Skip Bayless’ Year of Selling Tebow

As Tebowmania descends once more, its lead spokesperson rises to the occasion. 

The New York Jets have now lost two games in a row, dropping their record below .500. Their once-prolific running game has finally become everything but. Their once staunch defense has lost its Captain, leaving the ship marooned offshore.

And now, as the Jets face the prospect of pre-game coin tosses becoming an exercise in dreams deferred, it’s time for something to be done.

As the Politician’s Syllogism dictates, Timothy Richard Tebow is something – and because of this incontrovertible fact, the Jets have no choice but to give in to the inevitable descent of Tebowmania, and to let the NFL’s prodigal son return to the gridiron as a starting quarterback.

Indeed, this one was as predictable as a morning sunrise, or a tube of hair gel left beneath Mike Francesa’s bathroom mirror; Jets fans were bound to get restless as soon as a few wobbly Mark Sanchez passes landed astray, or as soon as a few games went against Gang Green’s far-too-lofty expectations.

Sanchez with a hat, Tebow with a helmet; this could soon become the norm.

Soon enough, He was bound to rise.

…as was the chief profiteer, perpetuator and spokesperson of Tebow Brand Snake Oil.

In case you somehow haven’t had the pleasure (I envy you, imaginary person), meet Skip Bayless, ESPN’s resident screaming head/pot-stirrer and card-carrying member – nay, leader – of the Cult of Tebow.

Ever since the discussion on Tebow’s NFL worthiness began in advance of the 2010 draft, Bayless has taken every opportunity to preach the gospel of the Gators, Broncos and now-Jets quarterback, stopping just short of declaring him the messiah, harping for attention and personal brand promotion in a way only pole dancers and Paris Hilton were previously thought capable of.

All that is presumably why Bayless has remained (by his standards, at least) relatively mum on his favorite subject in recent months, waiting for the fire to first stoke before popping out the kerosene.

The embers started to burn Monday morning, and Skip seized the opportunity: With the Jets set to go up against the undefeated Houston Texans that evening — a game that would, not surprisingly, end up seeing Mark Sanchez’s job security go the way of replacement referees — Bayless took to ESPN.com, recalling his Year of Living Tebow.”

(UPDATE: the title of the piece has since been changed from it’s original form — My Year of Living Tebow – to The Year of Living Tebow, presumably to make Skip look like less of a solipsistic ass.)

More than once, he referred to himself as the “Lone Objective Tebow Defender” (Yes, really.), in a 3,000+ word column that doubled as his first since 2006 – surely, a coincidence — and a journalistic embarrassment of the highest order.

Maybe he was rusty.

Or maybe he’s the modern day equivalent of a snake oil salesman.

Either way, the intertwined fates of Tebow and Bayless represent an epic, perhaps even unprecedented case of “journalist” becoming one with subject. And as the former deemed it necessary to “set the record straight” on his relationship with and perspective of the latter, it only seems right that someone should do something to set the record straight on Bayless’ purported record-straightening.

I am someone.

This is something.

Like Tebow, I probably won’t accomplish anything significant here.

Still, let’s break it down.

Hello, I’m the “Tebow nut.”

Hi, Skip.

And yes. Yes, you are. Also, putting “it” in “quotes” changes absolutely “nothing.”

For 30 years I wrote for newspapers and magazines, wrote books on the Dallas Cowboys’ dynasties of the ’70s and ’90s, wrote about Michael Jordan in Chicago and Barry Bonds in the Bay Area, even wrote columns for ESPN.com from 2004 to 2006. And now, inconceivably, I’m best known as the “psycho” Tim Tebow supporter.

Damn, dude. That’s some resume you got there!

If only you hadn’t made this face. And this one. And this one. Maybe, then, we would all remember your shitty books and shitty columns instead of your shitty, disingenuous perspective on a shitty quarterback.

Stephen A. Smith, my debate partner on ESPN’s “First Take,” has told interviewers I’m “crazy” when it comes to the quarterback whose name Stephen A. basically has changed to Tim Can’tThrow.

I mean…I’m not one to agree with Screaming A. very often…but have you actually watched Tim Tebow play football? He really can’t throw all that well.

If you read enough of my Twitter responses — caution: 100 or more have been known to cause brain damage in lab rats — you might even imagine me worshiping nightly at a Tebow shrine in my bedroom, gazing zombie-eyed upon a wall of Tebow pictures, lighting 15 candles for No. 15, then Tebowing as I ask God to please make Rex Ryan bench Mark Sanchez and start Timothy Richard Tebow at quarterback.

