Tuesday, January 5, 2010

End of Tebow Era: How To Sum It All Up?

And so the Tebow Era is over for the University of Florida. And, make no mistake, the back half of the Aughts will be remembered as the "Tebow Era."

In addition to covering that era here, all season long I have been filing weekly columns over at Yahoo's Dr. Saturday college football blog. Yesterday, I published my final thoughts, trying to put Tebow's career into perspective:

In this realm, it is finished, and the debate over Tebow's place among the all-time greats can spread among the people as he ascends to the NFL. In the college game, his legacy comes back to two great themes:

Winning. Immortality in sports is most often based on championships. From Tebow's small but critical role in Florida's 2006 national title to his MVP prominence en route to the 2008 national title, debates can be won simply by saying "two national titles, winningest senior class in SEC history." Tebow's over-the-top cheerleading and earnest promise-making both stem from a core competitiveness that has translated into championships.

Mythology. There have been plenty of winners in college football. But few circumcise babies while preaching in prisons while lighting up Google while taming TMZ while saving themselves for marriage while getting concussions while making promises while crying on the sidelines while delivering jump-passes while breaking hallowed records. It is the sheer, relentless volume of these details, repeated ad nauseam, that combined to make Tebow feel larger-than-life.

There will almost certainly be players who win as or more prolifically than Tebow. What seems improbable is that any winning player will layer in the mythical components in the same depth or breadth that he has at this level, where even the best players are only just growing into their persona and the window for influence and fame is so fleeting. Even more than his promise as a player, the myth of Tebow's outsized personality made him a star before he made his first career start.

Will there ever be another Tebow? If Tebow himself has been motivated to inspire, as much as anything else he has done on the field, then you would hope so:
Roll back the clock to New Year's Day 2000: Tebow was 12 years old. Not only had you never heard of him, but you were at least another five or six years from ever hearing of him.

While the circumstances of Tebow's ascension were, in part, a perfect storm of physical gifts, personality, optimized coaching/strategy and evolving media landscape, it would be hubris to suggest Tebow's accomplishment as an amateur can never be topped.

But he leaves behind less a legacy than a benchmark, not just of accomplishment and competitiveness, but also of leadership and commitment. On New Year's Day 2010, as Tebow ran wild through Cincinnati, somewhere there was a kid out there falling off his bike for the hundredth time who will be inspired to top it.
See the whole thing here.

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