The sound of the name “Tim Tebow” almost creates its own cringe now – almost a Pavlovian “WHAT NOW?” before you ever get to the verb.
So “wants to try baseball,” which is his new interest, is no more troubling than, say, “wants to parasail over shark-infested waters,” “wants to tightrope-walk over an Icelandic volcano,” “wants to eat a hippopotamus whole” or even “wants to buy the Oakland Raiders.”
Thus, the natural question here is not so much, “Is there a permissible time period for celebrities being famous just for being celebrities?” (clearly there is not) or “Could it be that he is just an easily-bored attention whore?” (his agent says no, which is what agents are supposed to say), or even
“Is he addicted to athletics?”
It may simply be, “Does he simply not know how not to be Tim Tebow?”
His has been a bizarre trip, to be sure. As a football player, he was the idol of millions through the good times in Gainesville, the weirdly intriguing in Denver, and the sixth wheel in New York and Philadelphia. In all his other pursuits, including social engineering, he has met with much less success and interest, and nobody is terribly optimistic about his chances at taking up big-time baseball after doing nothing baseball-related since his junior year of high school.
Frankly, outside the pockets of true believers (and he has more than his share), he is the definition of the true 4A player – he can do a lot of things well, it seems, but nothing that will get him paid and idolized commensurate to his reputation among the true believers.
Now, at 29, he is staring at the dying embers of an athletic career that seems to have had its effective end at 22, and for all his nobler character traits, he is running against the headwinds of his athletic mortality and his interest to the nation at large.
Yet, he has apparently not begun the transition to a normal non-celebrity life. He still hears the athletic sirens calling to him . . . or maybe it is the famous-for-being-famous sirens calling to him, as they apparently do Jose Canseco, albeit on a much different road.
Therein lies the confusion for us. Are we supposed to humor him his desires just because they mean no harm to anyone? Are we supposed to be sick to death of the sight or sound of him and just hope he fails swiftly at this and will leave our field of vision? Are we supposed to shrug and say, “Do your workout in private and best of luck to you?” Are we supposed to pray fervently that he stops short of wanting to run for public office just as the next thing to do? Or do we pity him for needing sport so much even though sport does not seem to returning the affection?
There is, of course, another alternative, which is to pay no attention to him at all, which I had once foolishly thought was the level we had reached when his time as a Philadelphia Eagle ended after four exhibition games. He had done all he could do in the NFL as a quarterback, didn’t want to play another position, and went the way of most players – to the remainder bin before they wanted to go.
So what should we make of this latest foray into Tebow Madness? Well, the most benign view is to look at him and say, “The problem isn’t his, but ours, because we’re the ones who won’t let it go.” The most frightening view is to look at him and say, “He’s going to get into politics, which is the rung on the ladder to hell right after crooked policeman.” And nothing between those two poles is very appealing.
We as consumers love an absurd narrative that won’t go away (it’s called the Kardashian Effect, and causes blistering, delirium and in some cases full-on madness), but he is in control of his life, and at some point this must all end because, frankly, Tim Tebow is becoming defined more and more by all the things he cannot do, and that is no happy way to be famous.