All of which is about 15 ways of WRONG.

Wait, what? One — albeit poorly written, way too long — sentence ago, you said that a rat reading your tweets might develop dementia, and that a human following @RealSkipBayless would likely envision you as a rat reading your own tweets.

Now, you’re trying to say that the public should see something other than the Tebow-worshipping picture you’ve painted for the last three years?

That would be pretty crazy.

The astonishingly missed point:


Oh. I see. That’s exactly what you’re doing.

Moving on.

The God’s truth: I never much cared for Tebow when he played at Florida. I met him at last year’s Super Bowl, and interviewed him, only because he requested the session. I do not stay in touch with him. I’ve criticized him on air several times for the several shirtless pictures for which he has posed, criticized his post-loss comments about how football isn’t nearly as important as his missionary work and criticized him for spending too much time on self-promotion after signing with two of the biggest talent agencies in Hollywood — Creative Artists Agency and William Morris.

Is this supposed to pass for objectivity and journalistic prudence?

The Tebow Nut. No quotations necessary.

Never once in the above paragraph does Bayless mention anything about how Tim Tebow plays football. Which of course is what would pass for objective analysis of someone who plays football for a living.

What’s that, Skip? You criticized him for talking about the importance of spreading the word of the the Lord? For allowing himself to be portrayed in something other than a T-shirt? For being worried about how many disciples were following him?

You might as well be criticizing –

…I’m going to stop myself right there. This one is too easy.

And that’s my problem: I’m one of the very few commentators who have been objective about Tebow’s ability to win football games. I merely dared to say Tebow could be a successful starting quarterback in the National Football League — not a Pro Bowler, mind you, just a guy who could win games his way. Which prompted relentless attacks from anti-Tebow analysts and journalists. Which prompted me to defend my position. I wasn’t “loving” Tebow as much as I was defending him. The more I was ridiculed, the harder I fought back — always in the spirit of “give this kid a break.”

I’d argue it was more in the spirit of “this kid is clearly controversial, so I’m going to devote two hours of national facetime every single day to making him as controversial as possible, so that down the road, when the strawman I created starts to fall, I can position myself as the singular, righteous defender of an unfairly castigated subject, and thereby make my opponents out to look either like haters or dicks.”

But, ya know: tomato, tom-ahto.

Live television is the hottest medium. My passion for sports debate runs hot enough without a camera transporting it into your living room with 10 times more impact. Before I knew it, I was the wild-eyed president of the Tim Tebow Fanatic Club.

Yes, I’m sure after you yelled about Tim Tebow on your national “talk” show for five months straight, you must have been positively SHOCKED when you started to be perceived as a raving Johnny-Loud-Note.

So how did I suddenly go from rolling my eyes at Tebow to defending him?

Through his first three seasons at Florida, I was skeptical of the winning-for-God-and-Gators hype generated by the collegiate myth-making machine. Then on Monday night, Jan. 8, 2009, it happened: I got Tebowed.

My life changed.

Understand, though I’m a proud Vanderbilt graduate,

Thanks for reminding me that we share an alma mater.

One game and one speech changed Skip Bayless' life forever -- even though both events had absolutely nothing to do with him

I was born into a family in Oklahoma City that bled crimson for our OU Sooners. That Monday night they played Tebow’s Gators for the national championship. I was so confident I did something I rarely do: I shrugged off any potential jinx and picked OU on that morning’s “First Take.” Starting with my quarterback, Heisman winner Sam Bradford, my team had four players who eventually would go in the first 21 picks in the NFL draft.

That night I experienced what I eventually would call “a competitive force of nature.” It was 7-7 at halftime when (I later discovered via YouTube) Tebow gave his team a speech that was scary great: A shy-smiling boy next door suddenly transformed into the Hulk. A psycho-eyed Tebow screamed at his teammates that they WERE GOING TO GO BACK OUT THERE AND DO THIS AND DO THAT. And that’s exactly what they did. I sat numbly watching Tim Tebow take over the fourth quarter — take over the game, the crowd, the very psyches of my Sooners. Florida 24, me 14. Tebow: 231 yards passing, 109 rushing, 12-of-17 on third downs.

That night I said to myself I would never again bet against this guy.

First off: This speech was better, and the Mustangs still lost the Championship game.

