Tim Tebow meets the fans in liberal New England

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Man, that Tim Tebow is way more popular than he should be, in light of his third-string quarterback status. Why is that?

And that Tebow guy does so much charity work and keeps going so far out of his way to identify with people and to make that one-on-one connection that is so rare in the world of mega-celebrities. What’s that all about?

You can tell that the Yankees up at The Boston Globe are trying to figure out what they need to say about Tebow and where, in a daily story, they need to say the obvious. It’s kind of interesting to watch Tebow just carry on, doing his thing, while located in a region of the country that tends to view people of his ilk like aliens from another planet.

You know what I’m saying, right?

So the Globe team did this story the other day about Tebow’s unusually gracious manner with people who are seeking autographs. It’s the sort of story that sports reporters have to crank out day after day during the drudge work of training camp. This one ran under the double-decker headline that begged the obvious:

Tim Tebow’s bond with fans is unique

‘There’s something about him, something that can make someone feel so special’

A unique bond. It seems that there’s something special about this guy. Now what might that be?

Now check it out: What’s the bizarre fact in this opening anecdote that goes without any commentary whatsoever?

FOXBOROUGH – Madelin Beardsley is a 15-year-old with cerebral palsy. She also has selective mutism.

Sometimes, in unfamiliar settings, she clams up.

So when she planned on attending Patriots training camp last week, her parents suggested what they often do: Make a poster.

“It’s a way for her to make herself known,” Madelin’s father, Scott Beardsley, said. “For her to stand up for herself and communicate what she really wants to say.”

Last Monday night, the Beardsleys gathered in their Virginia Beach home with markers and white oak tag.

Madelin selected the text: “Tebow we came 600 miles to see you, please come see me.”

On Thursday in Foxborough, he did.

Tim Tebow — the Patriots’ renowned third-string quarterback — met Madelin after practice. He smiled. He told her he loved the poster.

“A handful of players signed autographs for Madelin,” said Scott, who grew up a Patriots fan in Beverly. “Tebow was the only one to ask her name. I can’t tell you what that meant to her. There’s something about him, something that can make someone feel so special. Even if they meet for 10 seconds.”

Yes, there is a connection between the family and the Patriots. But did anyone ask if, truth be told, these people had come 600 miles in order to meet Tebow? And they’re from Virginia Beach? Might this family be identifying with Tebow for faith-based reasons, as opposed to the logic of football?

Did the Globe team even ask these people why they were there or, to be blunt about it, have we reached the point where no on even needs to state that this whole mysterious “bond” between Tebow and many of his fans — especially the young, the weak and the handicapped — is rooted in a faith connection?

How do journalists handle this “bond” thing, this far along?

Why is Tebow out there meeting people, way longer than he needs to be?

Why are people driving, well, 600 miles to connect with a third-string quarterback?

The story says that they are identifying with “what he stands for” — obviously. No need to flesh that out.

Readers learn that the “way he connects with people transcends football.” No need to explain that, either. Even in chilly New England?

What’s interesting is that near the end of this rather long story, after all of the details and after Tebow has departed with a wave and a cry of “God bless,” the Globe team finally states the obvious. Sort of.

Tebow, a devout Christian, was raised on a farm in Jacksonville. A quarterback prodigy, he signed his first autograph when he was 15.

At Florida, he became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. Over time, the folklore grew. Chiseled with steel blue eyes, Tebow once graced the cover of GQ. His name became a verb, slang word, and cultural phenomenon.

Cult-like followings sprouted wherever his football career took him.

Oh, like we need to have THAT explained to us.

The one thing the story never stops to address is the most obvious news angle for this piece: How is Tebow, the person, doing in New England? The team, and the quarterback, are playing things very low key — which makes total sense. Tebow, the player, has a wonderful opportunity to make progress in one of the best quarterback schools on earth.

But what about Tebow, the person? How’s he doing? Is he connecting with fans in one of the most culturally liberal corners of the nation? If the answer is “yes,” then that’s a story. Right?

Come on folks, start asking questions.

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Nicki

    I have never heard anyone say they met Tebow and disliked him. He is such a great guy, only people who don’t know him are critics. I’m sure he’s doing just fine in N.E.

    http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/7455943/believing-tim-tebow

  • Jeanne Marie

    He is a GREAT example of what God made us ALL to be!!!

