After years of swirling around Tim Tebow, the vultures now have something else to pick on.
It's barely a scrap, if that, for holier-than-Tebow critics who have been foaming at the mouth to dig up a granule of dirt on the man ever since he announced he was still a virgin.
So as reports surfaced that Tebow informed New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan that he didn't want to be a part of the wildcat offense in Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers, apparently angry at being passed over for the starting quarterback job in place of maligned Mark Sanchez, the vultures closed in.
He's a "fraud," a "loser" and, as ESPN's Merril Hoge declared, is as "phony as a three-dollar bill."
Never mind that reports of Tebow's insubordination all came via secondhand, unnamed sources or that Ryan wouldn't confirm the story. One reported moment of a frustrated quarterback is enough for some to assassinate the character of a man who has proven time and time again to be as standup a human being as there is in a world where more and more sitting down is encouraged and celebrated.
Tebow set the record straight Wednesday, telling the New York Daily News that he never said he wouldn't play.
"That wasn't the talk at all," he told the Daily News. "[Coach Ryan] knows that. And everybody on this team knows that I would never not to do something if I was asked. …
"For people to not know the situation and then start to bash your character and then say you're a phony or you're a fake or you're a hypocrite, I think that's what's disappointing and that's what's frustrating," he added. "Your character is who you are as a man and that's a lot more important. … I take that way more serious than I'll ever take a football game."
On the field and off, Tebow's most scandalous act has been – wait for it – being himself.
He's not a prototypical quarterback, doesn't have the strongest arm or the best accuracy, and for that he's been castigated for the egregious act of trying. What a jerk.
When a teammate anonymously called him a "terrible" quarterback, Tebow responded by saying, "It's not always fun having people saying negative things about you, but you try to be stronger from it." Clearly he has anger management issues.
What a bitter man Tebow is.
And when the Jets relegated him to the role of promotional pawn, parking him on the bench until they decided to utilize him in the wildcat formation in the worst of ways, Tebow agreed to play the upback on the Jets' punt team. What a prima donna.
With nothing but role-model tales to go on, the vultures have taken to bashing Tebow under the guise of critiquing his quarterback ability. But even that's proven to be transparent.
"Here's what happened in New York: They didn't realize how bad Tim Tebow was," Hoge said in his continued rant. "Once he comes in there and they got to see the sampling, they're like, 'Oh my gosh.' Not only can he not play quarterback, he's not really a good football player."
What other player gets that kind of "critique," especially one who's coming off a season in which he finished 8-5 as a starter (including a victory in the playoffs)?
Maybe Tebow isn't good enough to be an NFL quarterback, but the "experts" who proclaim to know unequivocally that he isn't don't really know. In fact, the only evidence there is says otherwise. He has won in the NFL. He's done it more times than not, and he's done it despite being set up to fail. Heck, he was the best player on a pair of national championship teams that, last I checked, played in a conference that produces an awful lot of NFL players.
Truth is, when it comes to hating Tebow, it's never about hating him, because really what is there to hate? He's a nice guy who gives of himself and doesn't have anything bad to say about anybody. Seriously, he's been criticized more than LeBron James' "Decision."
The vultures either can't or don't want to believe that Tim Tebow is real. That's why they've been circling for years, convinced he would eventually provide them something juicy to sink their teeth into. So when the report came out that he refused to play, it didn't matter if they heard from him first. It was all they needed to confirm to themselves he is the fraud they've wanted him to be all along.
"You work your whole life to build a reputation," Tebow said Wednesday. "Then people try to bring you down when they don't understand even what happened. It's disappointing. You just want to express your side of the story. … You want people to look at what really happened, not what one person said."
Oh, but this won't stop the vultures. They'll keep swirling, keep their eyes peeled for the next slip up, because, you know, the world just can't stand to have any more Tim Tebows running around.
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