OK, I get it. Not everyone is on the Tebow Train. I guess that's why he's called such a polarizing figure -- people love him or hate him, and they do both with gusto. So many people, from analysts and former players to celebrities like Bill Cosby, have such strong opinions towards Tebow, that it's hard to imagine the drama that surrounds him will ever subside.
There are people who believe that his build, throwing motion, footwork, etc. will prevent him from being a championship-caliber QB, and others who think that regardless of his unorthodox play, he is simply a "winner" who will continue to win. Jump with me, and I'll tell you why I'm putting all of this aside for now.A recently written fan-post about a young Broncos fan named Ethan (R.I.P.) by gtrout really moved me into thinking about what the NFL embodies. And, when I put these thoughts into words, I have a really hard time wrapping my head around it. If you consider the average NFL athlete, he started off playing football at a young age.
Age 15-16: he started being scouted by colleges when he was in high school, often entertaining competing offers.
Age 17-18: he committed to a program, received a scholarship or a partial ride, and went to a top collegiate athletic program, and excelled.
Age 18-21: he went through college, may or may not have graduated, all while still training and maintaining for college sports. Many of these guys were multi-sport athletes, so the season didn't end for them.
Age 21-??: he is now shot out of college and becomes a professional athlete. Who knows if he has a degree or not, all he knows is that he's in his early 20's making six-figure incomes.
Does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture? Why does it feel to me like Tim Tebow is a knight in shining armor in this world of pro sports?
One simple reason: With so much focus on their sports, being aggressive, being a go-getter, and excelling physically, athletes these days lack compassion, intelligence, and a bigger-picture perspective. They are taught so often to be individualistic; to be a leader amongst leaders, a giant amongst giants. Granted it's a team sport, but game balls go out to individuals. MVPs are earned by individuals. Individuals earn the Heisman trophy, the Butkus award, etc.
Now you may not think that this is a big deal, but look a little deeper. Some of the stories that have happened in recent history:
1) A Packers LB (Walden) is scheduled to be in court regarding a domestic violence charge.
2) LeGarrette Blount was accused of, but not charged with, an alleged assault
3) Ndamukong Suh was involved in some early morning car crash, where apparently he tried to cover up the injuries sustained by two women who were with him.
4) Rolando McClain got arrested for firing a gun at someone
Of course, we can't forget about Plaxico shooting himself, Aqib Talib shooting at someone else, Mike Vick's affinity to dogfighting, Tank Johnson and Marshawn Lynch with their gun charges, Donte Stollworth with his DUI/vehicular homicide charge, Johnny Jolly's prison sentence due to drugs, the numerous drug policy violations (which just seem to get swept under the rug) every year, and the hundreds and thousands of other crimes committed by these high-profile players.
This is a glaring issue, not just something that pops up occasionally. Why is it that these players seem to have a higher percentage likelihood of committing crimes when they're sitting pretty and have no need to commit said crimes?
I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they haven't been taught responsibility. Hell, I look at when I was 21-22, being an athlete, and if I started off making some of the salaries that these guys make, I sure as sh*t would have gotten myself into trouble. I'm not saying I'm holier than thou, or that most people wouldn't make the decisions that these guys are. On the other hand, most people also won't make it to pro level in sports. There has to be some sort of a check-and-balances system. How are you going to take a fresh college graduate, throw money at him, and expect him to be responsible when this entire time you've been telling him that it's "all about him?" Throw in the fact that these guys now have money to feed a corrupt legal system and hot-shot lawyers, chances are that justice won't ever see the light of day.
Getting back to my initial point for writing this post: I have to give credit where credit is due to Tim Tebow. I'll preface the rest of this post by saying this: Yes, I'm a fan of his, and I hope he continues improving -- and no, I'm not religious. In a world of people getting attention for all the wrong things; in a world where NFL athletes get away with murder; in a world where individual emphasis runs rampant; we have this beam of light that is Tim Tebow. I really don't care if it's his religion that makes him humble and respectful; the fact remains that he IS humble and IS respectful. He spends his time volunteering. He gets his jollies from talking about a kid with cancer at his post-game interview. He builds hospitals. He addresses people as "Sir" and "Ma'am," as "Mr." and "Mrs." Question his leadership. Question his play at QB. Question his longevity in the league. But most of all, emulate his morality, humility, and decency.
So many teams, coaches, and players could learn a thing or two from this guy. Forget your little squabbles. You're on a national stage. There are millions of kids around the world that watch you get paid millions to play a game you love, and that makes you a role model, whether you choose to be or not. Act accordingly. I'm not saying that this is squarely on the shoulders of the players or coaches - it starts with the education system and trickles on down, but it's something that is running rampant and needs to be addressed. I'm sick of people laughing at Plaxico shooting himself; the man had a gun in a public area - he could easily have shot someone else on accident. Mike Vick's dogs could easily have killed someone, not to mention the plain out heart wrenching reality of the whole situation, and the injustice caused to the poor creatures. Yet, we almost expect these things to happen, and when they do, the seem to be "no big deal."
Why can't we expect decency? Why can't we expect respect? Why can't we expect stellar values? More than expect, I think we need to require these things out of our players and staff. It's too long that this crap has continued, and it's high time that we start holding our athletes and role models to higher standards than their 40 times or bench reps.