I smell a rat. As basketball season winds down, and baseball enters the dog days of summer, the hearts and minds of people everywhere turn to tailgating and the return of football. As I joined in longing for the rhythmic return of the autumnal member of the Holy Trinity of American Sports, I came across an article arguing that Tim Tebow has probably played his last down in the NFL.
Here are my thoughts on why I believe Tim Tebow is being blackballed.
The truth we all know and some choose to forget is that American sports franchises exist not to win championships but to make money. In an ideal world, the most profitable franchises would also be those who were most successful, but that is not always the case.
Consider the LA Clippers, whose owners, until recently, were perfectly content fielding teams good enough to draw fans but bad enough to ensure no player merited an overly expensive contract. The result: perennially mediocre but profitable franchise.
See also the Florida Marlins who, about once a decade, assemble a team, win the world series, then promptly hold a fire sale of all the players in order to pay off debt. I think the 1998 Marlins hold the record for the worst record for any team the year after they won a championship.
The balance between performance and profitability led to the development of Moneyball by the Oakland Athletics. The A’s are able to keep costs down and keep fans interested, by assembling teams of players who are undervalued because of their youth and skill set. But they also invest in the risky marquee player too. It was the A’s who helped revitalized Frank Thomas after the White Sox let the Big Hurt go. The result is that every season in recent memory, they are able to make a profit and make a run at the playoffs.
Now consider Tebow. He turned around a 1-4 Denver Broncos team and led them to the playoffs for the first time in 7 years. He ignited a city, inspired fans, filled seats, and won games. But with the acquisition of Manning, Tebow was traded to the Jets, and languished on the bench like Robert Redford in the Natural.
Now released and unsigned, people are saying Tebow’s career is over. But why? Why wont ANY team take a chance on him? Critics say he is too controversial. Baloney. See Dennis Rodman for how teams, even those as squeeky clean as the Spurs, can market a controversial player. Critics say he is fundamentally unsound. Who cares? It has evidently not hindered his ability to lead and win when a coach hands him the ball.
Be honest. Seriously? No team can be found that wants to capitalize on a phenomenon, wants a little more press, wants to sell more tickets and merchandise, wants to take a gamble on the possibility that 2011 was not a fluke but was in fact the coming out party of an unconventional leader with the ability to inspire people on and off the field and to raise those around him to the next level. Sports franchises perennially take greater risks than this with unlikelier chance of reward. The fact the no team is willing to take a risk on Tebow, in my mind, is solid evidence he is being blackballed.
Why? well, that is fodder for another post.