ESPOSITO: Despite accolades, Tebow still polarizing

Nick Esposito

Very seldom does a college athlete come along and change the game, captivate the media and polarize the American fan base. We all know about Florida’s quarterback, Tim Tebow. He is a gifted athlete that has run over wimpy, would-be tacklers for more touchdowns than any other player in SEC history. Tebow led Florida on a 22-game winning streak that included an SEC title and a National Championship. This spring Tebow may graduate as the best college football player in the history of the game. He will walk away with two SEC titles, a Heisman Trophy and two national championships, as well as a flurry of awards and trophies. But his football accolades only tell half of the story that is the legend of Tebow.

Tebow is known as a great team leader. He knows when to get in his teammates’ faces and rile them up, but he also knows the proper time to be quiet and lead by example. In the off-season, Tebow travels to the Philippines on mission trips to provide aid to those in need. During the season, he commonly visits prisons and spends time with the incarcerated. He also comforts children on their deathbeds and takes time to work with many charities. Tebow is a dedicated Christian who has become famous for the bible verses he references on his eye black. Once his games begin, those bible verses become the most “Googled” keywords on the Internet. He has also admitted, despite being one of the most popular athletes in the country, that he is proud to be a virgin and is saving himself for marriage. It would seem that he is the ultimate role model for people everywhere, not just football fans. Then why are there so many people that hate him? While he is a great person and athlete, he is an extremely polarizing person that forces people to take a stance on him.

I personally couldn’t come up with a reason as to why people would be against Tebow, so I asked around. Among the responses, a common one was, “I just don’t like the Gators.” This is understandable. I wouldn’t ask a New England Patriots fan to like Peyton Manning, nor would I urge a Duke fan to cheer for Tyler Hansbrough. It is natural to hate a player that constantly dominates your favorite team. Being a “Gator Hater” was a common response, but it wasn’t the most popular.

“He’s almost too good, it can’t be real,” was another response. Let me get this straight: we don’t like him because he is too good of a person? I also understand that people don’t want to cheer for someone who is, as Holden Caulfield would refer to it, a “phony,” but wouldn’t it stand to reason that we would want to idolize someone who is too good rather than someone who is too bad?

Above all, the most common response was, “I just don’t like him.” The people who came up with this answer couldn’t put their finger on why, but they just did. Does it stem from jealousy? I am envious of Tebow’s success. He is the all-American kid who your parents want you to take after. Because of this sometimes I find myself rooting for Tebow to throw an interception, and I would be lying if I didn’t get some sort of sick, twisted pleasure when Alabama dethroned the Gators in the SEC title game this past Saturday, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I hate him.

I wonder if the real cause is rooted in the idea that we need someone to hate and that we feel more comfortable hating than loving. In the past couple of weeks, Tiger Woods has been in the media for all sorts of negative things, and America has been salivating over the prospect that the untouchable Woods has fallen from perfection. It seems that we feel uncomfortable cheering for the successful because we fear being called a frontrunner. That is the problem with Tebow; he is too good to be considered the underdog. I believe we desire to see the greats fall back to our level to make ourselves not feel as bad for being ordinary and ease the pain of being flawed.

You may not want to live in a world in which the forest animals dress Tebow in the morning and birds chirp and sing his name. You do not have to cheer for the Gators in their BCS Bowl game and you’re allowed to cross your fingers for anyone else to win the Heisman, but you have to respect this young man.

All of us college students who complain about our school workload and how we have to balance all of our activities can use Tebow as an example of how to be a leader, serve others and work hard. We should make our bowl season resolution not to cheer forTebow to fall but try as hard as we can to jump to his level of success. If we do that, we may stop being haters and make the time to start loving.


Nick Esposito is a junior communication major from Skillman, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].