This piece of fiction was written by Tom Oatmeal. You can read more of his stuff at tomoatmeal.com.
And now another Superbowl has come and gone, leaving sports fans to choose between sobriety, hockey, or this injury-ridden, coke-binge of an NBA season. The two-week lull before the big game should prepare us for this awful void, but it never does. To make it three weeks would be too long, although it might be sadistically pleasing to witness the moment where Terry Bradshaw’s brain melts under the pressure of another week’s worth of analysis, causing him to shit into his bare hand on live television. Oh, but why torture ourselves with such dreams? The season is over. We return to our loved ones a little bit fatter and a little bit stupider.
How do we move on from the season that gave us Tebow-mania? Certainly the first step is to admit that it could have been a lot worse. Had the Broncos managed to win it all, we’d probably be lying in makeshift bunkers right now, hiding from the mobs of the Tebow-faithful as they scour the streets in search of intellectuals to burn. We dodged a close one, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. The minute that religious nuts started finding scripture in Tebow’s stats against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it became clear that it would take a lot more than a loss to the Patriots to rinse the sport of Tebow-mania. We would need something bigger.
And so as teams begin preparing themselves for another offseason, Commissioner, Roger Goodell needs to step in with the following offer: One extra draft pick for the first team who signs a real-deal, Satanist quarterback for the 2012-13 season. The future of the NFL depends on it. If it sounds impossible, don’t worry. It’s not.
He shows up out of nowhere on YouTube in late April. Tom Tebow. It’s really his name. No relation to Tim. The videos feature a young man tossing footballs against a backdrop of bleak, Iowa farmland. He never misses a target. He throws a few for ninety yards. He throws through tires. He hits moving targets. He hits them again, blindfolded. He mows things down from incomprehensible distances. He does it again in rapid succession: One, Two, Three, Four, Five. One take. He hits a long range shot standing still. Then he sits down and does it again. He throws with his right hand and then makes the exact same throw, a second later, with his left.
The videos are quick to go viral, but this has little effect on NFL scouts, who know better than to get excited about these types of things. The sum of the year’s Internet sensations usually add up to nothing more than months of chasing ghosts along a never-ending hopscotch of bad motels. In the case of Tom Tebow, they are as leery as ever, but they pack their bags and show up anyways because just maybe, at 6’6”, 240 pounds, this is a dog they can teach some tricks to.
At first they have no idea that he’s a Satanist. Forget the images of long, greasy hair, black clothes and angry scowls. There is no weekend metal band, no “I hate my stepdad” shit. Those things are better left to movies and baseball. Tom Tebow bears an appearance as wholesome and clean-cut as you’d picture a kid who grew up on a farm in Iowa. However, the admission, which reveals itself by way of a burning pentagram tattoo across his chest, is a bombshell and it quickly becomes evident that a Satanist is not for every organization. The small market teams bail right away. Any attendance woes they have can and will be fixed by way of merchandise giveaways and minor improvements to next year’s refreshments. Shave a dollar off beer, toss an extra scoop of cheese on the nachos and then kick back and enjoy another season of mildly competitive football.
The teams that already have a quarterback are the next to go, followed by the teams anywhere near the Bible Belt. The list continues to whittle itself down from there, further and further until one final suitor remains: The Washington Redskins. It’s a perfect match because if it’s true that God really did wrap his arms around Denver, then his nuts landed on Washington’s face and even if this is some kind of biblical test of loyalty, forget it. These fans are too scorned, too broken, and too desperate to care. The stadium could swallow them into a fiery underworld at the sound of the first whistle for all they care because is there really a chance that Hell could have worse football than what they’ve seen on earth from invalids like Danny Wuerffel and Tim Hasselbeck? They sign him immediately.
The offseason delivers us a crash course in Satanism courtesy of our friends over at ESPN. The installments are strictly informational and the network is careful to avoid anything that might be mistaken as an endorsement. After all, he hasn’t won yet. By midsummer, we know that Tom Tebow is of a denomination that views Satan as an adversary to religion rather than a spiritual deity. In short, it means not to expect any elaborate prayers or strange rituals, and no, he will not be sacrificing animals on the sidelines. When he hears that last part, Jerry Jones tries to make a joke about having to find a new halftime show, but he holds the punch-line a second too long and it makes everyone in the room nervous.
The Redskins start the season with a 42-7 drumming of the New York Jets. After the third quarter, Dan Snyder panics and gets on the horn to demand that Tom Tebow be yanked from the game. Even for Snyder, a man of television, the idea of publicly giving credit to the Prince of Darkness for a football outcome seems to carry a tremendous potential for backlash. So after six touchdowns in three quarters, Tom Tebow’s first game comes to an end. He is quietly hustled out of the stadium, past the media, in a black sedan.
Of course you can’t hide from the media forever, especially not in 2012. The microphones find Tebow the very next week. He takes his place at the podium, flanked by a small mob of white-knuckled owners and PR folks, ready to dive in at the first sign of trouble. After a moment, he smiles, clears his throat, and shocks everyone when he delivers one of the most articulate and brutally honest postgame interviews that anyone has ever seen. There are no safe answers; none of this, “We’re taking it one game at a time and blah, blah, blah,” shit. No, “I respect everyone in this league,” nonsense. Brutal, refreshing truth:
“No, we’re not worried about playing the Rams.”
