehow evoke joy and misery at the same time.
That’s what Tebow can do. And that’s why a Google news search of his name produces 7,750 results while the same search of Rodgers’ name gives you 5,000. That’s why ESPN.com has mentioned Tebow in 11 stories since yesterday morning, while Rodgers has only been mentioned on five occasions.
We’re guilty too. Since the start of November, GLS has mentioned Tebow at least once in 62 posts. Rodgers has only been brought up in 45.
From the media’s perspective, Tebow’s story is just too perfect. He’s deeply religious and publicly vocal about it, which gains him a massive number of supporters (and adversaries) who aren’t ordinary football fans.
He’s the furthest thing there is from a prototypical quarterback, which gains him old-school critics and new-school advocates.
He’s a perfectly sculpted NCAA legend with a baby face and an attitude you can bring home to mom and dad.
And yet he’s allegedly a virgin.
“If there’s been a story like Tebow’s in the 27 years I’ve covered the NFL, I’m having a hard time recalling it.” — Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.
It’s all just a little hard to believe. It’s this combination of factors that have come together to create a perfect storm. A guy who many consider to be a bad quarterback has taken what many consider to be a bad team and turned them into the favorite to win their division. In a year in which Rodgers is putting up unprecedented numbers for a team that has yet to lose, people are making straight-faced arguments that a man who has completed 47.5 percent of his passes should be the league’s most valuable player.
That’s the power of Tebow. And it’s the power of his theatrics.
Until they struggled with the Giants this past Sunday, Rodgers and the Packers weren’t providing the American public with its drama quota. Instead, they were blowing everybody out. As a result, we’re seeing more Tebow highlights. Out of sight, out of mind, and vice versa.
Plus, his dubious success has again forced us to debate the oft-criticized “quarterback wins” statistic — the Broncos are 6-1 with Tebow at quarterback — and that’s only increasing the wattage of the spotlight.
And then there’s the below-the-surface belief that Tebow might be a fad. That’s often the case when pop culture turns a noun into a verb (google notwithstanding), and it’s reasonable to wonder whether the Tebow veer offense will die off like the wildcat and other whimsical trends that preceded it. We’re still asking how long Tebow Time will go for. We still see this as a fad, and fads are big stories. We know Rodgers will be dominant again in 2012 and beyond, while Tebow’s boss is still refusing to grant him a vote of confidence.
For whatever reason — maybe it’s our fear of change, or simply the nausea that’s induced when a star is over-saturated by the media’s lenses (call it the Brett Favre Complex) — the majority of football fans seem to be cheering for Tebow to fail.
But that doesn’t change the fact that, in the largely cynical world of sports, Tebow has probably been the story of 2011.