Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Mel Kiper isn't a fan (at least as a QB.)
Matt Hinton asks "Why not?"
MJD says "That's why."
As for me, I think, at worst, he can have an impact with a coach who is willing to go crazy with the Wildcat: Let your "game manager" QB get you to the 15; let Tebow do the rest. At the very least, how about using him innovatively; he doesn't have to take a lot of snaps to have a big impact (see Florida's 2006 national-title season).
At best, I think Tebow can be an NFL starter; don't underestimate the ability of NFL coaches to turn unpolished passers with big size and mobility into NFL starters. As always, it will totally depend on the context he is drafted into -- coach, team around him, etc.
I stand by my prediction that Bill Belichick will draft Tebow, then unleash him. (I wouldn't be surprised if Belichick made it clear through back-channels -- perhaps Beli BFF Urban Meyer -- that the Pats won't let Tebow slide past them in the 1st round.)
BTW: I find Kiper's gold standard of "pure NFL pocket passer" as Matt Stafford to be laughable. Two words: Rex Grossman. I spent all weekend in Atlanta and Stafford came up a lot. Someone tell me how Stafford isn't the next Grossman -- a strong-armed dummy.
Instead of calling Tebow "the next Eric Crouch" (or "next Frank Wycheck" -- where the "W" stands for "WTF?!"), why not call him the next Donovan McNabb?
UPDATE: WSJ's Allen Barra on Tebow's bonafides -- if not as an NFL player than as arguably the greatest college football player of all time. BTW, for the commenter who said Tebow didn't stack up to Donovan McNabb statistically, you were right: Tebow is actually superior in all the stats you cited -- yards per attempt, passer rating... let's not even count TDs, TD/INT ratio, yards-per-carry, rushing TDs, etc. As good as McNabb was in college, Tebow is -- statistically -- much better.
Friday, December 12, 2008
(Yes, even ahead of Tommie Frazier, who -- make no mistake -- was awesome. But just about as one-dimensional as you get. And while that '95 Nebraska team was arguably the Greatest Team Ever, it wasn't all because of Frazier. But if you're wondering, yes, I put Frazier in the Top 5.)
But, to reiterate: "Best ever" is derived, more than any other single factor, from mythology. But mythology itself is fairly complex.
The lesson of VY is that mythology isn't made from merely winning the Heisman. The Heisman is a resume item, which folks can break out to make the argument that so-and-so is among the best ever.
But championships matter. Playing big in big games matters. Stats matter... sort of. (You don't remember how many total yards VY had; you do remember that he had 500 yards of offense against USC. You don't remember Tebow's precise totals from last year; you know he was the first-ever to be a "20/20" player.) Which supports the following:
The transcendent talent you can see with your own eyes matters (like VY scoring against USC in the NCG). "Storyline" matters (Tebow's "Promise"; Tebow's handy circumcision work, representative of his larger philanthropical angle; he just won that "most inspirational" award).
Is it fair to credit Tebow with "well, he's already won one national title" in the same way Young has? Hardly. Young carried that UT team in a uniquely spectacular way; to his credit, Tebow was the offensive MVP of that Florida title team, even in limited action. But it's not the same.
I think everyone -- including Tebow -- knows that Tebow needs to be THE guy on a national-title team to truly rise to the top, or even the top tier. Consider how much he has been elevated simply by leading Florida to that comeback win over Bama in the SECCG.
Winning a national title as a freshman (and having a powerful role in it) and becoming the first player ever to win the Heisman as a sophomore opened up never-before-seen possibilities for Tebow this year, especially with a better team around him. From the debacle against Ole Miss to the Promise to the performance after that, the myth is elevated.
If he does win the Heisman -- or, more accurately, if he does win the national title (see the VY Corollary that you don't need to win the Heisman to be immortalized) -- the resume -- no, the mythology -- is stuffed so ridiculously that he elevates into that "Best Ever" conversation almost by default.
Where it gets more intriguing is whether -- realizing that he won't be a first-round NFL pick -- he comes back to Florida for his senior year.
(The NFL, amusingly, doesn't give a crap about college mythology, and the NFL teams that do -- see Vince Young -- usually make a terrible pick; there are exceptions, obviously -- see Barry Sanders -- but among QBs, mythology is almost always a terrible indicator of future NFL success.)
