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December 24, 2010
How do you look at Tim Tebow? As the quarterback trying to impress the scouts at Senior Bowl practice? Or as the spokesman for what critics contend is an anti-abortion ad to be broadcast by CBS-TV during the Super Bowl?
At the moment, he's both. It's odd. And awkward. One instant he's being quizzed about reading defenses. The next, someone alludes to him reading the bible.
The football people only care how he works under center, which Tebow rarely did at Florida, primarily lining up in the shotgun. His political or religious stance is unimportant.
What matters to them is his stance when in the T-formation.
A national coalition of women's groups, however, is concerned about Tebow's viewpoint, not his view of defensive backs.
He filmed an ad for a conservative Christian group, Focus on the Family, the emphasis of which is that his mother gave birth to him, her fifth child, only after she ignored a recommendation by doctors in the Philippines to have an abortion.
Don't accept medical advice, is basically what the ad says. You might lose a kid who will grow up to be a football hero.
There's no place in sports for that message, is what the Women's Media Center insists. The counter argument is there's a place for any message, other than one full of obscenities.
Isn't America a country of free speech, where those with whom we disagree are allowed a forum?
Except Tebow's words are not free. They come for a price. He may not be getting paid, but CBS is. 30 seconds on the Super Bowl telecast costing $2.5 million to $2.8 million.
What Tim Tebow, son of a missionary, is getting is a lot of static. As well as numerous questions.
Not about his religious advocacy. About his potential as an NFL quarterback.
Such diverse headlines, although one in The Sporting News would cover both situations. "Under Fire,'' it said. Definitely. Tim Tebow is over the coals.
The Washington Post simply said, "CBS urged to scrap Super Bowl ad with Tebow.''
The man has guts. That became evident in his seasons with the Gators, one of which resulted in the Heisman Trophy. Nobody doubts his toughness. He took on linebackers.
Now he's willing to take on those who challenge his philosophy.
Sport used to be so clear. Athletes were athletes, They played games, signed autographs and were invited out to dinner by alums who might have been breaking NCAA rules but it wasn't like robbing a bank or anything.
These days are different. Players question coaches, support political candidates and prove they got something out of school other than a letterman's jacket. Remember when Bill Walton took part in a sit-down smack in the middle of Westwood Village to protest the Vietnam War?
Tebow is not protesting. Others are protesting Tebow. "I know some people won't agree with it,'' he said, an understatement of considerable size, "but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what believe.''
Absolutely, but as far as his game, it's what the scouts believe which will determine whether Tebow has a future as a quarterback. You just wonder if any of them are judging Tebow for anything other than his arm strength or time in the 40.
Or whether they should.
Super Bowl ads invariably consist of Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales downing a bottle of Bud, or, most famous of all, escapees from an Orwellian state breaking loose, and busting up IBM computers to embrace Apple machines. The commercials have become no less important than the game itself, what with an audience of 150 million or so perhaps being persuaded what car to drive.
But the Focus on the Family spot is about selling an idea, not a Ford or a Chevy. And the Women's Media Center is opposed.
"We understand that some people don't think very highly of what we do,'' Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, told Associated Press. "We're not trying to sell you a soft drink . . . We're trying to celebrate families.''
That's no celebration for the Women's Media Center, which said CBS is offering "one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization.''
Super Sunday once was described as "America's Great Time Out,'' the evening we escaped from the real world. Does an audience want a discussion on abortion during the biggest sporting day of the year?
Whether the NFL wants Tim Tebow will be determined in the coming weeks by his football not his beliefs. They're not pro-abortion or anti-abortion in the league. They're not interested in winning hearts, only games.