Exploring Tebow ManiaPosted: January 29, 2012
Tonight’s the Pro Bowl, so most people blogging about football are probably writing about that or next week’s Super Bowl. But I’m still wondering exactly what it was that had me standing up screaming, “Run, Baby, Run!” in my living room during Tim Tebow‘s 80 yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas in the first play of OT to win over the Pittsburgh Steelers a few weeks ago. I’m not even a Broncos fan! My response surprised me so much, I tweeted, “I must have caught Tebow fever; was actually standing up screaming (like I used to do for the Cowboys)!
It’s been a while since football made me stand up and scream in my living room. Originally a Bills fan (from Rochester), my ex-husband converted me to the Cowboys. I also have a soft spot for teams representing the cities I’ve lived in and New Orleans due to Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. So when asked, I say, “I’m a Cowboys fan, but also root for Buffalo, Seattle, San Diego, Tampa and New Orleans.” Yes, 20% of the NFL. 🙂 If you asked most people, they’d tell you they’re either a fan of a team close to home, or that someone very close to them liked, or a story about some connection with a player that made them root for that team. Bottom line: there’s an emotional connection somewhere between the fan and the team.
When NFL on Fox reported that Tim Tebow is the favorite athlete in America according to a December ESPN poll, I thought, ‘How is that even possible after basically one season of football?’ After talking and thinking about it, here’s my analysis:
1. America loves the underdog: Whether it’s a movie like ‘Rocky’ or ‘Erin Brockovich,’ Americans love the David vs. Goliath story. I know it’s true for me; if I’m not invested in either team in a game, I always root for the underdog. Not sure why, just do.
2. America loves doing the impossible: Media and NFL analysts everywhere kept questioning whether Tebow’s “college style of play” would be successful in the NFL; if he could win in that arena. He answered that question this season.
3. America loves youth and innocence: He’s got plenty of both.
4. America responds to authenticity and humility: Tim Tebow bows on bended knee to thank God because of his deep faith; it’s not a stunt. He always credits his team mates. He brings sick people to games to bring them joy and to keep perspective. People respond to his unabashed honesty about who he is.
Tim Tebow didn’t ask people to start “Tebowing” everywhere from the beach to the Eiffel Tower to the pyramids. He didn’t ask for the media storm. So to say he has emotionally connected with people, for whatever reason, is an understatement.
The highest honors and respect in the NFL go to those who have Super Bowl rings, just like it goes to those with a “C” in their title in business or those with a PhD in higher education. So I’m sure Tom Brady felt a bit like ‘Who is this kid getting all the attention? I’m the one with three Super Bowl rings (and killer stats)!’ And the Pats trounced the Broncos 45 – 10.
The following Monday John Elway announced that Tebow will be the starter for training camp next year. They’d be downright crazy not to start him. Why? Because of something my friend Angela reminded me of the day before. She’d invited me over to watch the Packers v. Giants game with her family. I’d forgotten she grew up in Wisconsin. Since the Pack were 15 – 1, all of “my teams” were done, and the NFC East had been a mess this year, I assumed it would be a rather cut and dry game. As we watched the Giants’ surprising win over the Packers, while Angela tried to will them to win, she talked about growing up in Wisconsin, where everyone loves, supports and watches the Packers *whether they win or lose.* That’s what fills stadiums people.
Last summer, as it got dangerously close to football season and the lock-out wasn’t over, I tweeted something like, ‘Never fear. There will be football this year. It’s billions of dollars; the powers that be won’t let those billions go.’ Teams need to be built around people who will keep their stadiums full …. clearly if Tim Tebow can be named America’s favorite athlete after a season, he can keep Mile High Stadium full! Football is big business. But out of 32 teams, only 2 make it to the Super Bowl and only 1 wins. That leaves 30 other teams each year that need a steady fan base to keep them going.
This Super Bowl, I’ll be rooting for the NY Football Giants. They’re my home team and represent the NFC East. But really it’s because I don’t like Belichick (SNL captured him accurately in their Tebow piece); he’s always scowling on the sidelines and ever since the videotaping / spying incident, I haven’t been a fan (don’t care much for cheaters or liars). While I know Brady has an outstanding record and I respect him for it, there’s something inaccessible about him. Eli got beat up by the 49ers and still won … he’s got the kid out in the back yard scrappiness … or maybe it’s just because he’s the underdog:)
The more I consider the phenomenon of Tim Tebow, the more I land on the importance of emotional connection to football fans. Denver would be CRAZY not to start him. He can revitalize the franchise and fan base and has already begun to do so, selling more jerseys in 2011 than anyone but Aaron Rodgers. For players with more impressive stats than Tebow’s who aren’t feeling the love, he’s an important reminder. My ex used to say, “Football is a game of emotion.” Clearly fans want to feel that connection with players.