Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/16/12
Dear Mr. Tebow,

First off, I’d like to wish you a belated Happy Birthday. I’m certain that blowing out candles and collecting gift cards took a backseat to your preparation for the Giants on Saturday night, while you struggle to fill your niche as a wildcat/upback/unpredictable cog in the Jets offense. But I just thought it’d be nice to take a moment to wish you well on twenty-five years of life.

Now, I may not have realized it was your birthday if I didn’t have cable TV. That’s because ESPN, the Extreme Social Pandering Network, made it a point to celebrate your birthday on its programming on Tuesday morning, as if it were a holiday on the level of St. Patrick’s Day or Labor Day.

You may have missed it if the dorms at Florham Park are without cable, but somebody likely told you about the disturbing sight of Sarah Walsh, Herm Edwards, and Marcellus Wiley in party hats on camera in Bristol, and I’m hoping that the very image I just described makes you uncomfortable.

In other words, I’m hoping you have the same gag reflex for grand stupidity that I, and many others, have.

Think about it, Tim: the network that is supposed to be the sterling standard for sports coverage, news, games, and updates actually wasted valuable airtime on a birthday celebration for a popular athlete that wasn’t even in attendance to partake in the festivities.

I’m hoping you find this to be wrong. I’m hoping that there’s a little voice in the back of your mind that’s saying, “Shouldn’t ESPN be covering baseball as the playoff field narrows, or perhaps look extensively at various football camps, or even interview an Olympic athlete upon their return?”

I don’t know you, Tim, but I sincerely hope you weren’t thinking, “What a totally necessary thing to do! Gosh darn it, it’s a shame training camp and game preparation prevented me from being able to hobnob with Herm and the gang!”

Ever since you came to (inter)national prominence, ESPN has clung to you the way a helpless newborn latches onto the teet of a providing mother, because you’re a unique ‘get’ for them. ESPN has since stopped being a cutting edge buffet for the sports junkie, and has shifted much of their content toward the same mouth-breathing demographic that watches Access Hollywood and Extra.

Shows like Sportscenter and First Take have more filler these days than the inside of sidewalk-vendor hot dogs, and are comprised of equally healthy contents.

Gone are the days of Charley Steiner’s dry witticisms, the reverent-yet-irreverent Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann (before Keith became Bill O’Reilly with one-fifth the audience), and Bob Ley’s journalistic integrity (now localized on ESPN Outside the Lines, the last bastion for quality journalism in Bristol city limits).

Now we have Skip Bayless playing the role of uninformed, angry contrarian. We’re stuck with Stephen A. Smith screaming at us. The network has become all about the sports writers that are auditioning for bigger roles by putting themselves over the action with manufactured opinions that no idiot would believe, and talking heads that scream non-sequitur catch phrases in an awful attempt to imitate Chris Berman when he was culturally relevant.

And this is the network that worships you.

You’re a backup for a team in which the starting quarterback, while gradually improved, has the career completion percentage of Art Schlicter, if Schlicter had played handcuffed to his probation officer.

You had one season in which your statistics may have been awful, but you managed to win a number of games with fourth quarter endurance and ingenuity. That does count for something, because you did win a playoff game over the defending AFC Champions with the same type of effort, but let’s face it: you haven’t done enough to be this much of the story.

You’re the story for ESPN because you’re a rarity: a God-loving athlete who wears his faith on his sleeve. More accurately, you had scripture scrawled on your under-eye tape in college, and that helped shape your myth. You were a success in Florida, and developed a following because you were both a winner, and because you play to the Bible Belt. You’re unique, and that makes you a story.

You have a fanbase that will hang on your every word, and that makes you attractive to ESPN. They like it when people hang on THEIR every word, because they can no longer manufacture anyone in-house that’s worth listening to.

You’re their savior, Tim. That’s why in 2009, when you sustained that concussion after slamming headfirst into your lineman’s knee vs. Kentucky, the ESPN2 cameras made sure to pan over every Gators fan in the stadium, hands over their mouths, some weeping, just to ratchet up the pathos of just-another-football-injury.

That’s the game where Brent Musberger, a cornerstone of football studio shows and announcing, somberly said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Tebow family,” as if you’d just died on the field.

It’s Tebowmania, man. You’re a rock star. There are tears when you’re injured, red-alert coverage whenever you do so much as take a dump, and inane birthday parties thrown by former NFL icons-turned-ESPN employees.

It’s amazing that, even in widescreen, you don’t see the guy off camera pointing the gun at Herm and Wiley, preparing to shoot the minute they stop fake-smiling.

And this is the problem: I don’t hate Tim Tebow, and I don’t think many of the people who complain about you do either. However, they hate this idea that you’re somehow the most important person in sports, just because ESPN says so.

Believe me, I don’t hate a man who abides by the laws of society, does extensive charity work, is responsible for some of the NFL’s most exciting finishes in 2011, and isn’t afraid to let his faith be known. Those are all good things, even if the religious part may turn off some who disagree, but whatever. I’d take you over Kenny Britt any day from a personal standpoint.

But ESPN, man, they’re doing you no favors. They build you up to obscene heights because your fans will believe anything nice they say about you. You can do no wrong to your fans, and ESPN knows it. So you bump baseball’s contenders and other worthy NFL stories off the news radar, solely because ESPN knows they can pop a rating with any garbage about you.

Can you tell me, in your heart of hearts, that your birthday is worthy of airtime that could have been allotted to the Cincinnati Reds’ 71-46 season?

You deserve better, because the more ESPN does in your name, the more they ruin you for skeptical fans that MIGHT like you.

So I ask of you, even if you’ll never read this, to please, publicly, condemn ESPN. You don’t have to swear or do anything that would mock the name of your savior. Tell your fans that ESPN isn’t to be taken seriously, and that anything they do in your name that isn’t really newsworthy (prattling on about your “battle” with Sanchez, birthday BS, etc) isn’t good enough for your fans.

Tell them that they deserve better, because even though they sent threats to Boomer Esiason and his family over his honest comments, they DO deserve better. They deserve for you to be presented with integrity, not fawning. You’re an athlete, not an apostle. You shouldn’t have round-the-clock coverage. You’re Tim Tebow, not the angel’s advocate version of Charlie Sheen.

And while you’re at, tell ESPN to quit screwing around, and have some freakin’ self-respect. They had it once, and they lost it when they turned into the biggest self-righteous media circus this side of PT Barnum’s wildest dreams.

Never before has an athlete had your level of adulation in America from such a wide group of folks. You have power, Tim. Use it for this kind of good, and you’ll make a lot more new fans along the way.

I’d like to be one of them.


A Concerned Citizen


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