There has been some talk -- wishful thinking, more like it -- on Florida message boards about Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes all wanting to come back next year to make a run at real immortality: An unbeaten season (the first in Florida football history) and status as one of the greatest teams of all time. (Hey, it worked for the basketball team.)
If that happens, we're in truly uncharted territory and Tebow has a shot at permanent placement above all the other college football immortals. I don't think it will happen: Spikes is a 1st-rounder, and you don't waste that in football. Harvin is a likely 1st-rounder AND has a history of injuries; he better get into the pros now. Tebow could work his way into the 1st round (I'm convinced Bill Belichick schemes to take him) AND he just lost his mentor, Dan Mullen, AND if he wins the national title, what more can he do? (I think there's a part of him that thinks that leading Florida to an SEC title is already enough.)
Obviously, the notion that Tebow is, already, the greatest college football player ever is premature, at best. (And I'm obviously so biased as to disqualify the entire argument an irrational one.) In fact, it's fairly stupid to discuss it before Jan. 9. But he's already in the discussion -- with your Vince and Tommie and Herschel and Barry and Bush -- as being among the greatest ever. That's a hell of a thing before you've completed 3 full seasons.
It's all about the mythology.
First published here.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Call it "Project: Tebow." In addition to your compliments, many of you emailed to wonder why it was so short.
The fact is: They wanted 300 words; I gave them something closer to 500. This was, of course, my own fault -- I should have constructed it for 300 words. Believe me: I always appreciate a good edit, and -- if you look at my essays with them listed on the right -- they give them to me.
That said, I wanted to publish the original, longer version in full, for those of you who wanted to read more on it. Mind you, it's not better; it's just longer. Here you go:
"Timothy Tebow Shanoff" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
In the lead-up to the birth of my son last week, baby names were on the brain – and on the table.
Sports fans are willing to do a lot of irrational things – scream helplessly at the TV, play dress-up in player jerseys. But maybe nothing about this irrationality hits closer to home than the pressure produced when we're naming our children.
It is not like my wife and I were actually going to name our kid after Tim Tebow, our favorite athlete. That would be as ludicrous as naming your kid after, say, Brett Favre. (What was Eric Mangini thinking?)
But for every name put on the table, my instant reaction was usually, "Hmm: Yes, but what athlete will my fellow fans think of first?"
Eli? Great name. But, after this past Super Bowl, I think it will be a wee bit overdone in the greater New York area.
Isiah? If the first thing you thought of was "Isiah Thomas," you will understand why I rejected that name in about 2 seconds.
Noah was a strong contender, though ultimately discarded because my Florida fandom would inevitably lead folks to believe I named him after Gator great Joakim Noah.
So what about Tim? We could do worse. It's a nice name. Tebow is a talented player and, from all accounts, saintly as a person. (I mean, it's not like saddling your kid with an ungainly name like "Peyton," as so many Tennessee fans did back in the 90s.)
For perspective, our first kid is named Gabe. Though it was just a coincidence, it is not without a little pride I connect him to Gabe Kapler. (Could my own son be that rare Jewish Major Leaguer? Probably not: But he can share a name with one!)
Nevertheless, last week, with my wife in labor, we settled on "Jonah." And I think part of that name's appeal for me was that my sports-fan baby-name radar couldn't immediately summon an athlete who shared his name.
(We gave him the middle name Ryan – I couldn't help but think approvingly of Ryan Braun. In the selection process, I will confess it wasn't problematic for me that each of my boys shares a name connection with a Jewish Major Leaguer.)
In the end, "Tim Shanoff" or "Tebow Shanoff" are as fantastical as the idea of my son suiting up for the Gators and winning a Heisman himself. I settled for paying homage by wearing a Tebow T-shirt in the delivery room.
Still: During the long nights of Jonah's first week, my sleep-deprived brain couldn't help but hallucinate that "Jonah" is actually an anagram for "J. Noah."
Friday, October 10, 2008
Rewind to roughly 9 months ago, when the doctor pegged the due date on October 11. Me: "But that's the Florida-LSU game!*"
(* - NOT my reaction. My immediate reaction.)
