Tim Tebow’s pursuit of his baseball dreams is in its infancy stage. One day, the curtain will close on his second athletic act and it will be judged a success or failure. Members of the dark cloud or silver lining camps will be able to proudly beat their chests and say “I told you so.”
People want to be right about Tebow. He’s a polarizing figure who engenders passion, both of the positive and negative variety. But here’s a word of warning for everyone when that day of reckoning comes — whether it be in weeks, months, or years:
You and Tebow may be grading on different curves.
“It’s more about how you define failure,” Tebow told The Big Lead while promoting the 25th annual Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. “A lot of people will look at failure as not getting to the bigs or whatever, but I view it as not going after what’s on my heart, not giving everything I have, not living life to the fullest, not being a go-getter and being bold enough to go after what I want because of what people will say.”
And people have said things. They’ve wondered if his baseball career is nothing more than a stunt. They’ve snarkily pointed out that he was signing memorabilia before his tryout. They’ve said his 15 minutes are over and that he’s taking opportunities away from more deserving prospects. Tebow tries to insulate himself from the critics. Even so, he’s not immune to them.
“When you’re a people-pleaser, it’s something that can be disappointing but I think I learned a long time ago to honestly not let it go in one ear and out the other but let it go in one ear,” he said. “Don’t even read or listen to much of that. I really just try to stay so focused in what I’m doing and follow in my heart and my dreams no matter what the outcome.”
Tebow will continue his broadcasting duties for ESPN and the SEC Network while participating in the New York Mets’ Instructional League. The unique arrangement affords him the ability to juggle two of his passions, but also opens the door for accusations that he’s not all-in as a baseball player. Last week Colin Cowherd reported that the Mets were the only one of 10 teams to agree to let Tebow continue doing television work.
“I don’t know they’re the only one but I liked everything [Mets general manager] Mr. [Sandy] Alderson had to say and my relationship with him,” he said. “That just went really well. It also means a lot to me that they were really open to letting me finish my work with SEC Nation because that’s something, I gave my word to ESPN and my team at SEC Nation and that’s important to me and it’s something that I needed to do. I love those guys. Whatever happens with baseball, hopefully down the road I can be with those guys for a long time to come.”
Does Tebow believe that traveling to do television work will have a negative impact on his development on the field or in his relationships with teammates?
“I hope not,” he said. “I really don’t think so. I especially don’t think it will hurt on the field because I’ll be training six days a week. Mr. Alderson said, ‘you’ve got to give yourself a day to rest and recover.’ I literally will be training six days a week so I’ll be putting in all the work if not more.”
“With my teammates, I think the most important thing is respect. I think that comes not with what they hear about me in the media, that comes with my work ethic. That comes with how I treat people. That come with showing up ready to go every day, that’s where that happens. The media can say a lot of different things but I think that comes when you show up, you’re in the locker room getting to know guys. They get to see who you are for real, not what the media says about you.”
Since Tebow exploded onto the public eye, he’s been one of those Rorschach Test human beings. His actions and words can be propped up and used as an example of authentic earnestness or dismissed as inauthentic grandstanding in the media and in living rooms across the country.
His foray into baseball has ignited some of the opinions that burned so brightly when he was leading the Florida to a national championship or the Denver Broncos to an unlikely playoff win. And much like he did then, Tebow is betting on himself and his iron will. Throughout all his time in the spotlight, that’s been a constant.
He’s not oblivious to the obstacles he faces. Going over a decade without playing in a competitive game is a large one. It obvious it would have been easier for Tebow to switch positions or play in the CFL than switch sports. But it’s clear neither of those options captured his passion like baseball.
By Tebow’s logic, pursuing those endeavors would have been failure if they were not heartfelt. So while it’s tough for some on the outside to understand the new path he’s traveling down, it’s important to understand that, by his own standards, he’s already succeeding.
Plain and simple: he’s going for what he wants most in life because he can.
“I get to pursue my passions because I live in an awesome country where I have the chance to do that, where we have a chance to do what we want and not what other people want for us,” he said.
It should be difficult for even the most pessimistic predictor of Tebow’s baseball career to not find this admirable. Time will tell how much success he finds on the field. It’s even more difficult to think he won’t do everything in his power to find success in his own mind regardless of judgement from the outside.
When this is all said and done, there may not be a clear answer to the quality of Tim Tebow’s baseball career. Like everything that surrounds him, it will differ by individual.
Your idea of success may not look like Tebow’s and he’s not likely to lose any sleep worrying about your opinion. This may be an unsatisfying truth but it’s an eventuality looming on the horizon — no matter when the ride ends.