We've created a monster ... but not Tebow
By MIKE FREEMAN, The Times-Union
A Gulfstream jet carrying Alabama football coach Mike Shula -- call sign N1UA -- crossed into Jacksonville airspace sometime after 9 a.m. on Monday morning.
Some Alabama fans, maybe hundreds, maybe more, were tracking the plane using computer software called FlightAware. The reason why was because Shula was on his way here to meet with high school quarterback Tim Tebow.
A sign the end of the world is at hand when football fans attempting to decipher a future decision made by an 18-year-old kid track Shula's flight like it was a bogie on NORAD radar.
Let's put it this way. The announcement of who is entering the NFL Hall of Fame does not get this much coverage.
Tebow is the kind of kid you'd want to meet the parents, a cross between Wally Cleaver and William Wallace. He is so fortified and wholesome and down-to-Earth that you wonder if he is too good to be true. Then you realize it is no act.
Thus, what I am about to say is nothing against Tebow or his fine family. This is about everyone else. The unbelievable, the stunning, the over-the-top announcement was, in some respects, frightening. It should make every person in my business, as well as fans, coaches and administrators in high school and college, shake our collective heads and resettle our priorities.
Because this whole recruiting thing continues to mushroom out of control.
At this announcement there were hundreds of spectators, live local television coverage, a national network, radio stations, 17 million photographers, a dancing, oversized "Got Milk" cow mascot, newspaper columnists, Web guys and high school recruiting writers.
Tebow is so spectacularly grounded that perhaps nothing can shake what seems to be an innate ability to be humble. Yet I wonder what all of this almost unprecedented attention and fawning is truly doing to him?
Are we all -- including myself -- willing participants in the extreme spoiling of a young man? Are we creating a future Todd Marinovich? Or does the attention Tebow is receiving serve only to honor an athlete who deserves praise for working hard and staying self-effacing?
"I know you worry about how all of this will affect him," said Craig Howard, Nease football coach, "but I don't because of his high character. There are kids who might get big-headed, but he is not one of them."
I do not expect ESPN, which broadcast the announcement live, as they have other such announcements from other high schoolers, to ask these kinds of questions. There is no moral hurdle they have not easily soared in order to get ratings.
The rest of us should be better. Ask the question, that's all, instead of just, as I and many others did, blindly follow along, acting as if there is no grand elephant in the room.
Is this the right thing for our kids?
Are we headed to a point where one day in the near future there will be this sort of announcement live on ESPN: "I have decided to attend Atlantic Beach Grade School."
Go ahead, chuckle. Say there's no way that happens.
I also once never believed there would be anything like the spectacle I witnessed today.
mike.freemanjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4377