Let’s cut that boy some slack. All he’s really done so far in his life is play football, win more than he’s lost, be really, really open with his relationship with God, say super hokey, humble shit when the cameras are on him, and not have sex ever. The not having sex ever aside, the guy hasn’t really done anything. And yet we hate him. We love him. We know his name.
That he’s neck-and-neck with LeBron James as the most polarizing person in professional sports is amazing, because compared to James–hell, compared to hundreds of players in the NFL alone–he hasn’t really done anything.
It took us awhile, America, but we’ve identified the problem, we’ve identified why we love and hate this evangelical, almost-aborted (his words!) backup quarterback from Manila: because we hear about him all the time. And more recently, we’ve identified why we hear about him all the time: because ESPN is whorish.
There’s plenty written about it already, but the gist is that to increase their ratings,ESPN specifically has taken a mediocre talent who hasn’t started a game this season for the New York Jets, and is responsible for a whole 126 more of his team’s total yardage this year than your mother is, and turned him into a superstar. This is bad, really bad, because ESPN is, or at least plays at being, a journalistic organ solely meant to report the news as opposed to make news themselves for the purpose of financial gain.
But with only three games left in the season, it sure seems like we won’t be seeing Tebow starting for the Jets. As we’ve chronicled in the past, they suck real hard (most recently beating a team by one point that would go on to lose its subsequent game by like a gazillion), but are currently 6-7 and somehow still alive in the playoff hunt. So what’s going to happen now is that either the Jets win with Mark Sanchez, keeping their playoff hopes alive, or more likely, they lose next week or the week after, and there’s no need to try out Tebow because it’s all over anyway. Sadly, it was a wasted season for the young quarterback. More sadly, we just spent the last time watching ESPN sportswriters debate about one of the most irrelevant players in the league.
So it was awesome when ESPN President John Skipper spoke to Sports Business Journal about the ESPN-Tebow whoredom, and actually seemed contrite. Says SBJ:
In an interview last week at his N.Y. office, Skipper said, “I said, ‘Guys, we didn’t handle this very well.’ Going to training camp wasn’t a problem. We just stayed on it relentlessly and too long.”
Skipper said he was mostly hurt by a quote from former ESPN analyst Dan Gottlieb, told the Dan Patrick Show in October, in which Gottlieb says he was told specifically, “You can’t talk enough Tebow.” He then continued:
“We’ve had some good discussions internally about trying to be careful. In some ways, the more difficult internal conflict is between long-term story telling and ratings. We all know that if you focus on the Tebow story, for the next 10 minutes you’re going to do better. But the question is trying to take a long-term perspective and saying, ‘Guys, let’s not get over excited about one story and hyping it.'”
Well, we can hope. But the NFL offseason is almost upon us, which means spring baseball and meaningless midseason basketball games and college lacrosse. It’d be no surprise, and maybe no shame, in ESPN going back to the well.