Did Politics Influence the Jets to Acquire Tim Tebow?

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I came across an interesting tidbit in today’s NY Times.

This article about presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney contains a comment from Woody Johnson about Romney’s fundraising strategy. Johnson is the owner of the New York Jets and one of Romney’s national finance co-chairmen.

This got me to thinking that if Johnson is a member of the Republican party in high regard (and significant contributions) that he’s such a key member of the Romney team, then it’s possible that the Tim Tebow acquisition wasn’t only about football or about selling tickets—it was about politics.

It’s well known that Tebow is an evangelical Christian. What makes Tebow so marketable and popular isn’t that conservative Christianity in and of itself, but that he comes across as believing every word he says without pretense. When he and his mother appear in a right-to-life ad, it’s relatively assured that we don’t have to wait and see if Tebow is going to be on the news for impregnating a girlfriend and focing her to have an abortion.

With most athletes, the chasm between their public image and reality has been revealed so often that it’s almost expected that any player that fervent in stating his piety is eventually going to get caught doing something those beliefs say he shouldn’t be doing.

Amid all the criticism the Jets took for getting Tebow and undermining their starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, the conventional wisdom has been that the Jets’ owner Johnson wanted a marquee name to sell season tickets as well as Tebow jerseys, Jets’ hats, jackets and other apparel.

But was it Tebow’s convictions and values that attracted Johnson to him as well?

Most football coaches couldn’t care less what their players do away from the field as long as they stay out of jail and don’t get suspended. Jets’ coach Rex Ryan is more lenient than many other coaches. But with Johnson so prominent a participant in the Romney campaign, I have to wonder if there was more to it than the simplified salesmanship and possible use on the field.

This isn’t to suggest that Johnson is a radical right winger because Romney—despite his transparent attempts to portray himself as such—isn’t a radical right winger. He’s a pragmatist and a dealmaker.

Johnson might be the same way. It’s not as if he’s imported the most respectable of players and people. This is a team that had Plaxico Burress, Santana Moss, Antonio Cromartie and Sanchez, who’s no choir boy.

My guess is that Johnson is a Republican because Republicans are going to lower taxes on super-wealthy people like him. He’s a businessman and this is a business move. It’s not a hardline set of principles like those that led the religious right to vote for George W. Bush en masse without caring one whit what he planned to do or did as President.

But it can’t be discounted that Tebow’s code of conduct played a part in him being with the Jets. The owner has meddled before and it’s perfectly reasonable that his own personal preferences contributed to the Jets getting a player they didn’t really need on any level.

If this was done with any political end in mind, that makes it worse than the critics lament that Tebow was about marketing. It provides more ammunition to those who felt it had nothing to do with Tebow the football player and plenty to do with Tebow the commercial for “right” living. That the owner is an out-front Republican only adds to that implication that the actual playing of the game of football was one of the last items on the list for getting Tebow at all.



Doug Mirabelli’s Post-Career Arbitration Case

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It’s arbitration time in MLB and there are cases being heard and decided all month.

In today’s NY Times Business section there’s an article about former Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli winning a different kind of arbitration case—this one against his former Merrill Lynch adviser.

You can read the article here on NYTimes.com.

Briefly, there was an agreement that the investment account was never supposed to go below $1 million; when it did, the Mirabelli was forced to sell some of the assets to cover the loss.

The Mirabellis sued and won.

This type of story humanizes players to a remarkable degree. There’s an idea that because a professional athlete is a professional athlete, that they’re set for life and it doesn’t always work out that way.

Mirabelli’s career earnings as a player—according to Baseball-Reference—were nearly $7 million.

Of course that’s a lot of money, but in a sport where a player like Alex Rodriguez is making almost that amount per month, it’s comparatively low.

Mirabelli carved out an unlikely career and something of a cult following because of his image as a beefy, workmanlike, lunchpail player whose job it was to catch Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

He was a little bit better than that when he got a chance to play regularly, but that’s how he’s remembered.

But he didn’t make enough money for a family man to live the rest of his life without worries and is now working as a real estate agent in Michigan.

Some players have to work after their careers are over.

It takes this type of revelation to bring to light the humanity of athletes.

Shady people buzz around money and try to sell the public figure with the supposedly big paycheck on investing, spending lavishly and spreading their wealth around—even if they don’t have all that much wealth to begin with.

There are players who toss their cash into the air and see that it’s gone before they realized they had it; then there are others like Mirabelli who put their money in “safe” places and find themselves having to pay for the shortfall because they trusted someone who was working for a company that’s seen as established and respected.

At least Mirabelli was paying attention. There are many other professional athletes who don’t; who find it’s easier not to think about it, don’t worry about it and get caught up in schemes that they had no clue they were a part of and wind up penniless.

For every former athlete like Magic Johnson who invested his money wisely and is something of a business titan, there are ten Antonio Cromartie-types who have loads of kids with loads of women and wind up handing their paychecks over to lawyers and disgruntled former flames.

It’s happened before and it’s going to happen again because averting one’s attention or shirking their responsibility for their own finances is easier than taking control.

It’s also profoundly stupid.