The Tim Tebow/Jets trade may have hit more than the usual number of contractual speed bumps, but that didn't stop the NFL from putting No. 15's Jets jerseys on sale -- and advertising it on the nfl.com home page. As of Thursday, you could purchase your very own "Reebok New York Jets Tim Tebow Replica Team Color Jersey." For $84.99. Plus tax. I mean, the new Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning jersey is sharing space at nflshop.com -- and he's a Super Bowl-winning certain Hall of Fame QB.
Maybe I'm just cheap, but doesn't that seem like a lot of money for the jersey of a backup quarterback who isn't officially part of the team until next Tuesday? Not to mention the fact that, as of April 1, Nike is taking over as the NFL's official costumer and that the jersey design will certainly change. So, your almost-$90 shirt is going to be obsolete less than one week after you buy it. And many, many fans are still buying.
Tebowmania was certainly at full throttle in Florida, the Rocky Mountains and the Bible Belt, but the object of this football fan obsession has just hit the Great White Way in the media capital of the world. I can see Woody Johnson, the NFL brass and every licensed merchandiser grinning from here. I did a Yahoo! search for "Tim Tebow jersey." I stopped counting links after 10 pages.
The New York Jets are already proud owners of the league's highest-priced tickets -- to watch a team that hasn't won a Super Bowl since Broadway Joe. And J-E-T-S fans have generally been paying those prices. The only area for improvement is among the higher-priced seats and the NFL expects Mr. Tebow's arrival in The Big Apple to boost those sales. Not to mention the fact that the Jets will now instantly command a national audience with the result that sponsorship and advertising revenue should soar. And if you own a B&B in Cortland, New York (home of the Jets training camp), get your reservation book ready.
Tebow's appeal is certainly not based solely on his football performance. In 2011, the signal caller completed an anemic 46.5 percent of his passes. In a league of 32 teams, Tebow ranked...34th. He'll go down in history as throwing the first game-winning touchdown pass under the new overtime rules. It was the first snap of OT, went 80 yards for the score and won the game in 11 seconds. "Wow," you say. Yeah, but it was a short play-action pass that WR Demaryius Thomas took to the house, executing an impressive stiff-arm along the way. Oh.
No, the young quarterback has captured the hearts of America with his spirit and his off-the-field, well, goodness. We're bombarded with news of war, murder and greed on an hourly basis. Tim Tebow is the human embodiment of home, hearth and apple pie. And generosity. He is rumored to have spent his $2.5 million signing bonus on various charities around the world. Not a car, not a house, not a diamond medallion -- charity. Who does that? His foundation's logline is "Creating a Brighter Day." Seriously?
I admit it; I was starting to get diabetes from the mere idea of this guy. Nobody could be that perfect. And then I watched him handle himself on national television for two years. He's either the greatest actor since Paul Newman -- or he's a genuinely decent and kind young man who lives the way he talks and spends his money for the benefit of others. I can't even get too worked up over his blatant Christianity and constant invocation of Jesus' name. It's not in my belief system to be so public about private spiritual matters, but it is in his. And, as usual, he is following his beliefs. How upset can you get?
Then there is Tebow's seemingly bulletproof optimism. He has led six professional fourth-quarter comebacks and seven game-winning drives. He told Demaryius Thomas after a ball sailed right between his hands that Thomas would catch the game-winning pass. "You're going to be the hero of the game." And that's exactly how it came to pass.
Between the political back-biting, the economic slump and social divides that sometimes feel unbridgeable, Americans can use a solid dose of someone who almost convinces us that trying hard enough and believing that winning is possible no matter what, will actually result in a victory. I don't know about you, but my faith in the power of positive thinking has taken a beating recently.
So I'm glad that Tebow is a rock star. I'm glad that he has the courage, or naiveté or even ego to put himself out there as a moral role model. I hope he has enough gridiron success that Americans will continue to spend money on his jerseys and take their kids to the stadium. Every dollar reinforces the oft-ignored premise that "good sells." Every dollar reminds businesses that we might want entertainers with more substance than Snookie. That "wholesome" and "decent" aren't deal-killers.
And those jersey sales? Before arriving in New York, Tebow was at a fundraiser for the Cancer Wellness Foundation of Central Alabama. (Of course he was.) Two thousand and three hundred people came to hear a professional football player talk about faith, football and helping people who have cancer but no health insurance. And yes, there were jerseys. Autographed by the man himself. They sold for as much as $6,000. No word on what the colors were. Does it really matter?
Follow Barbara Bruno on Twitter: www.twitter.com/allprofootball