While there is no guarantee it will happen tomorrow, I am holding on to what I feel is a very medically sound theory that we will be in the delivery room precisely at the start of the 4th quarter of a close game.*
(* - NOT that I will care about the game at that point. Or, let's be honest here: I'll have the game on TiVo and will merely remind the nurses and doctors and various family members not to mention the result until I'm able to get home and watch. And the one upside of labor on a Saturday is plenty of college football to keep both my wife -- and me -- occupied**.)
(** - NOT trying to insinuate that watching college football somehow reduces the pains of labor. But it just might make it go by a little faster and more distractedly. OK: At least for me.)
No, we don't have a name picked out yet. Even now.
Back in the spring of 2006, before the birth of Kid No. 1, there was a running meme in my daily chat on ESPN.com, the Morning Quickie. There was some early discussion that I would name him "Joakim," which -- while awesome -- would make for an awkward bar mitzvah invitation.
Then, there was some discussion that I would pick "Noah" -- same homage to the Gators basketball team, less polarizing. And, in fact, Noah is a fantastic name. It actually made one iteration of our "baby-name short list," until I disqualified it precisely because I didn't want the kid going through life with people THINKING I named him after Joakim Noah.
For Kid No. 1, "Gabe" worked out fine -- and, as an added bonus, there was a modest connection to a notable sports name -- Gabe Kapler (my son Gabe's middle name starts with a "K," so it works out even better). How could I not appreciate the connection to that rarest of men, the major-sport Jewish pro athlete? (And I don't remember the MQ chatters ever guessing it.)
But it's true for this kid, too: Ideas for names came up -- and were discounted (and perhaps even reassured) -- because of a connection to an athlete or name from sports who I happen to dislike (or like). You simply can't help it.
And then there is the mother of all relevant baby-name questions:
Did "Tim" or "Timothy" make the short list?
I cannot possibly name my kid after Tim Tebow, can I? There's no question, as my Deadspin fans like to celebrate: He is my favorite athlete ever. He is a model person. It certainly wouldn't be a terrible choice, and it's actually a fine, normal name (unlike, say, naming your kid "Peyton," as so many in Tennessee did in the mid-1990s.)
But, no, while I won't reveal the top contenders -- though I have received some great suggestions over the past 36 hours, including more than a few guesses it would be "Tim" -- I will reveal that "Timothy" did not make the final cut, either as a first name or a middle name.
(No, "Tebow" did not make the cut for middle name, either. Though I appreciate you thinking it might... and though I'm not quite sure what that says.)
I will, however, offer an open invitation to Tim Tebow to come up for the bris, 8 days after the birth date. (Oh, you know why I want him there: Sure, you could NAME your kid after Tim Tebow, but it's a much better story to have him join the mohel for the circumcision. Tebow might even learn some new tips. Zing!)
Believe me: The Tebow/Shanoff-bris meme will be worked over on the blog between now and the bris itself. I cannot help it. As soon as I heard about Tebow's turn as the missionary mohel (after I knew my wife was pregnant), I knew I was on a collision course with this topic.
Anyway, as much as I would love to update the blog throughout the glorious event -- or via Twitter, or via updated Facebook status (can you imagine: "Dan is...coaching a birth!" Shortly after: "Dan is...facing divorce!"), if you don't see me on the blog in any given moment, that's why.
So: "Tim Shanoff" or "Tebow Shanoff." Ummm, no. But your name suggestions, guesses or advice, via the Comments, are always welcome.
More later (this time uttered with an epic degree of understatement).
UPDATE (Saturday a.m.): No baby yet. Here's another tip on naming your baby, inspired after one commenter suggested "Levi" -- not sure if he was serious or kidding. Here's the tip:
If a potential name is nominated and the first person you can think of who shares that name is a douchebag (ie, Levi Johnston), do NOT give your baby that name.
(Now, in 20 years, we may have forgotten all about Levi Johnston. But for these next few months -- which is the only real time people care about a kid's name, just after they're born -- it's a millstone.)
Saturday, September 27, 2008
I’m extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida has never done here.
I promise you one thing: A lot of good will come out of this.
You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season.
You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.
-- Tim Tebow, Sept. 27, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I was pondering Ronnie Brown's performance on Sunday -- he scored 4 TDs (3 run, 1 pass) from 6 direct-snaps (then added another rushing TD from a standard formation).