Second, I’m not sure it would be particularly rational to use one good halftime speech and one half of one college football game as the reason why you’d never, ever bet on an athlete  – especially once he begins to compete against far superior competition.

Alas, that’s not even what’s happened over the last three years: There’s a pretty distinct difference between not betting against someone and doubling down on them. Every. Single. Time.  Nobody’s put this much stock in one man since Fred Wilpon started letting Bernie Madoff handle his money.

I was sold. I said on air I’d take Tebow at the bottom of the first round. “Ha-ha-has” echoed. Denver coach Josh McDaniels took him 25th overall.

When it comes to the draft, I’m not sure Josh McDaniels is the right man to stake your reputation on.

Unfortunately, McDaniels didn’t last long enough the next season to witness his against-the-world pick start the final three games after the Broncos fell to 3-10.

Tebow played pretty well at Oakland, but nobody seemed to notice.

Doesn’t it suck when people don’t notice things that didn’t actually happen?

Against Houston, his fourth-quarter touchdown pass and 6-yard TD run brought the Broncos from 23-10 down to a rather miraculous 24-23 home win — Tebow: 308 yards passing! — yet I could get no more than shrugs from my show producers. Tebow played OK against the Chargers; yawns all around.

I’m not sure if a two-touchdown comeback would qualify as “rather miraculous.” There’s a few of those every month in the NFL.

And, wait a second! That’s not fair! I didn’t yawn! When a mediocre quarterback played mediocrely against a mediocre team in a meaningless game, I merely didn’t give a shit.

But as John Elway and John Fox took over, a training-camp report indicated Tebow had been demoted to fourth string. Now THAT our producers wanted us to address on air. NOW would I admit I was wrong about Tebow? NO! I couldn’t forget what he did to my Sooners. I believed.


(Insert long passage here about how John Elway and John Fox were conspiring to start Tebow only in order to run him out of town in favor of Andrew Luck.)

And, as you know all too well, miracles ensued of Biblical proportion.

Well, I know a bunch of things happened but I’m not really sure any of them were “biblical.”

Tebow didn’t just pull off a couple of fourth-quarter/overtime comebacks. He pulled off six of ‘em.

Eli Manning had seven. What is he, chopped liver?

(Insert another long passage about overcoming odds and Elway/Fox conspiracies here.)

And with reports swirling that defenders resented Tebow getting all the credit for the turnaround (this Tebow defender got the blame for that) and game-day reports that the coaching staff was prepared to bench Tebow on any given series against Pittsburgh’s No.-1 ranked defense, you know what happened: 316 yards passing happened. An 80-yard catch-and-run overtime TD happened. And a nuclear war of sports debate kept happening on “First Take.”

Skip Bayless starts nuclear wars.

What did shock me was that, the more Tebow won, the harder a gauntlet of ESPN opponents came at me, sometimes two or three at a time dismissing Tebow’s 8-5 run as a nice little fluke. Twice during Tebow’s starts I was pressed on air to predict Denver’s final record. My cumulative prediction was 7-4, which prompted on-air guffaws. Tebow’s regular-season record wound up 7-4. Yet no one would give me an inch of credit for the greatest prediction of my career. I was dismissed as lucky or crazy or both.

When predicting a team’s record over 11 games, there are only 12 possibilities. A few of them (11-0; 0-11; 1-10; 10-1) are exceedingly unlikely. If this is best prediction of your career, I sincerely apologize.

Day after day they lined up to bash Tebow by bashing his mouthpiece — me.

Mouth·piece, noun: a person, newspaper, etc., that conveys the opinions or sentiments of others; spokesperson.

Stephen A. Smith, Rob Parker, Jemele Hill, Cris CarterMerril HogeMark Schlereth, Eric Mangini,Kordell StewartJon Ritchie – hour upon hour they ripped and ridiculed me. I’m proud and stubborn to a fault, insanely competitive, a fighter by nature. I fought back with both verbal fists.

Our golden rule of barbershop debate — no punches pulled, none thrown — was sometimes pushed to its limit.

What does this even mean? What does a fight in which no punches are pulled and none are thrown look like? Do you just stand around staring the other guy in the face until he says this is stupid and walks away? Does a neutral party decide who looks better sitting in a chair? Where can I see one of these “barbershop debates” and learn their golden rules? Do they sell them on pay-per-view? What do they cost?

Or do they just run on ESPN2 when half the country is at work and the other half is asleep?

