On Monday we published a story about Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow saying that he’s not rooting for starting quarterback Mark Sanchez to fail. Our story attributed the quotes from Tebow at an event for University of Florida boosters to GatorZone.com, the official site of Florida athletics.
Now the story about Tebow’s appearance at that event has vanished from GatorZone.com.
So what gives? It’s not entirely clear. I called the Florida sports information department but couldn’t get anyone on the phone who would talk about it, and I sent e-mails to two members of the Florida football communications staff, but they didn’t reply. Chris Harry, the writer whose byline was on the Tebow story, told me via e-mail that he will try to find out what happened.
The most likely explanation would seem to be that the quotes from Tebow generated some unwanted attention, and the Florida site decided it didn’t want anything published online that could cast its golden boy in a negative light. Although his comments about Sanchez were nothing controversial, he did make a few comments about other issues that raised some eyebrows, including some trash talk toward former teammate Brady Quinn and some banter about the New York media getting gossip stories about him wrong.
This wouldn’t be the first time that the careful crafting of Tebow’s image included scrubbing something from the Internet. As I noted last month, an actress in the musical Rock of Ages on Broadway was asked to remove a picture she posted on Twitter of Tebow posing with her and some other actresses after taking in the show.
When I wrote about the picture of Tebow and the actresses, I wrote that you’d have to be awfully uptight to think Tebow had done anything wrong in that situation, and the same is true of the GatorZone.com story: Yes, he lightly criticized Quinn and the New York media, but those criticisms were clearly playful. Quinn has surely heard far worse trash talk from teammates and opponents alike (not to mention fans), and every New York gossip columnist surely hears worse every day. Whoever made the decision to pull the story off GatorZone.com overreacted to an absurd degree.
And whoever made the decision to pull the story also apparently doesn’t understand how the Internet works. Just because the story isn’t up at GatorZone.com anymore doesn’t mean it has been forever erased: It’s still right there on the Google cache, and a quick search of Google News will yield plenty of stories about Tebow’s comments toward Quinn and Tebow’s comments toward the New York media. Once something is published online, you can’t just press the “delete” button and make it disappear.
Some people love Tebow for his clean-cut image, while others think his aw-shucks demeanor comes across as phony. Those in the latter group will only find their views bolstered by the fact that every time anything even remotely unflattering comes out about Tebow, his handlers are there to try to make it disappear.