I've been thinking a lot about ESPN and Tim Tebow lately. Probably too much. Perhaps it's because the network and its various platforms have inundated with me news, debates and numbers regarding all things Tebow. Occupy Tebow? We're here.
If you've read my work, you know I'm not one to bash ESPN when it comes to over-covering the biggest teams and athletes in sport. It's one of the few things I agree with Colin Cowherd on: There's national interest in the Yankees and Red Sox and Heat and LeBron James and Tom Brady well beyond the scope of the cities they compete in. Tebow fits in this universe somewhere, though I'm struggling to figure out what level that is at the moment.
Last night my colleague Joe Posnanski tweeted out something that struck me. Said Posnanski: "I believe Tim Tebow isn't an NFL starter and I want him to prove me wrong because I believe he's a great guy. Is that allowed?" Of course it is, but the saturation of Tebow coverage, in my opinion, had led to the polarization of Tebow as a subject and the faux-storyline of people having to choose a pro or anti-Tebow side. It's also led to the mocking of Tebow coverage, amplified by this now-famed link on ESPN.com [http://espn.go.com/blog/afcwest/post/_/id/34680/time-for-elway-to-think-post-tebow] which pitted moderators trying to prevent commenters from hijacking the comments section.
Nothing illustrates the overcaffeinated Tebow debate more than the demagoguery of Skip Bayless, a nearly 60-year-old man who defends Tebow like a self-appointed F. Lee Bailey. One of the reasons I bang on Bayless is because I think such cheap debate devalues the network's news-gathering arm and the terrific people ESPN employs in those positions. It also sends the message to young journalists that screaming is the way to fame and wealth. Maybe it is, and all is lost already.
Which leads me to this: ESPN2's First Take has been doing a ton of segments debating Tebow that have been generated from other ESPN shows discussing Tebow. To me, that's something along the lines of manufacturing news, though I'm not implying that each show is doing this intentionally. It's more of a byproduct of a culture of flooding the zone.
On this count, after watching First Take do a segment on Keyshawn Johnson's comments on Tim Tebow, and being hit over the head perhaps once too often by Tebowmania in Bristol, I tweeted the following: "Lest [ESPN PR staffer] @bhofheimer_espn or his colleagues at the Ministry of Magic tell you differently: ESPN is dictating the Tim Tebow news cycle."
This ultimately led to Bill's boss, the head of Pravda 2.0, Chris LaPlaca, asking me a question: "Yes or no question: are we the ONLY ones talking Tebow?"
The answer of course is no.
Everyone is talking Tebow, including SI. But what I was curious about is whether ESPN is dictating the Tebow agenda nationally. I concede it's a subjective thought, and probably impossible to get a definitive answer. But I was curious to get a sense of how much Tebow content ESPN did in a single afternoon. So I asked my Tweeps for help, given if you follow this feed, chances are you watch ESPN. To be fair LaPlaca correctly pointed out that nobody watches ESPN 24/7 and there are different audiences for different shows.
I did my best to chronicle all things Tebow and the order they floated in. By the end of the day, I was exhausted. But I also learned a little something about messaging. I'll let you be the judge if ESPN is dictating the agenda. Here's the not-comprehensive Tebow rundown from Tuesday from morning to afternoon:
1. ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike discussed Tim Tebow with NFL analyst Cris Carter [http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=7176821].
2. Mike and Mike discuss Tim Tebow with ESPN.com NFL senior writer John Clayton [http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=7176907].
3. First Take (Ground Zero for Tebow talk) begins (I only caught the replay, so more on this later).
4. ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd interviews ESPN college football analyst Urban Meyer about Tim Tebow [http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=7178023].
5. Cowherd interviews SI's Peter King about the criticism of Tebow.
6. Cowherd follows the King interview with more discussion about Tebow, including a comparison about Tebow and Barack Obama that I was unable to figure out.
7. Tweep @esqbound informs me that "a little past 11 am ET Cowherd was discussing Tebow how awful he is w 150 practices more than Cam Newton & Andy Dalton."
8. Tweep @TheRealJB18 says "SportsCenter just interviewed Clayton about Tebow and Orton a few minutes ago. Hope that helps."
9. Tweep @david_schwab weighs in: "I do think ESPN is dictating Tebow coverage. But SI does the same based on cover selections and stories." Noted.
10. Tweep @charibayanker says Cowherd opened the noon hour of his show with Tebow.
11. I'm now watching the replay of ESPN2's First Take and among the topics debated: "Will Tebow start the rest of the season?" and "Buy or sell: Tebow will have a better game than [Carson [Palmer]." Suddenly, I'm feeling bad for Eric Mangini about having to be there with Skip Bayless.
12. ESPN.com writer Jemele Hill posts an interesting column about Tebow [http://espn.go.com/espn/commentary/story/_/id/7177658/lions-players-disrespected-tim-tebow-faith].
13. Tweep @kaitlinurka says "SportsCenter Don't get me started on Tebow"... ... leads to 2 minute Tebow discussion."
14. An email comes in that says there's an ESPN poll on Tebow: http://espn.go.com/blog/afcwest/post/_/id/34710/poll-tim-tebows-leash
15. More First Take debate on Tebow: "Is Tebow a sympathetic figure?" and "Should Tebow have shown public support for [Kyle] Orton?"
16. The Dan Patrick Show producer @Paulpabst checks in to say that "How would Tebow be as the new Cards manager?" and "What CC.'s signing means for Tebow" will be topics for his show. I presume he is kidding.
17. ESPN Radio anchor Scott Van Pelt says "we are passing - so you are free to do what you like until 4 pm." I hope for Van Pelt's take he is not banned from Twitter for speaking with me.
18. Tweep @MDP23 says there is a Tebow breakdown on NFL Primetime. He also says Bayless's Twitter account has had 22 references to Tebow since Sunday.
19. Reader @lynn_B_ says Bayless has linked to a podcast about Tebow.
20. The ESPN2 Numbers Never Lie crew discusses whether Tebow should still be the starter
21. Tweep @recordsandradio says Hill tweets out that she'll be on ESPN2s The Jim Rome Show, talking about her Tebow column.
22. I'm watching the Gonzalo LeBatard show and at 4:08 p. his son makes a joke about Kim Kardashian and tim Tebow.
23. Reader @RoyallyRewound asks, "How does Tebow get more airtime on Around The Horn than the #Chiefs? I don't get it...?"
24. ESPN Producer Scott Harves checks in to say "I talked about Tebow at lunch in the ESPN cafe today with two co-workers. Not sure if that counts." It does.
25. Tweep @eeks63 informs the excellent @ESPNStatsInfo feed has tweeted out a Tebow stat ("Tim Tebow has as many sacks (6) as completions on third down this season. #Broncos").
26. LaPlaca checks in to say. "And I freely admit many of our shows, w/ vastly different audiences, cover similar but timely topics. As we will learn tmw."
27. Rome and Hill discuss whether Tebow is getting singled out for criticism.
28. On SportsNation Cohwerd and co-host Michele Beadle showed a clip of Tom Jackson discussing Tim Tebow, and saying "The Tebow people forcing the issue." Cowherd then mentioned he had Meyer on his radio show and asked about it.
29. Reader @biga2417 says PTI is interviewing Peter King and one of the subjects is Tebow.
30. Numerous readers alert me to the comments section below this piece (http://espn.go.com/blog/afcwest/post/_/id/34710/poll-tim-tebows-leash), which has become a sort of "Occupy Tebow" section on ESPN.com
31. I call my therapist.