The Meaning of Tim Tebow's Mortality

↵↵⇥↵⇥↵⇥↵⇥↵⇥↵⇥↵↵
↵

↵In a season that's already seen the reigning Heisman winner toppled, it shouldn't have been so seismic. And for a program whose best player for the last two years accumulated almost as many nicks and bruises as touchdowns, it shouldn't have been so shocking. Yet when Tim Tebow went down, hard, in the third quarter of a road game well in hand, sacked by Kentucky's Taylor Wyndham and then likely concussed by a lineman's knee violently connecting with the back of his helmet, the gasps came from both throughout and outside of Gator Nation.↵

↵

↵Like it or not, that's because this year, Tebow is essentially the lord of college football.↵

↵

↵↵

↵

↵He came off the field glassy-eyed and perched on the bench in that same state for what seemed like eons. According to Urban Meyer, his first words were "Did I hold on to the ball?" and Meyer's affirmative response elicited a "It's great to be a Gator." This is the sort of soul-stirring, heart-of-a-warrior stuff that has been endlessly hyped to create the Tebow legend, and his superb game to that point -- 105 yards and a TD through the air, 123 yards, two scores, a half-dozen surprisingly agile plays with his feet, and a 24-point offensive barrage in a dominant first quarter -- backed that intangible fire with tangible results.↵

↵

↵But that same college kid never looked as forlorn and weak as when he was carted off the field, heading in the direction of a waiting ambulance, vomiting repeatedly into a plastic bag. Tebow was taken to a Lexington hospital and kept overnight for evaluation; Sporting News' Dave Curtis reported that a source claimed a CT scan showed "no bleeding on the brain," though Tebow likely had a "bad concussion."↵

↵

↵The power Tebow has on the field, and the potency and confidence he gives his Gators, have metastasized in a matter of hours to helplessness, doubt, and fervent hope of recovery. Gators fans, myself included, are wishing Tebow the best for his own sake, of course, but also for the team's fortunes. An open date next week should provide some respite, but in a fortnight, Florida will descend into LSU's Death Valley, a place where they haven't won since Ron Zook was coaching up the Gators' Jessies and Joes. ↵

↵The 2007 clash between the teams in that cauldron of humanity was a classic. A then-precocious Tebow piloted Florida to an early lead and taunted LSU fans who rustled up his phone number with a cheeky "Call me" hand gesture after one touchdown, but the Tigers went for it time and again on fourth downs in the fourth quarter, coming from behind to secure the most memorable win of a national championship campaign. Without Tebow or with him as a shadow of his superlative self, the return to Baton Rouge just wouldn't seem right.↵

↵Because of that, and because Florida's fortunes are so intertwined with the national picture of college football this year, Tebow's absence, diminution, or, perhaps, remarkable return from a savage-looking injury, transcends his team. ↵

↵

↵Without Tebow, Florida goes from a potentially great squad to one whose peak is very good; a team that, in basically the same configuration that took the field today, handled a better Alabama's best shot in the SEC Championship Game last year and won by double digits would be reduced to one that would get rolled by the new-look Crimson Tide. Without Tebow, the college football landscape loses the only team but Alabama worthy of a top ranking at the moment. And without Tebow, an enormous share of the spite, spittle, and suffocatingly saccharine praise that makes college football the sport of choice for raconteurs and romantics evaporates.↵

↵

↵Johnny Brantley may be an excellent quarterback someday, but "The Third Coming" he is not, and the Gators are a lot less fun without the Tebow Circus. Besides, does anyone outside of Tuscaloosa want to cheer for Nick Saban? And does anyone outside of the Lone Star State or the Longhorn alumni network believe in Texas (or Colt McCoy) as a legitimate challenger to the Gators and Tide? ↵

↵

↵Tebow is the most compelling player on the country's most-scrutinized team, and that will only be magnified as long as he remains healthy enough to play and the Gators remain in the national title hunt. But knock Tebow out of that lineup, and the Gators tumble, too, and not for the betterment of a sport starved for great teams. Without the stability and balance of beautiful, ruthless dominance, this season will tip inexorably towards briefly thrilling, ultimately unremarkable nihilism of chaos. History remembers shining figures that emerge from tumult, not the tumult itself: It's this winners' bias that has served Tebow so well.↵

↵

↵It's easy to love Tebow as a messianic figure playing sports for a greater purpose, hate him as a too-perfect construct of the overly worshipful media, appreciate him as a fantastic college football player, or revile him as your favorite team's bane, but it is impossible, this year, to ignore his importance to this sport.↵

↵

↵Here's hoping that he heals, and that his importance is based on presence and not absence in the near future.↵

↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.