Remember those comments ESPN President John Skipper made about the network finally seeing the light and realizing their obsession with Tim Tebow was way too much for way too long? Let's take a look back, shall we?
"I said, 'Guys, we didn't handle this very well.' Going to training camp wasn't a problem. We just stayed on it relentlessly and too long."
"The quote that I hated was from Doug Gottlieb. … I didn't love that. I want people to think about what works for the next 10 minutes might not be the best thing for us for three years. That one hit home with me."
"We've had some good discussions internally about trying to be careful. In some ways, the more difficult internal conflict is between long-term story telling and ratings. We all know that if you focus on the Tebow story, for the next 10 minutes you're going to do better. But the question is trying to take a long-term perspective and saying, 'Guys, let's not get over excited about one story and hyping it.'"
That memo must not have gotten through to producers of the morning SportsCenter, because ESPN went into a relentless TebowMania relapse Thursday that harkened back to the glory days of ESPN when Sal Paolantonio was at Jets camp for a month and the network covered Tim Tebow running shirtless in the rain like it was bigger news than the NHL Lockout.
Adam Schefter reported the news that Tebow would not be back with the New York Jets next season. This sent the Thursday 11 AM SportsCenter into a TebowMania feeding frenzy like a group of starving piranhas. They attacked the Tebow-Jets story from all sides… for like the 30 millionth time.
If the world is ending today, what better way for SportsCenter to go out all guns a blazing by mentioning Tim Tebow 62 times in one hour of SportsCenter?
I chronicled the 11 AM live SportsCenter yesterday morning to see just how much time ESPN's top news show would spend on the possible departure of a team's third string quarterback. The result?
A lot of bloody time.
Nearly all of the first 12 minutes of SportsCenter were devoted to Tim Tebow. First Sara Walsh interviewed Adam Schefter about his report and save for one RGIII question (don't worry, not about whether he's "down with the cause") it was all about the Jets QB situation. Next came something a bit more weird, though. SportsCenter went to a roundtable with Karl Ravech (who looked like he would rather be anywhere else in the world, just look at the excitement in his face in the above pic) and Lomas Brown… and Jesse Palmer and David Pollack.
So here were ESPN's Thursday night college football analysts involved in a nearly 8 minute conversation about Tim flippin' Tebow. Was Barry Melrose busy playing Barry Claus at the Bristol mall? Why with literally dozens of NFL analysts are you bringing on college football guys to talk about an NFL story? None of this was making sense!
Somehow, ESPN was able to get away from these earth-shattering developments for 20 minutes, but then returned to Tebow quickly enough. First came a four minute interview with ESPN analyst Bill Polian about Tebow's future.
Then came one of the most bizarre segments I can remember.
ESPN NFL Draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay were brought on to debate (good God) whether or not Tim Tebow would ever start in the NFL again. This was the Facebook debate poll with viewers voting "Yes" or "No" on the debate question. You see, it's not all about First Take being bad, the First Takeization of all of ESPN is still gaining momentum. Here's the rub though… neither Kiper nor McShay argued for the "Yes" side!!! It wasn't even a debate at all! They went back and forth on Tebow being a good guy and Tebow being an H-Back and Tebow being a situational guy, but neither person actually took the "Yes" side of the debate. It was a conversation I've heard on ESPN airwaves about 13,698 times in the past three years, but hey, what does 1 more time hurt?
So this time it wasn't the debate positions that was fabricated… it was the entire debate itself! What progress! But in spite of all that nonsense, the people watching at home still voted in favor of Tebow starting again, proving that it didn't matter what was actually being said at all.
It was a fitting conclusion to an episode of SportsCenter that spent over 20 minutes of airtime on the third string QB of a team that's missing the playoffs. Here's the counter for the number of times these words or phrases were mentioned. Remember, this is in less than an hour of real time excluding commercials…
"Tim Tebow" – 45
"Tebow" – 8
"Tim" – 5
"#15" – 2
"This guy" – 2
Total Tim Tebow mentions – 62
"Fullback" or "H-Back" or "Tight End" – 17
"Mark Sanchez" – 5
"Greg McElroy" – 4
"Jets" – 20
It gets better. Here's some of the most ridiculous, mind-bending quotes from TebowCenter…
"If you've just joined us, we're talking Tim Tebow all morning."
"He's one of the best human beings I've ever met."
"These kind of experiments are good thinking, they really are."
"This is going to be debated ad nauseum, does Tim Tebow have a future in the NFL?"
"I hope he proves me wrong because he's a fine young man."
"There's no question Tim Tebow brings potential versatility."
"His competitiveness is a special trait."
"His belief is what you have to admire, don't you?"
"It's incredible how split this is with the people that are voting!"
But it's this last one that takes the cake…
"No third string quarterback generates the interest or the conversation on a program like this and there may be franchises that need both of those things more than they do initially to win."
Maybe in ESPN's world there is an NFL team that would RATHER BE TALKED ABOUT ON SPORTSCENTER THAN WIN GAMES.
Maybe it was just wishful thinking that ESPN could finally come back to reality when it comes to the Jets third string quarterback.
I think I'd rather have Billy Crystal back.