Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When Dan Shanoff Met Tim Tebow

There is a scene in the classic movie "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie finally -- finally -- gets a chance to meet Santa Claus to ask about the Red Ryder BB gun, only to blank in Santa's presence.

Santa: "How about a nice...football?" (In Ralphie's own head: "Football? Football? What's a football? With unconscious will my voice squeaked out 'football'.A football? Oh no, what was I doing? Wake up, Stupid! Wake up!")

Ralphie nods his head, and Santa sends him down the slide. Halfway down, Ralphie realizes what is happening, stops short, clambers back up the slide and announces his interest in the gun. Santa replies: "You'll shoot your eye out kid!" Then taps his boot on Ralphie's forehead, sending Ralphie down the slide into oblivion with a whimpering "Nooooo....."

That's a very real scenario for me, because tonight, there is a pretty good chance that I am going to meet Tim Tebow. Finally meet Tim Tebow, I guess you could say. Or, the way many of you might characterize it: Awkwardly meet Tim Tebow.

There is a 100 percent chance that I will be standing in a room with him as a frenzy of media folks jockey to interview him at a launch party for EA's NCAA Football 11. The closest I have otherwise been to Tebow is about 20 rows up from the field at the Swamp at the Tennessee game last September.

So then the open question is whether or not I will actually talk to Tebow myself -- as part of the group or, perhaps, even a brief 1-on-1 interview. If so, the even bigger question is: What would I talk with him about?

In my Ralphie moment, the handlers will nudge me into a one-question interview with Tebow and I'll sputter "Football...." Tebow will answer pleasantly about making a difference or finishing strong or the effort he will bring to whatever NFL team he is lucky enough to be drafted to. And then he'll move along, and I'll realize the brilliant, thought-provoking question I should have asked:

"Wait, wait: How can one reconcile the "relationships-over-championships" attitude with the tears of disappointment on the sidelines of the Georgia Dome! What do you think is the most applicable secular interpretation of your religious beliefs? What's your favorite piece of Tebow mythos? What role did growing up a Gator fan play in your college career? AndhaveyoueverheardofTimTeblogdotcom?"

Let's be realistic here: I don't exactly have the typical media person's perspective on Tebow. Everyone else will attend tonight and ask him the standard questions about his college career, draft status, NFL prospects, faith, etc. And, more than likely, Tebow will reply with standard answers.

But what about the guy who has the blog focused entirely on Tim Tebow? The guy who has written nearly 800 posts about Tebow over the past 9 months? The guy who has dissected and analyzed practically everything Tebow has said or been said about him?

To be totally honest, the entire prospect of talking with Tebow freaks me out. Not just because of the obsessive coverage or the faux-journalistic distance I've maintained from Tebow (for example, not getting media credentials to cover him up close in G'ville or his trips to NYC).

And, no: Not because of the awkward moment when I mention -- if I even have the chutzpah to bring it up -- that he-has-probably-never-heard-of-it-but-I-have-a-Tebow-focused-blog-called-TimTeblog.com... only to have him say "Wow, hm. No, can't say I've heard of it." Probably followed by something chipper like "But sounds fun!" Either that, or a quick safe-word alerting the PR handlers to take me back to the media holding pen.

(Quick digression: The most common question I get when I talk with people about the blog is that they ask me if I think Tebow has seen or read it. With absolutely no false modesty, I tell them that I am 100 percent sure he has never even heard of it, let alone read it. I think he steers clear of coverage of himself, no matter what the form. If his family or the Florida sports information department has set up a Google Alert for "Tebow" -- and I'd be shocked if they didn't -- it would be hard for them to miss the blog. But really, bank on it: He's never seen it or heard of TimTeblog.com. And I'm not even sure how I could bring it up without sounding like a complete tool.)

But let me tell you what freaks me out the most: Coming up with a question beyond the banal. Getting a response beyond what I already know he will say. (Now, I recognize that any speaker as polished as Tebow will always glide back to the talking points, but I can at least make an effort.)

I have been racking my brain -- not to mention the archives of the blog -- trying to come up with the questions that might illuminate Tebow in some new way. Short of that, I am heading in trying to make sense of the larger theses that I have developed about Tebow over the past year about Tebow's football or his faith or his mythology.

I can envision a dream scenario: That my questions are good enough that Tebow would be willing to sit down with me for a half-hour at some point this summer when things are a little bit calmer, for a more extensive discussion. But I'm not holding out for that.