(1) I'm wondering if we'll see this pop up as a mini-trend in the NFL. Certainly McFadden and LaDainian can pull it off, as can some other RBs. If it baffles Belichick, it makes sense to try.
(2) I'm wondering if this is suddenly Tim Tebow's place in the NFL. I think he can be an every-down QB, but I appreciate that many of you disagree with me. Let's stipulate to it then.
Isn't it possible that Tebow could be installed as a "red-zone specialist," able to either run it in himself (much like Brown, either between or around the tackles) or make the pass?
Now, I'm not sure how many QBs want to specialize in being a "Between-the-2os" QB, giving up the TDs and red-zone opportunities to another guy. (But Pennington sorta did, right?)
Tebow may not reinvent the QB position -- at least not the full-time QB position. But what if he reinvents the position by turning "Red-Zone QB" into a skill-position of its own? (And imagine his fantasy value...)
Let me throw this theory out there, then we can all laugh and file it away for later: I have long suspected that Bill Belichick wants to draft Tebow, (a) because he's tight with Urban Meyer and (b) because as the consummate Xs and Os guy, Belichick is intrigued by the potential described above. Maybe not every drive that lands inside the 20, but often enough to make a difference.
I suspect that after what Ronnie Brown did to his defense this weekend -- over and over and over again -- Belichick will be even more keen to make a move to somehow acquire Tebow.
(But, cripes, can you imagine if the Patriots drafted Tebow? Oh god: Then I'd have to become a Patriots fan. See: Now I'm sure this is going to happen, if only to provide the maximum schadenfreude for the rest of you.)
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I do NOT pick Tim Tebow to win the Heisman this season.
In the column, I lay out the reasons (briefly: Tebow Fatigue, Stat Drop-Off, Increased Comp). All together, I just don't see it happening.
HeismanPundit.com (now in partnership with the Orlando Sentinel, in a great move for both) did its preseason straw poll of influential voters -- Tebow won by a slim margin.
Again, I disagree. (I'm sure if we went back, Matt Leinart won the preseason straw poll the season after he won the Heisman. It's even more meaningless than a preseason Top 25.)
That's not to say that I don't think Tebow isn't the best player in college football. Absolutely, I do. But there's a huge difference between that and winning the Heisman.
So, who WILL win the Heisman? I think it will be Ohio State RB Chris "Beanie" Wells. He will be a candidate for 2,000 yards, two dozen TDs and the anchor of an OSU team that will likely end up in the national title game.
(Hmm: What's more shocking -- that I pick against Tebow to win the Heisman in '08? Or that I pick an Ohio State player to win the award?)
The other players I think will end up as finalists in New York will also see their teams spend time up near the top of the polls: Tebow; Chase Daniel, Pat White, Knowshon Moreno -- in that order of finish.
(If Percy Harvin stays healthy, I think he could be Reggie Bush to Tebow's Matt Leinart. But that's a huge "if.")
Regardless, I think Tebow won't repeat. It's fun to consider. He is a one-of-a-kind player -- probably my favorite college football player of all time (not that THAT is a consideration for Heisman-worthiness). He will be in the Heisman mix all season long -- if he can win the Heisman with the Gators going 9-3 in the regular season, what will happen if they go 11-1 or 12-0?
If Tebow didn't win last year, he would be the heavy favorite this year. But he DID win last year -- and that's a big reason why he won't win this year.
"Beanie for Heisman" -- that's a pretty catchy marketing slogan.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Here was the quote from Tebow I liked the most:
"You know, there's a lot of leaders out there. But, unfortunately, there aren't a lot of good ones. So that's always been my dream and my goal, is to be someone like Danny Wuerful was to me, to be someone that a parent can say, Hey, this kid did it the right way. They can say to their kid, I want you to be like them. That's always been my dream and my goal more so than winning a trophy or winning a championship.
"So if it's cynical or whatnot, that's fine. If people don't believe it, that's fine. There's always going to be naysayers, people that are going to say it's fake. But that's fine because you can't control everybody. But I can control what I do, my attitude, how I approach the situation. So how I approach the situation is I want to do everything in my power that football gives me to influence as many people as I can for the good because that's gonna mean so much more when it's all said and done than just playing football and winning championships."
