In a world where college football is full of corruption it’s refreshing that the most wholesome story in all of football can be found on Sundays. I’ve had an increasingly tough time watching NCAA football for the past few years. This season I found myself lacking the ability to make the moral compromise required to watch unpaid players exit the field with season (possibly career) ending injuries as people worshipped the names on the front of their jerseys despite the plight of the kids with no names on the back of those same uniforms.
College football has become a landscape of scandals where the outrage seems to only extend to the players but not the institutions. A few players get tattoos or sell their own memorabilia, it’s time to bring the program to its knees. Kids getting molested and raped right under the nose of college coaches who are all too willing to silence the accusations of the victims in order to protect the shield of their university? Well that’s just a reason for alumni to show support for their respective programs. “Hey! They’re saying Joe Pa covered up child rape! Let’s go streaking on the quad! Whoo! Go State!” The entire time I’m watching this mass-delusional hysteria that passes for fandom these days, I can’t help but think… what else is on?
The incidents mentioned in the above paragraph are just the ones from THIS year. I feel it’s been trending this way for decades. Big money is too involved in corrupt “amateur” athletics. Athletics that are about as amateur as Jada Fire hiring a camera crew to film a sexual encounter in a rented Miami mansion while a “BangBros” watermark hangs out in the bottom right hand corner of the superbly edited HD video streaming to my 42 inch Sony widescreen TV. I’m not buying it. A few years ago I found myself turning to the fictional safety of scripted scenarios involving high school aged youths under the tutelage of a coach with a lucrative winning sports program. And surprisingly he never had to cover up of the sexual misconduct of any of his subordinates. This apparently is a revolutionary concept in this day and age.
That coach was Coach Eric Taylor of the Dillon Panthers. Coach Taylor was a man of high moral integrity who actually had his kid’s best interest in mind. He was the kind of coach that can only exist in fiction or on losing programs. Coach Taylor wasn’t like the snake oil salesmen that I saw parading around in press conferences every Saturday. He was a man with a burning furnace of passion that expressed itself with action and very few words. Taylor was a man who was much more comfortable at home watching game film and worrying about his upcoming opponent’s all-state linebacker who ran a 4.2 40 yard dash than he would ever be when hanging around boosters to his program. Coach Taylor didn’t dazzle the media, he baffled the media.
Other than a horrendously conceived and written plot about a stalker / murder cover-up between Tara and Landry there weren’t any moments that made me feel like I was supporting negativity. Even when tackling challenging subjects like abortion, drug use, child abuse, crime, teen pregnancy and divorce Friday Night Lights handled each scenario with a grimy realism that never seemed forced. The show bordered on the hokey cornball sensibilities of small town southern America where it’s God, guns and country but not always in that order. Friday Night Lights wasn’t a show with clear cut villains and heroes. It was a show about the complexities of humanity and the motivations that drive us to find ourselves. As the seasons piled up the show became less and less about the actual games on the field and more and more about the stories stemming from the people playing the game. That’s why it was such a great show.
But now Friday Night Lights is over. Coach Taylor had to come to grips with all the sacrifices his wife Tammy had given up so that he could chase his dream of coaching Texas football. If you knew his moral compass as well as I did, you knew there was only one decision he could make. He had to move and find other kids in the talent starved left wing elitist liberal northern region of America. This left my entertainment schedule with a huge void of corny safe sensibilities that kept me on the edge of my seat until the next week’s event. I needed to get a fix of watching someone over come impossible hurdles just when all the chips were down on a weekly basis. As I searched for this high it became evident that real life is indeed not at all like Friday Night Lights. It’s not scripted, the coaches aren’t moral paragons, fans hate the kids playing, the underdogs never play for the championship and Tara never dates a guy like Landry.
Enter Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.
Before we get into the actual on the field stuff with Tesus, just know that this has been the most interesting social experiment in the NFL since Mike Vick went to prison. There are so many angles from which one can attack this story. There’s the issue of his faith which is somehow treated as if it’s above the faith of fellow athletes, even those who follow the same religion as he does. Then there is the faith OF Tebow where fans throw out all logic, reason and statistical analysis in defiance of any criticism of his ability to play the quarterback position. There are the haters who dislike the hype surrounding Tebow and thereby end up rooting against him. Then you have the analysts who just want his team to start losing so that they can be “right” about their predictions of a failure of Titanic proportions. You have those who simply dislike having religion thrown in their faces, people who resent black quarterbacks never getting the treatment Tebow has received despite having identical (if not better) skill sets and lastly there’s everyone who has ever had their respective teams’ asses kicked by the God Tebow Christ.
Now every Sunday I’m glued to my TV set to get my fix. Every game is like an episode of Friday Night Lights. The Dillon Broncos look overwhelmed and outmatched for 3 quarters of every game. Their opponent always seems to make a couple of back breaking plays that all but put the game out of reach. I can even hear the country radio announcer’s Texas accent saying, “Well looks like Coach Taylor is really frustrated on the sideline at the Panthers just can’t get out of their own way tonight. If he doesn’t do something soon to stop this running attack he might want to take the back road home tonight.” And that’s when it happens.
The solid but not dominant defense gets a key stop in the 4th quarter. Tebow / Saracen comes into the game with a renewed pep in his step and you get that feeling. A couple of check down throws later and you start thinking, “No way is he going to pull this off.” A QB scramble for a first down and now you’re leaning forward on the couch like you’re one of Tebow’s teammates in the huddle getting the play call from him and a nod that says, “This pass is coming to you.” Touchdown! Or field goal, or over time or defensive stop… whatever it takes. The Dillon Broncos eek out another win. The only thing missing is Julie Taylor in the stands cheesing and forgiving Tebow for forgetting that it was their anniversary last week.
Now who is rooting against that? How is rooting for THIS not more fun than being proven correct that Tim Tebow is a horrible quarterback and should not be getting credit for his team’s success? Yeah, you’re probably right but are you having fun right now? You’ve missed out on one of the most improbable, incredible and unexplainable runs in NFL history. These games are mindboggling. Maybe I’m wrong for rooting for this story and loving the entire week of dialog between each game. Maybe I am just as bad as the delusional Tebow believers who think he’s better than Cam Newton. At this point, I don’t know where my Arch Bishop of the Church of Tebow begins and I end. The game has gotten that real for me.
What I am saying is this: Let me have my delusion. There is enough bitter cynical realism in the world of sports to go around. Do you really need to crash the party of people who think Tebow is the best thing to happen to the NFL since the forward pass? It’ll all end soon either way but some of us… we don’t mind a little corny distraction from the serious game of grown ass men hurting each other and throwing an oddly shaped ball around a field. It’s about hoping for the improbable while daring to dream of the impossible. Sports are all about distraction. Distraction from your unfulfilling job, your loveless marriage, your fat belly, your disappointing kids and that lawn work you should be doing right now. Well Tebow is my distraction from sports. Won’t you join me?
Clear eyes, full hearts, won’t lose. Tebow forever.