Is this what barbershop debate looks like?

Yet in the heat of those on-air battles, I began to see deep inside my opponents. I hit subliminal hot buttons that were making Tim Tebow the biggest lightning rod in sports, more loved and hated than even LeBron James was at that point.

You just admitted to doing the exact thing you said weren’t doing.

(And wasn’t it curious that LeBron, then infamous for his fourth-quarter failures, reached out to Tebow on Twitter, befriended him, even visited Tebow and stayed at his house in Denver, perhaps hoping some of Tebow’s late-game intangibles would rub off.)

Or maybe he was just bored when he was taking a shit, and tweeted.

So much about Tim Tebow moves people toward extreme love or extreme dislike or disgust. It’s rarely what he says, just the mold-shattering, emotion-mixing way he wins and the Christianity he wears on both sleeves. He can be so impossibly bad/great. He can be so insufferably innocent.

He’s the best role model in sports! No, he’s too Christian!

My on-air opponents had all dug in before Tebow’s draft and said he can’t play quarterback in the NFL. They were all being proven wrong, yet they were the very vocal majority. And most of them despised Tebow for something deeper than football. Debate raged.

Wait. I actually agree with all this. WHAT’S HAPPENING!?!?

My opponents kept pounding me with “he just can’t throw.” I counter-punched with, “He threw for 191 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Bears’ defense!”

Ok, better now.

Small sample sizes should definitely override longterm consensus.

My opponents condemned Tebow for two poor late-season games, at Buffalo and against Kansas City. I swung back with, “You critique him like he’s a perennial Pro Bowler. Those were just his 13th and 14th NFL starts.”

No: we critique him like an NFL quarterback — an NFL quarterback who had 60 yards passing in a game his team needed to win. Had the Raiders not lost to the Chargers a few minutes later, that poor performance would have cost his team a playoff spot.

They: He’s all intangibles without enough tangibles. Me: Steve Young says he has natural throwing talent that could make him good, even great.

One analyst says Tebow can throw. Therefore, Tebow can throw. I call this Bayless’s Syllogism.

My opponents said they resented Tebow because he was given an opportunity no black quarterback with his skill set would’ve been given. Former Steelers QB Kordell Stewart told me this on air. So did Rob Parker, who owns a barbershop in Detroit. Yet, I argued, Josh McDaniels didn’t pick Tebow to win popularity contests, just games. I said Tebow got demoted to fourth string and his career might have ended if he hadn’t pulled off that first fourth-quarter miracle in his first start at Miami. I said Tebow had to overcome all the same knocks I heard through the ’70s and ’80s about black quarterbacks: low football IQ, unfixable mechanics, more runner than passer. “Kordell,” I said, “I thought you’d be SYMPATHETIC to Tebow’s plight. He’s a YOU.”

At least be subtle in your race-baiting.

Also, I can’t get mad at the capital letters here because Skip is quoting someone.

Of course, that someone is himself.

My opponents began to make jokes about Tebow’s Christianity, which outraged me on air. I’m a Christian, though (maybe to a fault) not as in-your-face as Tebow. I prefer actions to words.

Not a fault. It’s one of the few things you don’t have to apologize for.

My opponents accused me of loving Tebow merely because I share his faith. From my heart, that is not the case.

Right: The case is that you like attention, controversy and money.

I’m no religious zealot. I’ve been an on-air, in-print fan of many players who were far more Saturday night than Sunday school. But I do find it offensive that some media members ridicule Christianity in ways they would never take public shots at of other faiths.

Because a Muslim player would never be lampooned for bowing to Allah in the endzone.

I took offense to all the mock-Tebowing. Yet Tebow, seeing the bigger picture, embraced the fact that so many nonbelievers were at least pretending to pray.

So understanding. What a saint!

During our 20-minute on-camera interview, I probably went overboard to show I would ask Tebow tough questions. It ended with Tebow mopping his brow and saying, “Man, that was intense.” I told Tebow I didn’t like it when he said after the playoff loss at New England that the most important thing that happened was getting to visit with sick kids before that game in Foxboro. I told him his teammates probably didn’t love hearing that after Tebow played poorly and the Broncos got blown out 45-10. I told him to maximize the platform the NFL can provide him, then go full-tilt into his missionary work when his football career ends.

If Tim Tebow is saving the world, who saves Tim Tebow?

Skip Bayless. That’s who.

Again, I felt I was one of the few trying to remain objective about Tebow.

