NFL-Tebowmania joins Linsanity under New York City lights

Reuters

Thu, 22 Mar 03:16:00 2012

They call it Tebowmania for a reason: The 24-year-old quarterback has more than 1 million followers on Twitter, endorsement deals with Nike and Jockey, and is even the inspiration of a comic book superhero.

He hasn't seen anything yet.

Tim Tebow's trade to the New York Jets from the Denver Broncos will place him at the center of a media and sports world that can build up, and tear down, celebrities like no other.

For instance, Jeremy Lin of the NBA's New York Knicks went from an unknown to a hero spawning the term "Linsanity" to washout in a month, though he appears to be regaining hero status.

"Tebow's been used to the public eye, but he'll never find a more controversial fish bowl, or shark tank, than he's going to find here in New York," said Robert Boland, professor of sports management at New York University's Tisch Center.

"Just count the media outlets that are here every day."

In Denver, a city crazy about its football team, Tebow was a full-blown celebrity. Still, the metropolitan area only has one major newspaper, the Denver Post, whereas New York has the New York Post, Daily News, Newsday and The New York Times, not to mention New Jersey's The Star-Ledger.

Add in the local radio and TV stations - and keep in mind that every big news organization has at least an office in New York - and it is a recipe for the sort of mass media coverage that can overwhelm any athlete, even Tebow.

The frenzy began on Wednesday when the National Football League's Jets surprised many in announcing an agreement in principle to trade for Tebow, a Heisman Trophy winner in college who helped guide the Broncos to the playoffs last season.

Already well-known, the deeply religious Tebow became perhaps the most talked about NFL player last season when he stepped in as starting quarterback for the Broncos and turned around their season with a series of heart-stopping wins.

POLARIZING

But his stardom is polarizing, with some inspired by his faith and others who angrily object to his public displays of religion. Critics bash him for what they see as suspect passing skills.

Tebow's familiarity with controversy could serve him well during his first months in New York, said Marc Ippolito, president of Burns Entertainment, a marketing firm that matches corporations with celebrities, including sports stars.

"He's very unique. He's very media savvy and he's a smart guy. I don't think he's somebody that is affected by the highs and lows of what the media says," said Ippolito.

He added, "Look at all the grief he got last year from people making fun of him, yet he keeps a pretty even keel."

He has also stayed out of trouble, he is the son of Baptist missionaries and is known for his philanthropic work, with no hint of the sort of scandals that can so often torture New York's celebrity sports figures.

Just ask Brett Favre, whose 'sexting' incident while he played quarterback for the Jets was painfully splashed across the tabloids.

As for whether Tebow will become even more valuable to Madison Avenue's advertising agencies once he lands in New York, only time will tell, said Ippolito.

He points out the city already has two celebrity quarterbacks: Two-times Super Bowl winner Eli Manning of the Giants and the Jets' Mark Sanchez, who is frequently seen about town in the company of actresses and models.

"Is there room for three big quarterbacks in the endorsement market?" said Ippolito. "I think there will be a little wait-and-see. People will want a feel for how it's going to play out."

 

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