What hasn't Tim Tebow, the star quarterback for the Denver Broncos, inspired in the past few weeks since becoming an NFL starter? Tebow's infamous genuflection, or "Tebowing," has led to at least one institution recognizing it as an official term. Students in New York were suspended for Tebowing en masse, clogging a hallway and creating a fire hazard. One fan created a website where individuals the globe over are encouraged to photograph themselves Tebowing in different situations. In fact, I had plans to engage in Tebowing at the Denver airport on a business trip until I was asked to stop by security (or until security joined me for a photo op) but unfortunately the trip didn't materialize. With all this Tebow mania in full force, wouldn't it only make sense that the wise and mighty Tim Tebow could teach all of us an important lesson in history?
Tim Tebow's civics lessons come courtesy of an unusual source: the NFL Pro Bowl. The NFL Pro Bowl is an all-star game where the NFL's brightest show off the best the league has to offer. Three quarterbacks are allotted spots per conference, and as of this writing the top votes for the AFC are, in order, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and, you guessed it, Tim Tebow, despite only having started nine games this season. Such a possibility has come to fruition due to how the voting system works for the Pro Bowl, where fans are allowed to vote for their favorite players. A similar instance occurred when a punter for the Washington Redskins was voted to appear in the Pro Bowl by fans despite the fact that, statistically, he was one of the worst punters in the league, but the decision was ultimately overruled by NFL coaches and players, who also represent one-third of the voting tally.
Is it right that Tebow is on pace to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl when there are other quarterbacks that have a better résumé? Is it because of his "underdog" status? What, then, should we make of rookie Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, Andy Dalton? Tim Tebow was a five star athlete out of high school, receiving offers from the most prestigious college programs in the country. Andy Dalton was a three star player with two scholarship offers. Tim Tebow won two national championships, a Heisman Trophy, and was drafted in the first round despite critics who doubted whether he possessed the proper mechanics to "make it" in the NFL. Andy Dalton played football for TCU, a non-BCS program, was drafted in the second round and had to face NFL critics who felt he didn't have what it takes in the NFL, not because of his abilities, but because he happens to have red hair, and no red haired quarterback has been successful in the NFL.
Who's the real underdog in this comparison? And while Tebow was given a year to develop, Dalton was forced to start for a team that went 4-12 the previous year and possessed a quarterback demanding a trade. Where are Tebow and Dalton alike? They both are quarterbacking teams with the exact same record at 8-6, though Dalton isn't in the top three in the minds of voters, despite posting better numbers.
What Tim Tebow is teaching us is the importance of checks and balances. Though football is much different than politics, we can see flashes in how it functions. When NFL fans voted for a Washington Redskins player to attend the Pro Bowl when he was one of the worst at his position, the coaches and players vetoed the vote of the fans with their own. The ability to ensure proper individuals rise to prominence was an issue of great concern to our Founding Fathers, too, which gave rise to the electoral college.
The electoral college, put simply, is a collection of electors who cast ballots for the presidency of the United States. Each state is given as many electors as it possesses in terms of Representatives and Senators in Congress, with 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, totaling 535. In a presidential election, a candidate must capture 270 electoral points to secure the presidency.
Many Americans wonder why this system is used rather than popular vote, and that very issue was a point of contention for the Founding Fathers. Alexander Hamilton was an advocate of the electoral system because he felt it would be an important check on the popular will of the people, arguing that electors were "Men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice." Referring back to the Washington player who was denied a Pro Bowl appearance by the votes of coaches and players, can it be reasonably denied that no one understands the game and all of its nuances better than the players and coaches?
Hamilton believed the electoral college system would allow for the public to have its say but also provide an opportunity for that say to be examined, as he believed electors were better equipped to spot politicians contending for office that could manipulate the public, or, as he put it, had a gift for "the little arts of popularity." Such a description matches all too closely the Tebow mania currently taking America by storm. Thankfully, Tebow's Pro Bowl appearance won't just be decided by fans -- he'll have to face the scrutiny of players and coaches in the NFL as well, individuals who are likely to be far less impressed by what he's done to date.
At a time when voters are seemingly making less and less sense -- such as those who wish to vote for Peyton Manning as NFL MVP despite the fact he's been injured the entire season -- I'm extremely grateful the electoral college is present to keep us all honest. And, regardless of whether Tim Tebow makes the Pro Bowl, we can all thank him for such a friendly reminder.
Scott Janssen is a recent graduate of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with a Master's Degree in Political Science. He is also the co-founder of the "You Made A Difference" Campaign, a national effort to thank educators for their service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.