By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Well, I’ll be. Some people just don’t get a joke.
When I wrote that Tim Tebow would be perfect for the Chicago White Sox, I didn’t actually think he had a missionary’s chance in Amsterdam of being signed by anyone. But on Thursday, the New York Mets inked the former NFL quarterback to a movie — I mean, a minor league deal. He’ll be sent to the organization’s instructional team.
No matter how many times we crucify this dude, he keeps resurrecting. Tebow is the Fast/Furious franchise of sports stories (and his football demise has produced about as many airbrushed in memoriam T-shirts as Paul Walker’s demise).
My reflex is to be annoyed by Tebow being again re-injected into the news cycle like that weird teen from the church down the street from me who tries to preach to me while I’m mowing my lawn. I want to lament that the joke’s on me and every other sports consumer who doesn’t get his or her rocks off by the equivalent of a toddler banging pots and pans with road flares.
But no. Then the joke would really be on me. The woe-is-me Tebow face-palming is hollow emoting no matter where you encounter it — with the only exception being an actual journalist (I’m not one) complaining s/he could be doing meaningful work instead of being mandated to write or talk about Walter Mitty’s exploits with the Port St. Lucie Mets. Tebow is no albatross around any of our necks unless you’re a minor league beat writer whose life just got flipped upside down or a sports news anchor with a cerebral cortex who will have to do a vacuous segment with Mark Schlereth and Dallas Braden breaking down Tebow as if he’s a valid talent.
Anyone else who wants to wring hands is pulling a ruse with the same goal of the peer who’s writing the bad column or frothing through the bad broadcast segment about “Actually, Tebow playing baseball is a good thing.” Both are getting your attention if you allow it. I’m writing this very column today because Tebow is the rare sort of Yeti sex scandal that gets you to stare while at the grocery checkout, and I won’t pretend otherwise.
Your anti-Tebow gripes are all pretty much wrong. He’s not taking some hard-working kid’s spot on a roster, as Matt Snyder of CBS Sports notes that: “Spots in instructionals aren’t limited and most of the game action isn’t even limited to regular game-type situations. The at-bats aren’t really limited, nor is the time spent on any given individual.”
Tebow has every right to pursue this farce, and telling him to go away isn’t all that different from the idiots who tell athletes and media to “stick to sports.” It’s all the same hypocritical demands that others live according to what makes us comfortable.
As privileged as what Tebow is doing might be, requiring the luxury of just dropping (for now) a well-paying TV gig and benefitting from a disposable income, the reason he bothers us is the same reason we hate our cousin who quits a law firm to start a blog about hitch-hiking cross country. Because we hate that we can’t unplug one life and choose a new one.
Sure, the Tebow disciples will be more vocal now, but they’re ultimately harmless in their ignorance. I want to mock this person here and the thousands like him whose allegiance to an athlete is religious and arbitrary.
But I gravitate to athletes who are my preferred type of different and weird, whose personality might trump talent. Pedro Strop and Fernando Rodney could never strike out another batter again, and I’d love them forever for pissing off some fans because of how they wear their caps.
I could argue for hours with someone that his or her belief that Tebow is an instrument of God in sports is less important than Colin Kaepernick’s social justice pursuit and get nowhere with it but some retweets from the choir. Yeah, Tebow is a square and his politics are vastly different from mine and he could probably stand to read some more stuff written by critical thinkers (we all could, and maybe he tries to). He’s also by every single account a genuinely nice person who, if we’re being honest with ourselves, doesn’t invoke his faith and worldview into conversations (besides the boilerplate “I want to thank my Lord and Savior” that we get in half of postgame interviews anyway) unless he’s prodded by a reporter looking to stir something up.
If this is a ploy to enhance the #Tebow #brand, fine. I can’t begrudge somebody getting their money in any non-criminal fashion. If it’s the jumping off point for a documentary or reality show or future film, so be it. And the Mets aren’t helping this seem legit and not a PR stunt.
“No, we insist that you get lost in all of our instructional leaguers eyes.” The Mets are always very much deserving of mockery, though, because Mets. I mean, this was from Aug. 23:
But whatever production comes from this will get eaten up because there are just as many people who pathetically hate-watch to see a stranger fail to feel better about themselves as there are those who are irrationally and vicariously rooting for a guy who isn’t a great human interest story.
The wall-to-wall ESPN coverage can be ignored — it’s possible, I promise. The inevitable mention of Tebow during the NFL opener between the Carolina Panthers and Tebow’s former team, the Denver Broncos, won’t ruin your watching.
Yes, you’ll get to take more phone pics of uncreative bros wearing ironic Tebow baseball jerseys over their Harambe shirts. And maybe Skip Bayless will be hospitalized because his, um, giddiness has lasted longer than four hours.
The glass can be a little less empty on this, especially when you remember that Tebow is going nowhere far in the Mets system or anyone else’s. He’ll get a hit here or there, probably a homer that breaks Bristol, and the game will send his overmatched self on its holy way to add a chapter to his next large print book on following your dreams and ignoring the haters. In the NFL, he was affecting a roster and games at the highest level of our national religion. Instructional league baseball is nothing like that.
Tebow and baseball won’t last, and it will be even less of a blip on the historical sports timeline than Michael Jordan playing in the White Sox system.
And a few years from now, we’ll have found several other very hollow unpolitical sports stories to polarize ourselves on. And Tebow will still be wealthy and getting wealthier than most of us. And we’ll probably still not realize what’s really a joke.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.