By MARK KNUDSON @MarkKnudson41 Special to woodypaige.com
TebowMania is still a very real thing.
Tim Tebow, the Heisman winning quarterback – turned first round NFL draft pick – turned NFL starter & play-off game winner – turned NFL bust – turned broadcaster – turned minor league baseball player, is still revered by an enormous number of fans from all walks of life…with a heavy lean toward the devote Christian demographic.
From afar, he’s an easy guy to like. Tebow has always had a unique skill set as an athlete – he’s exceptional at things you can’t teach. He’s a natural leader, a take-charge guy with an undefeatable desire to win. Very few athletes in any sport have the ability to lift those around them to do things they normal couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Tebow’s time as the starting QB for the Denver Broncos demonstrated that to a T. He led a Broncos team that was pretty mediocre and willed them into the second round of the NFL play-offs.
But Tebow’s tenure with the Broncos also demonstrated his glaring weaknesses as a football player, which have been well documented. The frustrating part is that the things he was so poor at as a QB were things that can be taught and learned. Stuff like better footwork and overall passing mechanics, reading NFL defenses, etc. Keep in mind that Pro Football Hall of Famers like Warren Moon and Steve Young both entered the NFL as better runners than passers. Both worked on their skills and became among the greatest passers to ever play in the league.
It can be done. It just wasn’t.
That Tebow chose not to spend his time doing the mundane things that could have made him into a high caliber NFL QB is what soured many fans on him and showed what really matters to him and his family.
Bill Parcells once opined that “You can’t be a celebrity quarterback,” meaning the job is so all encompassing that guys who spend their free time showing up at award shows and in various attention-grabbing situations aren’t doing what they need to do to be great.
He’s completely on point.
Given that Tebow (and his family) believe he has a greater calling than spending his off time studying a play-book, shows that the focus was never 100% on being an NFL standout. When it became clear that being a successful celebrity QB wasn’t in the cards, Team Tebow’s attention was shifted first to broadcasting (talk about the perfect platform to build your personal brand) and then to playing minor league baseball – a place where Tim is in the spotlight pretty much every day from March until the end of August.
So even though he had not played competitive baseball since high school (more than a decade ago) while electing to play football full-time in college, the New York Mets signed Tebow so he could give professional baseball the ol’ college try. He debuted in the 2016 Arizona Fall League – where he hit a blistering .194.
Invited to spring training, the 29-year-old Tebow was hitting .220 in Low Class A ball, with three home runs, and more strikeouts – 69 – than games played – 64 – when the Mets decided to promote him to High Class A ball in the Florida State League. When he homered and collected three hits in his first game, TebowMania got a reboot. Next stop, CitiField!
This would be a good time for the legion of Tebow worshipers to pump the brakes. A reality check is in order.
Tim Tebow was not promoted because of his performance, which was sub-par in a league full of very young prospects (many 10 years younger than he is.) He was promoted to High Class A ball only because the Mets and everyone else need to see if he has ANY shot at accelerated advancement. He’s still competing in a league full of players in their early 20’s, none of whom took a 10 year hiatus from baseball. He’s so incredibly behind in terms of minor league development that the Mets have to see – quickly – if at age 29 he has ANY shot at ever being more than a .220 hitting novelty act.
Keep this fact in mind: There are literally HUNDREDS of 29-year-old baseball players out there right now who are either playing in independent leagues, playing overseas, have already gone into coaching or who are unemployed completely, who could hit .220 and strike out more than once per game in Low Class A ball. Tebow is not a special talent; rather he’s getting special treatment because of who he is. And unless he conjures up a miracle and suddenly becomes David Ortiz in the next two months, when he returns to his broadcasting gig this fall, it will likely be for good.
Which, I suspect, is fine with Team Tebow.
Remember, in their eyes, he has a higher calling. And they’re probably right about that. His unique skill set, his leadership abilities and ability to attract followers isn’t suited for summer bus rides through the steamy south. A leadership position within the Church? Certainly. Politics? Perhaps. Coaching? Only if he got better at the mundane details…but he’d be a helluva motivator, don’t you think?