On Friday afternoon, the first day of 2010, an artist named JT Maurer sits alongside Jackson Square in New Orleans's French Quarter. The skies are overcast. Sunlight occasionaly spirals down on the milling tourists, illuminating the old gray stone sidewalk. Throngs of Florida and Cincinnati fans, in their requisite blue and red, swarm the old city. On the black iron bars that surround Jackson Square park, Maurer has placed his black charcoal paintings of famous figures for sale.
On the top row, from left to right, rest the following: Barack Obama, Tim Tebow, Jesus.
As the sun begins to decline over across the muddy Mississippi, and night comes on, Tim Tebow's college career still has 60 minutes left, a Sugar Bowl tilt against the Cincinnati Bearcats.
I ask Maurer how the $50 Tim Tebow paintings had been selling.
"Not that well," he says. "I haven't sold one yet. Most people are focused on drinking and they don't want to carry around a painting. Lots of people have stopped and looked, though. I think the Gators are upset about being here."
The only other football figure for sale is legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant.
"To tell you the truth," says Maurer, "I was kind of hoping Alabama was going to be here again. I was expecting it. Last year, I sold 11 Bear Bryant's to Alabama fans."
My wife stands alongside me. She speaks before I even say anything. "You are not," she says, "buying a picture of Tim Tebow."
Let me be clear, I love Tim Tebow because he is the most authentic figure in sports today. Maybe, in all of American public society. Too often our sports heroes like Tiger Woods or Mark McGwire are steeped in artificiality. The same is true of our political figures, our religious leaders, virtually everyone in the public arena today is selling us something that has nothing to do with reality. In an age when we crave authenticity more than any other trait, when our television shows seek to capture reality and when players, coaches, and everyone associated with them sells an artificial image of themselves, I love that Tebow is refreshingly honest, direct, disarming, a man in full.
I don't want to be sold a false image anymore.
And, what's more, I don't want a player to do or say something because he thinks I want to hear that. We've reached an era where player and coach answers are so cliched, they don't even realize that they're spouting cliches anymore. We've all seen athletes and coaches interviewed on television so many times that we know what's coming before it's even said; our athletes are all playing roles.
Tebow isn't playing a role.
Because his role isn't to be cool, or to be calculated, or to do anything like that, it's to be as real as real can be.
That's why no matter how many times Tim Tebow scored touchdowns against my team, no matter how many times he triumphed over other teams that I was rooting for, I don't want to see Tim Tebow leave college football.
Watching him play is too much fun.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Saying Goodbye to Tebow Is Sweet Sorrow
Clay Travis, a VOL, explains what Tebow means to him and sports: