Tim Tebow made some comments about the dangers of allowing collegiate athletes to get endorsement money. Though he was passionate about his stance, it did not go over well in the marketplace of ideas. Some went at the former Heisman Trophy winner and current ESPN pundit harder than others.
Stephen A. Smith, speaking today on First Take, went to bat for Tebow– not because he agrees with the opinion, but because it was different than his and people called the minor leaguer some names on social media.
It’s important to note that there was widespread criticism of Tebow from within the ESPN family, with some saying he was speaking from a point of privilege, an idea Smith dismissed.
Tebow painted with broad strokes in his commentary, saying the faceless masses were leaning into society’s selfishness problem. The response from those who disagree with him tended to be a bit more direct and personal.
This back-and-forth raises a few issues. Smith makes a good point that a debate show is better when there are contrasting opinions. If those opinions are organic, all the better. People need to be secure enough in their convictions to not wilt under pushback.
But this goes both ways. Tebow is a paid opinion-haver and dealing with the blowback is the cost of embracing debate. That his take zigged when most zagged does not mean, in any way, that it’s more valuable. Just being different is nothing. There must be some merit to provide anything.
A cynic could look at this and see secondhand thin skin whereas someone else could look at it as being a good on-air teammate.
There are times when ESPN tries to make its own sausage and build a three-day topic out of a single-day topic, but this seemed quite authentic and a conversation worth continuing.