I can also envision a nightmare scenario for tonight: That my question will just be the same old thing. Not even that his answer will be one I've read or linked to a hundred times -- but that the experience won't live up to built-up expectations of the year of attention I have put into the Teblog project.

The reality is that there probably ISN'T a question -- or an answer -- that would validate my unusual dedication to the Tebow beat. And, ultimately, recognizing that is how I'm going to get over the babble in my head, get in the queue to talk with him, introduce myself and ask him a couple questions.

My wife -- the original Gators fan in our family and who has supported the Teblog effort so patiently (most of the time) -- has a pretty interesting theory: That it is very hard to talk with someone you know a LOT about when you don't actually know them. It's a false familiarity that should be recognizable to any sports fan -- or fan of anything, I guess. But I digress.

Some might (appropriately) say that the crucible for shamelessness about all this was defined back in mid-July when I launched a blog devoted entirely to covering Tim Tebow -- that whatever happens tonight is only a function of that.

Still doesn't change the fact that this feels like the culmination of the past year's work, and I'm still not sure how it fits. Maybe after tonight I will enjoy a revelation.


For those of you who have read the blog over the past 9 months, you know that any question from me has to be a little more thought-provoking than your standard media interview cliche. What would YOU ask Tebow, if you really wanted to understand him better?


  1. Dan, chill out! This is a golden opportunity. You have already shed any pretense of being an "impartial" sportwriter. You idolization of Tebow is quite evident. I am also a rabid fan of Tebow's and confess to the same level of deification--hope that's not blasphemous as I am also a Christian!. So, here is my advice to you: Go up to Tebow with a spiral notebook and a pen. Tell him that you have a website and blog dedicated to him, called timteblog, and that it has been your goal to "help" all compulsive Tebowholics through this trying pre-draft period. You have already dropped any credibility you have regarding his potential--you think he will be an incredible NFL quarterback--and have regularly indicated so. THEN, with the world watching, ask him for his autograph! You, your blog, and everything about it will end up on every sports blog in the country (for those of you who didn't follow the story about the alleged autograph at the combine, this won't make sense, but if you aren't aware of that fiasco, you aren't a genuine Tebow fanatic anyway). GOOD LUCK!

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  3. "The guy who has written nearly 800 posts about Tebow over the past 9 months?"
    According to your archives, you started the blog in 7/08, not 7/09. Therefore it's been 21 months. Time flies...

    "With absolutely no false modesty, I tell them that I am 100 percent sure he has never even heard of it, let alone read it."
    I'd be surprised if he hasn't heard of it. But I'd be equally surprised if he's actually seen it.

    "What would YOU ask him?"
    Wow. That's tough. At a promotional event like this, there's probably no way to ask The Big Meaningful Question that will tell us more about what he's 'really' like. The only thing I can offer is to suggest you give that question to Tim: 'Is there a question that you've never been asked by the media that you wish you had been asked?'. But he might be stumped by that, so maybe that wouldn't work. Or, you could go w/computer-type questions (since a version of the game can be played on computers, iirc), such as 'What's your Home Page/screensaver/desktop wallpaper?' or 'What's your all-time favorite video game, other than NCAA Football?'. Or 'What's your all-time favorite film/tv show?' (some reporter asked him his favorite song, so why not favorite film or tv show?).

    Best wishes on meeting Tim, Dan. And try not to be too nervous. You have no reason to be. He's only 22 years old & you're a terrific writer.

  4. Timmy, you've always said that your priorities, in order, are: faith, family, school, and football. Now that school is finished, what role will your education play moving forward, especially in relation to your other three priorities?

  5. Dan, I used that exact same analogy when I described to someone what it was like meeting Tim! When I met him at the Jacksonville signing, I spent 4 hours waiting in line just trying to think of what I was going to say to him. I just couldn't think of anything witty enough and when I got up there, handed the people the helmet to be signed, I was kind of being pushed to the side (like Ralphie down the slide) and finally forced myself to just say hi, how are you doing. And he stopped what he was doing, looked me straight in the eye and shook my hand (very firm handshake I might add) and he was just soooo warm and friendly for the total of about 30 seconds I got to talk to him. I'm so excited for you! Don't pass up your opportunity or you will regret it forever. It doesn't matter what you say, just say hi :)

  6. Dan,
    I think that anything you ask him regarding his faith will catch his attention. He always looks for opportunities to talk about it without being the one to bring it up. (I know this because that's my same approach as a Christian - I also believe like Tebow that you can't force your beliefs on someone, but on the same side we are commanded to share our faith according to scripture.)