As great as Tebow is on the field, by all accounts he seems to be an infinitely better and more grounded person off the field, which is remarkable, given the spotlight he is under.
And, I should point out, he only directly mentioned "God" once in a couple thousand words worth of quotes.
This is one of the most fascinating things about Tebow: He is fervently religious. However, either by disposition or design, he does not overwhelm you with it. In fact, when he does mention it -- as he briefly did during the Heisman acceptance speech -- it feels strange.
"From one room to the next went Tebow — a generic TV room, then to the Raycom room, then to an SEC Sports room, then to the print media room. So many stops, so many questions. But after an offseason that saw him travel to the Philippines, Croatia and Thailand, not to mention New York, Fort Worth, Atlantic City and two prisons, he's used to it."
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
"[It] raises an interesting question: Is Tebow even the best quarterback in the nation – let alone the best player? Can one say that Tebow is the best quarterback in the SEC?"Yes. And yes. Statistical evidence available shortly.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
"the greatest player of our era."Sure to provoke argument.
Obviously, I agree, with apologies to Vince Young and Reggie Bush.
Let me put it this way: Tebow eventually will be considered the greatest player of our era. I would put both VY and Bush ahead of him, for now.
(Although if ethics count, Bush falls way behind the pack.)
Monday, July 21, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
This was my response to him. Thought it might make a good summary for folks who want to know more about what I'm doing here and why.
His initial framing of the site was as a "tribute" page, which I wanted to correct right off the bat:
Although I am a self-admitted Tebow fan, I wouldn't describe it as a "tribute" page -- I am covering Tebow like a "beat," through the same analytical filter and news judgment that I have used writing columns for ESPN.com or SportingNews.com or even just DanShanoff.com. What I am layering in is the advantages of the blog platform, like immediacy and community and link-based distribution. I don't see much distinction between what I'm doing an a blogger covering a specific team, conference or sport; it just happens to be that I am picking an individual player. Of anyone in sports, he probably qualifies as worth the treatment. Here's why:
Even if I wasn't a Florida fan, I think that any college football fan understands that Tebow is THE story of the college football season, mainly because we have never experienced anything like his circumstances before: QB of the defending champs (doubling as the consensus pick to win a repeat title), with the potential to be one of the greatest teams ever... One-time Heisman winner who could earn his 2nd -- or at the very least have his 3rd straight Top 3 finish... Finally, there's the substantial mythology that has been created around and about him, probably more intense than any player in college football history. And he's got one more year to go, which feels a bit absurd, given what he has already accomplished.
All that has led to a discussion has already started: Under what conditions would Tebow finish his career as the greatest college football QB of all time? Or, perhaps, the greatest college football player of all time? That's a hell of a discussion to be having in real-time. That storyline, combined with Florida's run at a back-to-back title, makes Tebow the most intriguing athlete of the fall, in any sport. (And don't discount what will happen between January and May, when his draft status is THE story leading up to the NFL Draft.)
Unlike most individual athletes, Tebow offers plenty of daily material, plenty of substantial stakes on the line -- and plenty of interest from fans. There are a lot of great blogs out there dedicated to individual teams or conferences. My investment in this project is, in part, to see if there is an audience for a blog dedicated to an individual athlete -- albeit one who is a much larger story than most individual athletes. I think given Tebow's individual potential, Florida's team potential and the general mania around him, it's a deep subject with more than enough to sustain a blog on a daily basis.
The goal, in fact, is to update the blog multiple times a day. The source material for posts will come from my own original analysis, links to the best of what's being written about Tebow on the Web, guest-posts and Q&As with folks who may have an interesting perspective, even what is being tweeted about Tebow on Twitter.
I first started thinking about doing this a year ago. Tebow was coming off his Heisman year and had already emerged as the most compelling player in college football. Florida looked like a national title contender. There was uncertainty whether it would be his final year in college. But by the time I thought it through, the season had started and I felt like I missed the window. I did some test-blogging throughout the season, which is why you'll see 50 or so posts already published when I "launched" yesterday. When he announced he was coming back, I recognized this as an incredibly unique opportunity to cover the Tebow phenomenon that will dominate sports this fall.
