University of Florida star quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother Pam will star in a 30-second “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life” Super Bowl ad sponsored by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family and set to be broadcast during next month’s Super Bowl. People familiar with Focus on the Family and Tebow’s much-stated evangelical Christian family background believe that the spot, which is said to have cost between $2.5 and $2.8 million, will deliver an anti-abortion message, focusing on Pam’s decision to take her fifth pregnancy to term against doctors’ orders while seriously ill. The ultimate result being Tim.
A striking and moving story to be sure, but one that is, for better or worse, politically charged and surely violates CBS’ longstanding policy against airing what they call “advocacy advertising.” Personally, I find it distasteful that the network of Super Bowl XLIV, which famously denied airtime to a United Church of Christ ad about inclusiveness featuring a gay couple amongst many others, apparently feels just fine airing the controversial group’s spot.
But it’s not just the hypocrisy of the network, the total non-ironic incongruity of inserting the advert between the boob-bearing, beer-shilling gals of [insert beer company name here] and Viagra ads, or the inappropriateness of smuggling a politically charged message into one of America’s favorite mindless pastimes that I keep pondering, it’s how this ad will affect Tim Tebow’s career.
Like Chuck Norris, the 2007 Heisman trophy winner is the subject of lists of “facts,” or “Tebowisms,” developed by adoring fans looking to celebrate, and gently poke fun at, his already-celebrated greatness. That’s just how good Tebow is. But while Tebow is the pick to watch in the upcoming NFL draft, college success is no indicator of future NFL success. (Just ask Ryan Leaf.)
The Associated Press says that, “Tim Tebow is taking his star power to sport’s biggest stage” with this spot, but one has to ask whether this is the best move for a man who might not have NFL star power? Especially months before the draft?
Tebow has never been shy about his faith–sporting Bible verses in his eyeblack on the field (a great way to get people to google Scripture), talking openly about his praiseworthy mission work (Although, performing circumcisions, seriously?), and telling a press conference that, yes, he’s still a virgin (Totally endearing).
But with this ad he will become a de facto spokesperson for a group with a clear political agenda, potentially making him less attractive to those companies looking to hand out endorsements to uncontroversial gridiron achievers. Now I’m gonna hazard a guess and say that Tebow would say he values his faith over endorsements or universal acclaim, which is great, but will he alienate NFL fans whom he hasn’t even played for yet, much less earned?
“It’s major hubris to put oneself out there as a star before you accomplish anything,” one devoted Steelers fan told me. “NFL fandom is a brutal community. Fans will talk about [the ad] and argue about it, but mainly they’ll think, ‘Score a touchdown before you open your mouth about anything.’”
What do you think?