    For the question: Christians are called to forgive and to me, that's the hardest thing to do if someone has truly hurt you. I would want to know how he handles trying to forgive all of those people that have criticized him for so long.

  7. Oh, and PLEASE try to get it on video!

  8. Chill out!! you will be fine!! excatly be the cool Dan that you are... dont talk like 100mph! just be cool! hes a nice guy I heard he listens to people like your the only one in the room even when there 200 people right in his face!! GOD LUCK!!! mention your blog its great work be proud!! we are proud of you!!

  9. "Given the constant bombardment of top NFL prospects by agents, marketing companies, financial advisors, and so-called 'friends', how does Tim weed out the riff-raff? What does someone have to do to earn his trust?"

    His answer may help a lot of other young athletes. It will be interesting to see whether Tim's background and his beliefs make him a better judge of character than his peers or if he's more susceptible to scams because of his naivete or gullibility.

  10. I agree with Jennifer about asking him a question regarding his faith. These might not be the perfect questions for your situation, but someday I would like to know the following:

    "How do you earn the respect of your teammates especially those who are nonbelievers?"
    "How do you share your faith without pushing your beliefs on people?"

    I have not heard any Gators say anything negative about him. I would think that not every football player on the Florida team was a christian, and yet he was able to lead a bible study and sing praises the day of the National Championship game in the hotel with his teammates! This amazes me.

    Have fun tonight, Dan, and enjoy the experience! You've earned it!! Thanks for all your time and effort on your blog!!

  11. Dan- First off i agree with your wife! I think it is so hard to FINALLY meet someone that you know so well.... but have never actually met! Secondly I do hope you ask him if he has read this blog! If u dont want to be so direct you can be like Hi I am dan shanoff and I write for the TimTeblog and look for any recognition and ask if he had every HEARD of it! Because I have read your blog since the very beginning ( and i wish you would continue blogging) and I dont think i am alone...... and I would not be surprised if at the VERY LEAST he has heard of it.... and ...Finally..... ask tim if there was one thing he could tell his fans what would he saw to us! Or if he was standing in your shoes what is one question he would ask himself that would let his fans know him better....

  12. Boxers or briefs? Just kidding, but it would certainly break the ice! Seriously, your blog is one I get excited to see updated in my blog roll and that is because you always have some new nugget to offer us--not easy in this age of media saturation. I'm with the others, be yourself, have fun, and of course we want pics and full details! And may I take this opportunity to beg you to continue on even after draft day?

  13. Hey everyone --

    Just a quick note how much I appreciated the comments today -- and every day, frankly.

    I'm headed out to the event, and they've given me at least an implied idea that I will get a brief 1-on-1 interview with him. We'll see.

    I think that even though I will feel sheepish doing it, I can't NOT say that my site is TimTeblog.com. He's not going to kick me out of the event. More likely than not, he'll laugh.

    Anyway, those were some great question ideas. I'm still figuring out what I'm going to ask, but as I wrote, I have relaxed the pressure I'm being on myself to be profound or get anything out of him more than he would say to anyone. It'll be what it'll be, and I'm mainly trying to have fun with it.

    Thanks again for the comments. -- Dan

  14. This is too late -- but my question, the one I REALLY want to ask him (but don't think he would answer) ...

    What HAPPENED in Atlanta this year? What REALLY happened?

  15. Can't wait to hear all about the meeting! Glad you are going to mention the blog.
    Also, what's this about not blogging after the draft?! If I read the blog title correctly, it says "covering the Tim Tebow era" and I don't think that era is near over - Keep going - Finish strong (Ha - couldn't help myself!)

  16. So, it turns out, there was absolutely nothing awkward about you meeting Tebow (at least it didn't seem so from my perspective). It was a great time - thanks for being a part of the event!

  17. Julie is totally right! Tim couldn't have been more gracious or enthusiastic -- as if any of us expected any less. Huge thanks to EA for allowing me to be part of the event.

    Best. EA game cover. Ever.

  18. I loved this post. Insecurities like that are exactly why I'm not sure I'd even want to meet him if I could!

    Okay, I'd want to meet him, but like you I'd just tell myself beforehand to calm down and not expect anything unprecedented from it.