Four seconds ago you said you “went overboard to show I would ask Tebow tough questions.” You were therefore aware of just how compromised your credibility had become by that time.

It doesn’t matter if you were “trying” to remain objective; that ship sailed long ago.

Do you even listen to yourself? In this six year hiatus from writing, did you forget how to read your own words?

Yet I stood out like a sore thumb pointing upward Monday after Monday for Tebow. What indelibly stained me as The Tebow Nut was the genius of DJ Steve Porter, who created a catchy mashup featuring my most passionate Tebow defense: “He’s a gamer, he’s a baller …” That “All He Does Is Win” video won a Webby Award.

Possibly the one positive contribution to society you had any part in.

We took our show to Denver for the Friday before the New England game at Mile High in early December. The night before, when I checked into the hotel, the woman at the front desk looked up and said, “Oh my God, you’re the ‘All He Does Is Win’ guy,” and ran into the back to get her fellow employees. The Tebow Nut had arrived.

Did she end up coming back? Maybe she was just running away before you started yelling ALL HE DOES IS WIN! ALL HE DOES IS WIN! until she took 20 percent off your continental breakfast.

At this point in the season a year ago, Tebow at home was thrown into a hopeless situation in the second half for a reeling team against a favored opponent, the Chargers.

Now, eerily, the reeling New York Jets are at home on “Monday Night Football” against the heavily favored Houston Texans.

What is eerie about this? That the Jets are underdogs against a much better team? Doesn’t this happen every other week?

You may not believe this, but Tim Tebow NEEDS Skip Bayless. (At least that's what Skip Bayless thinks.)

Mark Sanchez will start but now the Jets are prime candidates to get Tebowed. What this young man was born to do is take an undermanned team that’s losing hope and make it believe it has a chance. He ignites. He inspires. He turns Hulk in huddles and after converting game-saving third downs.

Tebow can turn Shonn Greene into McGahee, Stephen Hill into DeMaryius Thomas, an offensive line still featuring three Pro Bowlers from last year into proud road graders paving the way for the NFL’s No. 1 rushing attack. Tebow can help rescue a defense stranded on Revis Island without Darrelle Revis and turn it back into a bunch of tough, experienced, well-coached playmakers.

Indeed, any semblance of competence from the quarterback position would go along way towards helping the Jets offense. But I’m not sure it will make the Jets defenders something they aren’t — namely: tough, experienced or well-coached.

But Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano must have the desperate guts to let Tebow do what he does best.

So far they’ve embarrassed themselves and embarrassed Tebow by using him as a decoy, a punt protector, a blocking back, a slot receiver and the initiator of a Wildcat offense featuring backs or receivers flying in from the flanks for handoffs. Tebow is none of that. Tebow, ever yes-sir/no-sir to a fault, even agreed to gain 10 or 15 “fullback” pounds that could hinder him when he gets his chance to actually play quarterback.

Allow me to say the painful words one last time: I agree.

Starting Tebow will take guts on behalf of the Jets coaching staff. It will be a move that reeks of desperation. And after Rex Ryan and Co. were somehow unable to foresee their oft-mediocre quarterback eventually playing poor enough to warrant reevaluation, it will be a decision that could quite possibly cost more than a few people their jobs.

Tebow’s mere intangible presence has turned a starter with shaky intangibles, Mark Sanchez, into a brain-locked basket case.

Mark Sanchez has always been a brain-locked basket case. The only difference this year is you are watching him play instead of Kyle Orton.

If Tebow history does repeat itself and Sanchez does turn into Kyle Orton

Told you!

(Also, Mark Sanchez wishes he was Kyle Orton.)

and Rex finally does give up and give in to Tebow and No. 15 does get his first start next Sunday against Indianapolis, I’ll predict Tebow goes 7-4 the rest of the way and the Jets squeeze into the playoffs.

Please, God. Make Skip Bayless wrong.

Take it from the Lone Objective Tebow Defender: Never bet against him.

*curses under breath*

*logs onto bovada.lv*

*puts money on the Patriots to win the AFC East*

Can’t wait for six years from now, when Skip’s next ESPN.com column hits the web.

By then, maybe Skip’s big bet will have finally come back to bite him.

Maybe then, Skip Bayless will finally sing a different tune.

Jesse Golomb is the Editor-in-Chief of TheFanManifesto.com. He spent far too much time writing this column.

Follow him on twitter, or drop him a line via e-mail



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