    Keep up the great witnessing Tim and may YOUR LIGHT catch us ALL awares!

    God Bless

  • Nat

    The Boston Globe is doing what liberal newspapers, ‘journalists’ and TV stations do: ignoring the elephant in the room. The bedrock of Tim Tebow’s life seems to be his faith in God; his Christianity. If the media ignore it, they think it will go away. That faith won’t likely leave Tim Tebow, but ignoring it intentionally minimizes it and relegates it to something inconsequential. And the newspapers say they are impartial and have no agenda. Sure. And I have some swampland in Tebow’s home state to sell.

  • Chesire11

    Wow, thanks for sneering at a whole region of the country. New Englanders are good, decent, hard working, liberal Americans whose patriotism is second to none, and very many of whom are religious, not because it is the default setting for our region, but because we are devout enough to defy the assault of secularism, and smart enough to be able to stand up in respectful dialogue with those of different faiths or none, without denigrating them.

    We are the front line in the fight against creeping secularism, and we are liberal.

    I’m proud to be a New England Catholic, and resent the gratuitous sneer at my people.

    • kmbold

      Guess some people just got the idea you all were sneer-able because of the people you elect to public office.

      • Dingo Dongo

        Do New Englanders tend to elect nonreligious officials? I thought they overwhelmingly elected Christians, just like the rest of the country.

      • Chesire11

        If they sneer, then they suffer the sin of pride, and if they think pride is excusable by appeal to the faults of those whom they judge, then they are guilty of dishonesty and sanctimony.

        For all of their flaws, our elected officials acquit themselves rather well, when measured against the transparent buffoons, and mendacious frauds chosen by many of my fellow Americans. An intelligent person can be reasoned with, fools and frauds not so much.

  • Bob Smietana

    The Patriots manage their public image better than any other team in sports. My guess is that the reporter did not get an interview with Tebow or if he did, it was very short. The team wants him to smile and greet fans and play football and stay away from drama. Thought it was a nice slice of life look at Tebow interacting with a fan.

  • Julia B

    We have no idea if Tebow himself is liberal or not. And the Boston area, in particular, has lots of Christians – most of whom are liberal even if they are practicing Catholics. Being liberal doesn’t rule out being religious.

    I read the whole article and it seemed just fine to me. I don’t think a reporter should ascribe a motive for why Tebow is like he is unless he says so himself. He said he has a responsibility to be a good role model for kids; I’m sure there are many non-religious people who think that, too. He also said he remembers how important it was to him as a kid when admired athletes did autographs for him.

    Judging from how Tebow had a team minder trying to get him to leave for a team meeting, it’s not surprising the other guys didn’t hang around longer. In St Louis Stan Musial was also famous for giving tons of autographs to the point that his aren’t very valuable because he did so many. Stan was loved around here, but I don’t remember any reporters ever linking that to religious motives, on his part or that of the fans who idolized him.

    • ZuzanaM

      Remember the era that Stan Musial was a popular ball player. It was a time when someone like Tim Tebow would not have stood out from among his peers because of his religious statements. New England was not a radically liberal part of the country, as it is now. Even the media of the day would have found Tebow to be another Stan Musial. Remember that in Stan Musial’s third year in the Majors, 1943… The Song of Bernadette won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Times have really changed!

  • Jeno Denuzzi

    New Englanders…,liberal??Hey southern-boy,you should visit Maine-New Hampshire-Vermont if’n ya want to experience the REAL New England…,but better
    bring a sweat-uh,it gets kinds nippy those August nights!

  • Matt

    You forgot the two national championships and his inspiring “promise” speech which led to the second national championship comeback season. Tebow became famous because of his legendary college career.

    • Howard

      Agreed. He would never have attracted national attention were he not a great athlete. But if he were only a great athlete, he would not have transcended sports in the way he clearly has.

  • Terry Mahoney

    Terry, you sure found a lot of fault with what seemed to be a very positive article in a sports section. I have deep ties to NE and I’m excited Tebow is there not because of his faith, but because of his amazing raw athleticism and BB’s ability to use that in ways that will make Gang Green cry themselves to sleep two Sunday nights this Fall.

    Hypersensitivity taking offense easily are weak characteristics for a journalist.


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