I love baseball. That probably goes without saying, given that I devote far too much of my time to watching it, thinking about it, and writing dumb articles like this devoted to it. Baseball is both a wonderful game in a vacuum, and a wonderful delivery system for stories that give me hope and warm fuzzies in a world and a country that are so often disappointments.
Think about Alex Wimmers, who debuted last Friday after seven years in the minors. Or Rick Ankiel, who became a successful slugging outfielder after two of the most horrific performances in baseball history and a series of injuries left him unable to pitch. Think about Josh Hamilton and Matt Bush, who struggled with substance abuse problems, and have been on the verge of never playing again, but who have fought back (sometimes unsuccessfully) and reclaimed at least some of their promise.
That’s built into a game where you fail at least seven times out of ten at the plate and where you have 162 chances a year to redeem yourself. At the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, it’s heartwarming to see people come back from the brink. To watch them turn away from the abyss.
Yesterday, however, we saw the opposite of that. As you undoubtedly heard, if you have a television or a computer or a radio or a handy water cooler, Tim Tebow put on a showcase for 28 major league teams yesterday, some of whom may actually be thinking of signing the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback.
Not that the results were good, mind you. Tebow had power and wheels, but also showed difficulty making contact during batting practice, and scouts reported that he took strange routs in center field and had lackluster arm strength. In short, he looked like what he is: a fantastic athlete, but one who is 29 years old and whose baseball skills are unbelievably raw.
Now, Tim Tebow probably knows this. If he doesn’t, he’s an idiot who doesn’t have nearly enough respect for the sport he wants to play. It takes a lifetime to get good at hitting a baseball, and not every exceptional athlete is cut out to roam around the outfield (Oh hai, Miguel Sano!). Tim Tebow, on the other hand, wanted a shortcut through that process. Trading on his name and his fame, Tebow leveraged his brand to get 28 teams to come to his workout, not to mention several high profile sports reporters with far better things to do. He got the press he wanted. And he signed a sparkling new endorsement contract with Adidas.
“Serious Baseball People might decry this as a publicity stunt, which it is, but who gives a shit? Tebow got to this level of fame because he’s a compelling human being whose athletic career has been bathed in weirdness wherever he’s gone; how joyless would you have to be to not be at least a little curious what comes next?
It’s a big sports media landscape — there’s plenty of room for Tebow and more serious stories — and baseball is in the dog days of a season that’s played out slowly over months and sometimes feels like it’s played out over centuries. I’m interested just in case Tebow makes good on the minuscule possibility that he can actually play baseball at a high level. And even if he doesn’t, it’s fun to talk about absurd things sometimes. I’m having fun with this, and you should, too.”
Now, I love Baumann; he’s one of my favorite writers and people (don’t you ever tell him that, damn you). But that’s bullshit.
Tebow’s story is cynical as Hell, as are the breathless clickbait articles you are reading around the Internet today (including this piece). Tebow has roped us all in to his idiot circus, where we now have to spend a few of the precious moments given to us on this beautiful earth by our Creator to ponder the possibility of this snake-oil salesman…this attention-starved Real Housewife of the NFL…this self-promoting trained seal who wants to show us he can do tricks on land too…playing alongside young men who have devoted their lives to this game. What a Goddamned waste of all of our time, our effort, and our rapidly diminishing stores of good will.
This is not a story about a guy who just wants to play ball. This is about someone who is rich and famous desperately trying to stay rich and famous. It’s about getting more endorsements, and more TV announcing gigs, and, hey, maybe a reality show where he bombs around minor league baseball for a while. Tim Tebow wants us to give him the attention and the roster spot and the salary that would normally go to a kid just trying to fulfill the dream he’s had since he was a kid.
Well to Hell with that, and to Hell with Tim Tebow. And to Hell with us, for giving him exactly what he wanted. Again.