“I think we’ll just relax and let Dallas give us the game.”
“Well, from a contractual standpoint, I think Albert Haynesworth is better off dead.”
At the end of the interview, he thanks the press for waiting and then goes on to thank a list of people who aren’t used to that kind of thing. He thanks equipment managers. He thanks trainers and travel coordinators. He thanks his nutritionist – the man hears about it from his wife and when he does, he’s not surprised. He knows Tom Tebow by now. There is nothing fleeting in the respect between men of science. Tebow will thank him again. And he does, the very next week. He thanks him and this time, the nutritionist’s wife records it. They watch it together as a family and it means the world to them.
The Redskins roll into their bye week a perfect 5-0. Tom Tebow takes this time to film a bizarre commercial for a local beverage that helps you relax. The drink is neither popular nor proven to work, but Tebow likes the flavor and he makes the advertisement on his own dime. He is charming in this odd sort of way: Too bizarre to hate, but too indifferent to love. He’s not a leader and he admittedly doesn’t care about football – things that would spell certain death for a player under less winning circumstances. However, the reality in this media-dubbed, “Season of the Witch” is that the team of the damned is pretty damned good. Who are the fans to complain? Certainly the rest of the team doesn’t seem to mind. The early preseason gripes from Tebow’s corps of predominantly Christian wide receivers disappeared the moment they realized they were each putting up career numbers thanks to Mr. Who-Gives-A-Shit, himself.
There are no theatrics with Tom Tebow. No pep talks, no pump-up music. He is an ice-cold, calculated winner; the polar opposite of Denver’s quarterback. If Tim Tebow spent last season trying to prove some kind of correlation between large displays of emotion and success, then Tom Tebow seems intent on proving the opposite: That perhaps a sociopathic detachment from the game can be equally, if not more, effective in squeezing the most blood from the playbook.
The differenced off the field are just as apparent. Tim Tebow continues to remain sexually chaste while Tom Tebow’s well-publicized sexual romps test new limits of the human spirit. They would be the type of indiscretions that make an easy target in the media if only they weren’t so honest and so consensual under both the confines of the law and the hotel security deposit. Did you know he even makes the bed the next morning?
His harshest critics try anyways, making a weak moral argument on behalf of the millions of children who must look up to these athletes, but it’s an old excuse and it fails to gain much traction amongst a general public that’s neck-deep in some of the sleaziest reality television imaginable. In his defense, Tom Tebow is never lying to these women about the stakes of these encounters and if you think that doesn’t matter, just ask Tiger Woods. And then ask Derek Jeter. The case is soon dropped.
Tom and Tim are forever linked this season, compared and contrasted, but perhaps the biggest difference between them is that Tom Tebow is winning – something Tim Tebow is now struggling to do in Denver.
Five weeks later and five more wins. The blood red, “Tebow” jerseys, once shoved into briefcases and purses upon exiting the stadium are now popping up on little old ladies at the grocery store. The bystanders who swore to keep this season’s controversial Redskins at arms-length have since given in. They are fans now, just as hungry for tickets as the long sufferers of the franchise. It is exactly the type of surge in loyalty the Redskins need for what happens the very next week in Green Bay: They lose.
It should be the moment where Tom Tebow’s indifference is called out. Why can’t he be a leader? Why hasn’t he apologized? Shouldn’t he spend more time reading the playbook and less time at bars? Then Monday morning arrives and a curious thing happens: Nothing happens. No stones are cast and for an excruciating week, the broadcasters, old pros and fans alike are forced to sit face-to-face with the version of themselves that has always known, deep down, the transparency of loyalty, the weightlessness of these tired criticisms. There is only one rule: Win.
And so Tom Tebow wins. He wins big the very next week and his critics are mercifully off the hook. The rest of the season is a cakewalk. The Redskins win out, securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They don’t stop there. They coast through both games and secure a place in Superbowl XLVII versus the New England Patriots.
That two-week lull before the big game takes on an ominous, end-of-days feel. Outside the stadium, religious groups shout scripture amidst the chants of the rabid fans. Yes, we’ve survived the doomsday prophecy of 2012, but still there is something a little disconcerting about the feel of this showdown. Maybe the Mayans ballparked it: Give or take a few months.
But the two weeks pass. The game happens in just the same way it happens every year. The commercials miss, the half-time show is terrible, and for the second time all season, the Redskins lose. Tom Brady beats the Devil and proves, once and for all, that football is a game created by man, for man. The forces of good and evil, whether real or imagined, couldn’t care less about our silly little game and in that grand spectrum created by Tebow-mania, Tim Tebow lands smack-dab in the middle as the truth often does. He is neither a messenger from God nor an enemy of progress. He is a dollop of salve that we needed to numb the pain of a sports year ravaged by scandals and lockouts. As for Tom Tebow, his significance is probably not far off in an odd sort of way.
So does this actually happen? The answer is, yes. I created the character on Madden ’12 and he’s really, really good.