The New York Jets acquired always-controversial quarterback Tim Tebow last week in a move that has some NFL fans perplexed. "The only reason Woody decided to bring the circus to town is to make money and distract the Jets fans from their misery," wrote one fan. One thing's for sure: Tebow is bringing the Jets some attention, and he's probably good to rely on for merchandise sales, too. "It may have been a move born of desperation, but Ryan and the front office have created another act for a city that loves a circus," said Associated Press writer Tim Dahlberg. What should we make of all of this? Sportswriters chime in:
Sportswriters and sports fans love narratives ... It turns sports into a morality play, set in the same ceaselessly contentious key as politics. It makes sports not fun. I thought I was safe, with him all the way across the country in Denver. But now he has found me. Now he is a Jet. And he's all my mother is going to want to talk about.
It is an unusual kind of fandom, rooting for the player and not the team -- or, more accurately, the player, then the team. In a way, it is a deviant lifestyle choice for the typical sports fan, who roots for the jersey no matter whose name is on the back. But in another way, it is precisely the same kind of relationship at the core of every person's fandom, in our case adapted for a player, not a team.
New Yorkers are a sophisticated lot, and the Tebow hype will afford them plenty of opportunities for eye-rolling. The sophisticated football fan will tell you that Tebow is a bad-to-mediocre quarterback with a few unusual skills who rode a lucky streak to undeserved fame; the rest is just the standard media fantasy about "intangibles" and "grit" dressed up with spirituality.