What Does the Future Hold for Tebowmania?

You may have noticed that AutographsForSale.com has several Tim Tebow autographed Florida Gators items for sale, but not one Denver Broncos item. The reason is simple. I try to avoid stocking up on autographed items that have more downside than upside. I could be wrong, but I am unconvinced that Tebow will be successful in the NFL over the long haul.

For the past month, I’ve been engaged in multiple lively Tim Tebow discussions on Facebook with friends and friends of friends across the country. On one side are the Tebow “believers,” who, in my opinion, have exaggerated his rare flashes of brilliant quarterback play while downplaying his more common inept play.

It started when a Cowboys fan posted on his wall that he wished Jerry Jones would trade Tony Romo for Tebow. He was serious. As was a San Diego Chargers fan who implied that he’d rather have Tebow behind center than Philip Rivers. And both opinions were voiced BEFORE Tebow’s shining moment, leading the Broncos over the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs.

As the discussions continued, I soon realized three things. One, I was in the minority. Two, Tebow believers love citing intangibles like “inspiring” and “leader” and “winner.” (Whenever I hear those words associated with a quarterback prospect, it reminds me of the notorious blind date recommendation “she has a great personality.”) Three, saying anything negative about Tebow — even if limited to his ability, skills or performance — gets you labeled a “doubter” or a “hater.” Many Tebow supporters seem to have an issue distinguishing criticism of him as a person vs. criticism of him as a quarterback, which is after all what he’s paid to be.

I don’t hate Tebow; in fact, I deeply admire him as a person. He is an incredible role model and he has a huge heart. I’d rather see him Tebowing in the end zone after a touchdown than countless other players dancing or showboating or taunting after routine catches or tackles any day. Tebow’s effort, faith, humility and sincerity seem beyond reproach. But regarding his future as a successful NFL quarterback, I’ll admit I am a “doubter.”

All season long I said the same thing. A quarterback in the NFL has the most demanding, highest pressure job in American team sports. Look no further than the Cowboys and Chargers fans ready to discard Pro Bowlers Romo and Rivers. But the harsh reality is that Tebow is consistently struggling to complete 45% of his passes in a league where the WORST quarterbacks complete close to 55%, and the best complete over 65%. Even against the Steelers Tebow managed to complete only 10 of 21 throws. Tebow can run for a first down or even a touchdown here and there, but it won’t matter. Unless his passing improves by leaps and bounds, Tebow’s failure in the NFL is a matter of when, not if.

And yet, Tebow supporters seem to ignore this obvious reality, citing his late season six game winning streak (over mediocre teams when the Broncos defense played its best) or obsessing about his dramatic playoff win (at home against a wounded Steelers team led by a gimpy Ben Roethlisberger, missing 3 defensive starters, and helped by winning the overtime coin toss). Based on the skewed metrics Tebow supporters use to hype him, Mark Sanchez is a superstar and Joe Flacco is already a lock for the Hall of Fame.

It’s no fault of Tebow’s, but the adulation he’s received has outpaced his actual NFL accomplishments by the length of several football fields. It doesn’t help that many people of faith have decided that God is using “divine intervention” to help Tebow win. Even if that’s true, it can’t be proven, thus fueling cynicism while making Tebow supporters even less credible.

Considering how Tebow believers have prematurely projected “NFL superstar” on him, while demonstrating how thin skinned they are when his on-field performance is criticized, I wonder how negatively they’ll react if any other issue arises. Imagine if Tebow has a conflict with a coach, or some unnamed Broncos front office person questions his priorities, or if he gets benched and the cameras catch him pouting. Unless Tebow actually walks on water, these and worse scenarios are not out of the question, and the result could be a nasty fall from the lofty pedestal upon which he’s been placed.

Tebow is not the first high profile athlete to be very public about his faith. David Robinson and Kurt Warner are two fairly recent examples. They didn’t attract much controversy because their fans didn’t prematurely elevate them to “can do no wrong” stature as they have with Tebow. Robinson and Warner won professional championships, which in turn drew added attention to their faith. Tebow was one of the greatest college quarterbacks in recent history, but in the NFL he’s won ONE playoff game (Flacco has won five, while Sanchez has won four).

I think it’s great that so many people root for Tebow. He’s clearly a positive force in the NFL. But I think his fans shouldn’t be offended when he’s judged by the same standards as the other 31 starting QBs, and not build expectations for him so massive that he’s almost certain to fall short. Otherwise they may be inadvertently setting up an ugly backlash to Tebowmania. I might miss out on some sales if I’m wrong, but if I’m right I don’t want to be stuck with Tebow autographed Broncos items that I may not be able to give away in the not too distant future.


Life and Death in the Autograph Business

Perhaps the trickiest and most difficult part of being in the autograph business is dealing with the death of an athlete or celebrity whose autographs you have for sale.

When a celebrity dies, his or her autograph immediately increases in value. Sometimes by a little bit, sometimes by a whole lot, depending mostly on the celebrity’s age and sometimes the cause of death.

Especially in the internet age, the news of a celebrity death travels at the speed of light, much faster than I or any autograph dealer can increase the prices. As a result, a certain type of people — a kind term would be “opportunists,” a less kind term would be “vultures” — try to buy up the dead celebrity’s autographs at the old prices.

The first time I remember this happening was with Dale Earnhardt Sr., who died in a crash near the end of the 2001 Daytona 500 race. Within 15 minutes of the official announcement, faster than my website host could publish my price changes to the live site, I received 4 orders. Three of the 4 customers attempted to order 2 autographs. I thought about it for an hour or so and decided to cancel the orders, sending out polite explanatory e-mails. At least one of the customers got very irate, calling me greedy, and threatened to sue.

As a precaution, I got some advice from an attorney and confirmed what I suspected, which is that merely placing an order is not an enforceable contract, but legally represents nothing more than an offer to buy. As I have always prided myself on providing excellent customer service, it was not an easy decision to cancel the orders. However, it seemed to me that these customers (none of whom had every bought from me before) were taking advantage of the situation.

Eight years later, a similar thing happened with the shocking announcement that Steve McNair had been murdered. I canceled a few orders, but this time I don’t remember anyone getting terribly upset. If they had, I would have said this. I was willing to sell you his autograph all along, but you only wanted to buy it immediately after he died to get a bargain price. Which of us is really being greedy here?