Commentary: Don't jeer Tim Tebow's tears - the greatest Florida Gator earned every one
Of all the roars of celebration that bonded Alabama fans at Saturday's SEC Championship game, none was louder or longer than the one that came in reaction to a Jumbotron image of Tim Tebow crying jumbo tears.
Superman gets no sympathy.
It's just another of the impossible weights that Tebow has carried through four years as the face of college football and the greatest Gator of them all.
That face was still showing the strain 20 minutes after Alabama's 32-13 blowout victory, a well-deserved springboard to the BCS national title game.
Tebow's eyes glistened as he sat at the podium facing reporters alongside head coach Urban Meyer, trying not to give photographers another maudlin money shot. If no one had asked a question, he would have been perfectly fine with that, but the missionary's kid did his duty, as always.
"Coming in, we felt like we were prepared," Tebow said, "but obviously, we could have done a better job. That's my responsibility as a quarterback to get that done, and we didn't do it."
He wasn't just talking about offense, an unbalanced mess that featured Tebow either passing or running the ball on 45 of 49 total plays, but about getting the Gator defense and special teams pumped up for a championship effort, too.
That video board framing of Tebow's sideline tears really was gratuitous, you see. A cheap shot. Of all the superstar athletes in the world, this one doesn't need to be humbled. He already is, even with a Heisman Trophy from his sophomore year and a stack of SEC records that place him higher, in some cases, than even Herschel Walker.
Last year, a few hours prior to last year's BCS championship game in Miami Gardens, Tebow didn't try to conceal his weakness from his buddies. David Nelson tells of Tebow sending a text message requesting that a few teammates join him and the team chaplain in Tebow's hotel room.
The strongman of so many short-yardage situations was feeling nervous. He said he didn't want Gator fans to hate him if Oklahoma beat Florida for the 2008 national championship. He didn't want to let everybody down.
After some prayer and a string of Bible verses, Tebow rallied, eventually bouncing off the team bus at Land Shark Stadium to pump up the crowd waiting there with a splash of fist-pumping, high-fiving confidence. A few hours later he was honored as the Offensive MVP of Florida's second national title team in the space of three years.
That's how it works with this guy, who is on stage every time he leaves the dorm room. Even if Tide running back Mark Ingram wins the Heisman, and he probably did on Saturday, he could never appreciate what it is to try to live out the infinite promises of Tim Tebow's very public life.
On Saturday at the Georgia Dome, with No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama each in chase of an unforgettable, undefeated season, Tebow followed his custom of printing a bible verse on his eye black.
Being as it was John 16:33, a reminder that there always will be trouble in the world and the promise of overcoming it, you have to wonder how much added stress Tebow was feeling here at the tail end of his legendary career.
Did he know at the beginning of the third quarter as he knelt and prayed on the sidelines, down 19-13 to a Crimson Tide team that pulverized Florida's famous defense from start to finish, that it already was too late for promises?
Did he believe that magic would still come for the Gators, if only they could get the ball away from Heisman hopeful Mark Ingram, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 113 yards?
Did Alabama's master stroke, a touchdown drive that bled over from the third quarter to the fourth and ate up nearly nine minutes, convince Tebow that one last, spectacular finish was beyond his reach?
If not, the easy interception he tossed into the Crimson Tide end zone with 12 minutes to play is all the more cruel. There would be only one more Florida possession, utterly pointless, and then the Tide rolled off the rest of the clock, leaving Tebow on the sidelines, cloistered by teammates as the cameras came pressing in.
Former Alabama great Shaun Alexander, ecstatic with the win, took a moment to meet with Tebow and his family in a hallway after the game, recognizing what also was lost.
"I just love that kid," said Alexander, Alabama's career rushing leader. "He represents a lot of good things. I remember being in those shoes. Sometimes you feel like you have to carry the whole world."
Lifting Florida out of this colossal letdown and getting ready for a Sugar Bowl consolation prize will be tough enough.
"This is not how we wanted to finish our season," said Tebow, who completed 20 of 35 passes and rushed for 63 yards on a day when Alabama's Greg McElroy was the more efficient quarterback. "There were a lot of goals we won't be able to accomplish."
Monday, December 7, 2009
Tebow Crying Reax 1
Below is a long recap of Saturday's game and reaction to Tebow's performance and tears by the Palm Beach Post's Dave George. It is interesting how the press, even sympathetically, deals with the issue of Tebow's tear versus the fans' reactions. (We've posted a long excerpt, but the story is even longer. Click on the link above for the whole story.)