September 14, 2009
Tebow gazing from the proprietor of Tim Teblog.
For the most part, Tim Tebow's career has been defined by the same kind of "rah-rah" emotions he displays on the sidelines or activities he does in his down time or messages he sports on his eye-black: Throughout 2008, he wore Philippians 4:13, expressing strength through Christ; he made John 3:16 the No. 1 item in Google Trends after last January's national title game; for the season opener against Charleston Southern, he advertised Proverbs 3:5-6; and last week against Troy wore Mark 8:36, which asks, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"
The symbolism of the eye-black messages is reflected on the field: When Tebow throttles an opponent, it is done with a kind of earnest myopia -- it's not you, it's me! There are beat-downs, sure, but there's not a whole lot of good old-fashioned smiting going on.
And yet there is another side to Tebow. Sometimes you'll see it in clips inside the locker room, or TV camera shots of him going crazy on the sidelines (like that shot of him last year at Florida State, in a downpour, looking like William Wallace). Most notably, we saw it late in the national-title game against Oklahoma, when Tebow picked up an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty against Oklahoma, for doing the Gator Chomp in Oklahoma safety Nic Harris's face:
It was, arguably, Tebow's finest (and most human) moment: Get past the saintly-life stuff, and there's a taste of vindictiveness down there. Who can't relate to that?
That's the Tebow I like to refer to as "Old Testament Tebow" -- or "O.T. Tebow." (To be sure, there is violence in the New Testament. But for good ol' righteous vengeance, there's nothing like the O.T.) And it's the Tebow we should see Saturday against Tennessee, a game that calls for more than a little old-fashioned vengeance.
Despite his yapping, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin has done his best not to stir "O.T. Tebow." When asked about Florida and Tebow at SEC Media Days, Kiffin deferred: "With all the great players, they'll win another national championship, and (Tebow) will win another Heisman. I'm serious about that. I really believe that."
But Kiffin had already sealed his fate for next week. Ironically, it wasn't his initial press-conference boasting about "singing Rocky Top after we beat Florida next year" -- despite the fact that it made for Florida bulletin-board fodder (you'll see the quote posted in the Gator locker room ad nauseum on TV all week). But what self-respecting new coach wouldn't say that about his rival?
No, the ultimate insult came when Kiffin, during a session with boosters, implied that Tebow's mentor, Urban Meyer, had committed some sort of recruiting violation that Kiffin was witness to while (successfully) wooing Gator commit Nu'Keese Richardson, the off-the-cuff dig that reverberated across the country:
It didn't matter that the accusation was quickly and emphatically denied. Talk trash about Tebow? Eh: Tebow's heard worse from LSU fans who got a hold of his cell phone number -- he says he kind of likes it. Talk trash about the Gators? Well, Tebow might use it to inspire his teammates to do a few more reps in summer workouts, but he personally won't club you over the head with it.
But smear Urban Meyer? That's crossing the line. That's where New Testament Tebow becomes Old Testament Tebow. That's where Tebow doesn't want to win the game; he wants retribution. That's where Tebow might want to take a page -- or a quote -- from the most famous Bible verse in pop-culture history:
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and goodwill, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."
That's the Hollywood version of Ezekiel 25:17 from "Pulp Fiction," as delivered by Samuel L. Jackson's cold-blooded Jules Winnfield, and pretty well embodies the righteous fury smoldering in Gainesville towards Kiffin since February. So if Tebow is (as reported) taking requests for what to wear on his eye-black this Saturday when Lane Kiffin and Tennessee come to The Swamp, I think it would be fitting for Tebow to use Jules Winnfield's Ezekiel 25:17 (or "Zeke 25:17" in eye-black shorthand), prophesying the "valley of darkness" he hopes the Vols are entering.
Marsellus Wallace can keep "going medieval" on his enemies. Because Tebow is liable to go Old Testament on Lane Kiffin and the Vols.