Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tim Tebow, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan

It's been interesting to see the comparisons mount between Tim Tebow and Tiger Woods in the wake of Tiger Wood's recent accident and growing scandal. Previous to this, the only commentator or celebrity that we can remember comparing the two was Charles Barkley, back in August of this year. In essence, Barkley said that Tebow and Tiger were at the "top of the food chain" and pundits and the media would find something to nit pick and complain about them because it sold.

Bunkershot.com recently added a discussion post labeled "Tiger Woods abdicates to Tim Tebow?" Their point in comparing the two was a bit different:

When you ponder the Tiger Woods scandal, that is sift through the hyperbole, speculation and breathless “scoops” from media outlets, there are a couple of things readily apparent. Not lessons but reminders.

Conceivably people are already looking for the next inspirational superstar and maybe Florida’s Tim Tebow is the one. Tebow has it all. Looks, personality and is arguably the best college quarterback in country. He’s a nice thoughtful guy, a credit to himself, his parents and his school.

This is not about Tebow, though in fact he may replace Woods in the eyes of adoring sports fans. It’s about the Woods situation and why he is the object of media and fan scrutiny. ...

In other words to just about everyone Tiger Woods was a hero.

People are following the Woods downfall because they are disappointed, betrayed and even hurt. This is the public record of another hero with feet of clay.

Let’s hope the next hero hoisted up on the pedestal of acclaim, maybe the quarterback from the University of Florida, doesn’t come falling off the way Woods has.

Finally, Dan Shanoff breaks down George Diaz's review of Tim Tebow as being "all sincerity, not scandal."

George Diaz wrote,

I'll say this: If Tebow is a phony, then let's shut down any hope that an athlete can truly be a role model. Tebow gives us reason to read sports pages without cringing at the clutter of police reports and egotistical freaks who refer to themselves in the third person.

And Shanoff responded with

I think Diaz is doing something very dangerous here when he says "If Tebow is a phony..." What he implies is that ANY display of inconsistency of character from Tebow -- not that he has shown any so far -- would be cause to label him a "phony." I'd prefer to give Tebow a little more wide berth than that. He has built up enough goodwill that even something he does that might be out of character -- again, not that any of us are expecting that -- won't tarnish his legacy off the field, any more than losing to Alabama tarnished the rest of his legacy as a football player on the field.

What makes Tebow unique is the way he seemingly lives his values -- and doesn't push those values on people, but instead leads by example.

We think Shanoff is on the right track, but we think Tebow is different, as well as the perceptions of him are different from Tiger Woods, and even Michael Jordan, for one key reason. And that is in how all of them have been marketed to the public at large.

Neither Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan were marketed to the public as possessing any specific religious, ethical, or moral beliefs to the public. Neither necessarily were overt spokesman for any specific religious or moral group.

Instead, Woods and Jordan were marketed as being champions first, and family men second. But neither espoused family life as virtuous. Instead, Nike and Gatorade gave us ethereal ads of American "wholesomeness" with the slogan "Be Like Mike." Similarly, ad campaigns for Tiger Woods have all centered around his being a champion while his private life has been severely guarded. And to a similar extent Michael Jordan's as well. The viewing public were given neutral images on which to build their own idealizations of each man. Without making a public stand on any sort of substantive issue, fans were able to fill in the gaps in any manner that pleased them. And as long as the facade was maintained by controlling access to the real man through strict privacy, it just drove up the stock of the brand and made the "myth" of both men more precious.

Earlier this year both fans and some sports writers were shocked at Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame induction speech because of the sharp contrast to the kinder, gentler image of Jordan in the "Be Like Mike" ads, and more recently the Hanes ads. The real Mike, and his fiercely competitive and somewhat unforgiving side, was revealed to the horror of many. And now the veil has been lifted off of Tiger's private life as well.

In stark contrast is Tim Tebow. Because he is a college athlete, Tebow has not been afforded the Nike treatment. We have gotten to know him as an inconsolable teenager after a crushing defeat in the Chosen One documentary, and have watched him develop not only as a player, but also into a man under intense media scrutiny.

Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan led, and still do lead, severely guarded lives. Tim Tebow has never had that luxury, and instead of decrying it, has embraced it and worked with it. He even tackled it head on with the "are you saving yourself for marriage" question and had the last laugh in a room full of stunned reporters. Have we heard from Woods or Jordan their views on marriage, abstinence, abortion, belief in God, their belief in redemption, or their philosophy on success outside sports? Not that we can remember, but we do know Tebow's views on them all.

What few may realize is that the constant scrutiny, the constant glare of the spotlight may have been a blessing in disguise for Tebow. And embracing it, and not hiding from it or trying to control it, may have actually helped safe guard him against the indiscretions that have been the pitfalls for others, and may even continue to do so. Because it is hard to sneak around with a spotlight, or a mob of flashbulbs, following you around.

Instead of hiding behind the brand and image created for him by slick marketers, Tebow created a brand for himself by inscribing his beliefs on his eye black, and week after week declaring through them what he believes to the world. By doing so, he has not hid from the public but made himself accountable to it. Instead of trying to make himself larger than life, he attached his life to something larger and more durable than himself.

With being scrutinized and being someone who gets some attention, you've got to realize there's going to be pros and cons," Tebow said. "Some of the cons are having to deal with all of it, having to see it all on TV and having your friends and family reading about it.

The pros are I can go visit practically any kid I want (in the hospital) and make them smile in there. The pros are that I can go into prisons and share with inmates and actually have them listen to me because I play for the Gators. The pros are having opportunities to go around the country and speak to people and make an influence on their lives. I think the pros far outweigh the cons.

Tebow is not infallible, none of us are, but we believe the truth he espouses is. We don't put our hope in Tebow, or any athlete. And we suggest you don't either. Because you will ultimately be disappointed, and you know that's the truth.

Psalm 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.

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