Longtime sports commentator Frank Deford is a regular on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. On the morning before the NFL draft, Deford spoke in praise of Tebow, but his description of how critics view him was quite harsh. He seemed to summarize the two camps of opinion on Tebow’s future as an athlete, and cultural touchstone:
Come up here, please, to the presidential suite and give a big NPR welcome to Tim Tebow, proclaimed by many as the greatest college football player ever, and now ready for the NFL draft — Heisman Trophy winner, the hero who steered Florida to two national championships, bright, strong, a natural leader.
Now, if you’ll come downstairs here, in that bunch of wannabes crowded over by the Murphy bed, and give a nod to Tim Tebow, the quarterback with the strange throwing motion, religious fundamentalist, lightning-rod, misfit, and obvious, classic example of the Peter Principle — pro-football version.
Yes, the intrigue in the NFL draft — which begins tomorrow evening and lasts longer than your average Icelandic volcanic eruption — this year centers not on the top of the draft but on Tebow, who will almost surely not be drafted anywhere in the first round and — who knows? — might not even be drafted at all. It’s like having a presidential election with most of the attention going to a congressional race in Montana.
Deford likes Tebow and thinks he can be a winner in pro football: “Me, I’m certainly no football scout, but I rather like players who win. I wouldn’t mind having Tim Tebow on the bench when the starting quarterback gets hurt, and he has to go in and begin calling plays and doing things his way. Yeah, I think I like my chances with Tim Tebow.” But he suggests his story in this draft is too obscure to be newsworthy, that he’s the football equivalent of Rep. Denny Rehberg, while other players are more like Obama. He clearly goofed in suggesting Tebow would surely not be drafted in the first round, if at all.
But the curious words here are: ”religious fundamentalist, lightning rod, misfit.” The Tebow ministry is Baptist, and he’s probably a “misfit” in the professional athlete’s easy-hookup culture. While Tebow clearly is a “lightning rod” with his Super Bowl ad, Deford might shift his humor to how the ad made fools out of all the feminists who made him into Tim Torquemada when the ad was about as controversial as the Snuggle bear.