Think of it like a reporter following a team or player for a season, only I am following a player -- and, obviously, doing it from an outsider's perspective, a hybrid of a fan's enthusiasm; a columnist's approach to analysis and narrative; and a blogger's use of the platform to connect to the larger sports-media ecology.
Will my predisposition to root for Tebow get in the way? Actually, I'd say it is the opposite: First, I am entirely transparent about my fandom, which puts me -- at least with the reader -- ahead of plenty of other folks out there writing about Tebow who drool over him but still try to claim "objectivity." Second, if you're going to do a blog about any specific topic -- whether it's a sport or a conference or a team or a player -- you better really really really like what you're covering.
The site's success in serving its audience -- whether that is Florida fans, college football fans or just folks curious about Tebow -- rests on a couple of things: Expert credibility; trenchant analysis; comprehensive coverage; and, not a small thing, some sense of fun.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
But there is this larger question: I wouldn't be a Tebow fan if I wasn't a Gators fan. So how did I become a Gators fan?
It's not like I went to Florida for college. It's not like I grew up in Florida -- let alone Gainesville, like my wife did. It's not like my parents were Gator fans and passed it down to me.
So where did my Gator fandom come from? You can read an abbreviated version here, or below...
What kind of self-respecting lifelong sports nut discovers his fan-defining allegiance in the rooting interest... of his spouse?
Of the few things I am regularly and consistently questioned about (and, yes, mocked for), my fan allegiance to Florida has gotten the most visceral reaction from fellow fans. Inspired by that, I put this essay together for a prestigious mainstream publication, which – predictably – fell through. Rather than have the essay sit on my laptop, I decided to publish it here (where apparently they'll publish ANYTHING) and use it for future reference, when people ask me about my non-traditional fan allegiance.
This fall, every Saturday I will wake up with rabid anticipation, choose between a dozen different possible "lucky" outfits, then set up (or stand up) on the couch next to my wife to root on my Florida Gators football team.
Or should I say: HER Florida Gators football team.
She is the one born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida. She is the one with the lifetime of memories of going to Gator games with her family, meeting idolized players and coaches, celebrating Florida's 1996 National Championship.
I, however, am a Gator-by-marriage – a fan-in-law.
My passion for my wife's favorite team was sparked six years ago on our first date -- even before my passion was sparked for her. Actually, as soon as she started talking about her Gator fandom, I was smitten by meeting a woman who loved sports as much as I do... and particularly smitten with envy for her particular rooting interest.
I was a huge lifelong sports fan, to be sure, but I lacked that dominant gravitational, life-defining pull of a single team. Growing up in D.C., I had adolescent rooting interest as a displaced Bears and Cubs loyalist, the product of a paternal lineage to Chicago. However, when I moved to Chicago for college, my immersion into Windy City fandom actually turned me off to the teams. Meanwhile, like other incoming freshmen in Big Ten country, I immediately gravitated to my new school's football team: But Northwestern was a perennial punchline. How satisfying could my fandom be when my deepest hope was for a .500 record and postseason bowl eligiblility in the Local Yokel Bowl? After Northwestern's Rose Bowl year – the greatest season of my life as a fan – I left Chicago, and my aimless career path in sports was mirrored in my fandom.
That foundation made me vulnerable to be seduced by a winner. That was the initial attraction to this woman across the table from me on our first date. I have heard stories of people on dates with successful professionals and fantasizing themselves as spouses of a doctor or hedge-fund manager; I sat across from my date and imagined how happy I would be married to a fan of a great sports team.
In the months that followed after we met, that first football season of our courtship – 2001 – was my initial tryout as a Gators fan. I fell for them quickly: The rabid fan base, Gator Nation. The legendary stadium, The Swamp. The charismatic gun-slinging coach, Steve Spurrier. The legacy of All-American players and future NFL superstars, like Emmitt Smith (my wife's all-time favorite Gator). The never-ending selection of garish merchandise and memorabilia.
More than anything, I was instantly addicted to the expectations. It wasn't just that the team won as a basic matter of course, which they did, often prolifically. It was that they were expected to win. Even a single loss had the potential to be season-crushing. For a Northwestern fan whose idea of an extremely satisfying year included being able to count the wins on more than one hand, the acutely experienced tightrope of a season spent following a national-title contender -- where every week was a win-or-bust virtual playoff -- felt more real than anything I had ever before experienced as a fan.
