On Wednesday, ESPN analyst and former NFL fullback Merril Hoge took to Twitter with a stream of messages critical of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s abilities.
The remarks, coming at a time when the Broncos apparently are shaking up their quarterback depth chart in response to Tebow’s early struggles in camp, created a Twitter firestorm, with Tebow’s name quickly landing among the most-used phrases on the 140-character-or-less communication service.
One person who knows a thing or two about being the subject of Twitter criticism jumped into this red state/blue state athletics issue, throwing his full support behind Tebow.
“Tim Tebow will succeed in the NFL,” LeBron James wrote on Twitter, via ESPN.com. “He’s a hard worker, a student of the game, a natural born leader and most of all a WINNER! It takes time and he’ll be nice.”
It’s a common sentiment that automatically comes from those predisposed to liking Tebow, especially when Tebow is criticized. And while those who feel that way may ultimately be vindicated, they don’t want to even entertain the possibility that Tebow may not become a star.
Equally closed-minded are those who think Tebow will fail. And those folks got more raw meat when Hoge took to ESPN’s SportsCenter on Wednesday to continue to make his case.
“He is awful as far as accuracy goes and what’s kind of even more disturbing, he’s probably worse moving and running around with the football and throwing than he is from the pocket,” Hoge said. “Can you get better there? A little bit. If everything is perfect, the pocket, your feet are good, all your fundamentals come into place, the coverage is what you want it, you can be successful. But that doesn’t happen at the National Football League. Rarely does that happen.”
That prompted LeBron to chime in again, with his goofy reasoning that only those who could play the game as well or better than the men they are criticizing should have the ability to criticize them. “Listened to Merril Hoge today on SC and he was just blasting Tebow,” LeBron said. “The man hasn’t even play a full season and its only his 2nd year in. Guys get on that TV and act like they was all WORLD when they played. How bout encouraging him and wishing him the best instead of hating!!”
Criticism, LeBron, isn’t “hating.” It’s analysis. It’s what guys like Hoge are paid to do.
We realize that men who are used to being coddled and praised their entire lives don’t like it when they hit the highest stage and face something other than coddling and praise from the media, but it’s astounding that so many athletes immediately assume that a fair effort to point out flaws, weaknesses, and/or areas for potential improvement automatically becomes in the players’ eyes a personal attack.
Tebow, as he always does, took the high road. “Hey Merril…… ‘ppreciate that,” Tebow said, echoing the “they said I couldn’t do it” theme of his FRS commercial.
But using criticism as motivation will take a guy only so far. At some point, the question becomes whether he has it or he doesn’t. Hoge, based on careful study of the games in which Tebow played last year, thinks that as of right now he doesn’t. Given that Tebow entered camp a week ago with the starting job his to lose and in light of the apparent fact that he’s already lost it, new Broncos coach John Fox apparently agrees.
Maybe LeBron would say that John Fox is a hater.