But would Gator Nation even want me?
(Years later, I am still not quite sure what my wife thinks about our arrangement. She never asked me to join her as a Gators fan; I simply encroached. I can see it from her perspective: It is one thing to agree to share your life with someone, but it is an entirely different compromise to agree to share your sports fandom with someone. Despite the nature of fandom as collective, there is something intensely personal about how each person roots for their team. For better or worse, I confess to co-opting that from her.)
Given the randomness of romance – my wife and I met on a blind date – I wonder what the state of my fandom would be had my wife and I never met. Would I, like the rest of the country, mostly despise the arrogance of Gator Nation, particularly after the last 18 months of championships in football and basketball? Would another team have filled this void I felt? (I cringe: What if I had met a woman whose favorite team was... Florida State?) And what would have stuffed my closet shelves if not my two-dozen Gator-themed T-shirts?
This fall marks the start of the seventh year of my Florida fandom, pre-puberty stage by common sports-fan standards. But most other fans don't see it as positively. When I explain to them how I came to root for Florida, they usually first question my masculinity at having adopted my wife's team, quickly followed by universal agreement that I am the worst kind of fan: A bandwagoneer.
Fair enough. But in return, I argue that making an active choice about my fandom -- even pushing 30, in what some would describe as a "mid-fan-life-crisis" -- wasn't just acceptable, but arguably superior to the more traditional, passive roots of sports allegiance:
Biology: Let me guess – you root for your favorite team because it's the team your father rooted for, and he "passed it on" to you. While I agree that's a nice way for parent and child to bond, it smacks of inheritance rather than fandom earned through independent, thoughtful decision.
Geography: Another accident of circumstance. Your fandom is less about the team itself and more about having a sense of civic pride. This is how fans in cities without teams can so quickly latch on to a new team in town – stay classy, Jacksonville -- or how fans in cities like Cleveland or Baltimore, where legendary teams left town for relocation, can so quickly latch onto the replacement team. I don't question your town pride; I question why, if you live in St. Louis, you aren't still a Cardinals fan (even though they play in Arizona) and why you are a Rams fan (even though they came from Los Angeles).
College acceptance: Even with nearly two decades of perspective on it, fandom for one's college team feels artificial; you do it because you're supposed to. I appreciate that your first day on campus included learning the words to the school fight song and taking a trip to the bookstore to buy your first piece of Michigan paraphernalia. But you were one rejection letter or underperforming high school semester away from rooting for Sparty up the highway at Michigan State... or staying on Long Island and going to a state school without a football team like the one you so unquestioningly root for today.
Despite these observations, my personal experience has made me a lot less judgmental of the origins -- and sincerity -- of other people's fan allegiances. You can crow that you "care more" than other types of fans (both outside and inside your own team's base), but I'd argue that it's possible you're only projecting your own insecurities.
There might be an argument at the margins: How many "real" fans have rooted for their team to tank for draft position? Yet how many fans, however casual, would never even THINK about doing something like that? Who the bigger fan is in that scenario is up for debate. The most important point isn't who cares more (or even who has cared longer); it's that fans care, period.
I am sure most fans fall into one or more of those root causes of rooting interest. I don't question the sincerity of your devotion, and I don't question why the top criteria for your personal brand of fandom would be serendipity. I wasn't bestowed my favorite team like a birthright or boxed into it through my zip code or delivered it in a fat envelope during my senior year of high school. Undeniably, chance played a big role for me, too.
But I was 28, the sports version of a 40-year-old virgin, when I fell in love with my favorite team in the same college football season I fell in love with my future wife. I did it with a lifetime of fan experiences behind me, similar to my lifetime of dating experiences -- enough to know the real thing when I felt it.
And it is enough to drown out the jeers of "Bandwagoneer!" with my own sincere cheer: "Go Gators." (Um, right, sweetie?)
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Or should I say: Tim Tebow performing circumcisions!!!
Here is Orson Swindle's must-read take.
Here is Deadspin's take.
And here is MY take:
Is he available to perform at a bris?