Bernstein: Is The Fix In For Tim Tebow?

By Dan Bernstein

It would be highly unlike Creative Artists Agency to set themselves and a high-profile client up for public embarrassment. They are employed, in fact, to do exactly the opposite.

That’s what’s curious about Tim Tebow’s upcoming baseball skills showcase for MLB scouts in Los Angeles on August 30th, a drummed-up extravaganza attempting to provide the 29-year-old with a springboard to another sporting opportunity after his NFL quarterbacking career fizzled out. The powerful talent-management firm is engineering this open tryout, having already stoked social-media buzz with strategically placed stories, handpicked opinions of Tebow’s ability and bits of video that never show too much.

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com has already done a fine job connecting the dots behind the scenes, illustrating what is essentially a coordinated marketing scheme to sell something more than just an over-aged and under-talented baseball player. And another giveaway might be the number of cameras at the event.

It’s closed to the public, but all 30 major league teams have been officially invited, and 20 or so are said (by exactly whom we’re not quite sure) to be interested in attending. It feels like the second act of the first episode of a reality series, after we see the initial shots of him working out on his own interspersed with old video of his high school games, and overdubbed by Tebow’s earnest insistence that this is some kind of divine new calling. Cue the dramatic music as he strides out to the cage. Cut away to scouts’ notebooks and their stony faces behind Oakley sunglasses. Then we hear the crack of the bat and see the flight of the ball.

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The fact that the idea is completely preposterous may not get in the way of programming. It could be Disney, Tebow’s current employer in his role as college football commentator, or another deal cut by CAA, but it’s hard to imagine things getting this far if the operation is working without a net. They have to already know that one team is in as at least a last-resort fallback for him, having quietly promised a minor league and/or spring training chance as a shared cynical stunt. This can’t end with him merely clowning for an unaffiliated independent club.

Tebow also was never that good at baseball to begin with. His prep batting average of .494 a decade ago is being trumpeted, but he wasn’t a top-ranked prospect in the Florida that year despite being All-State, and any facile comps to Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders or Brian Jordan are insulting. Still, wasting a spot on him somewhere could be easy for an organization that wants the attention, since the vast majority of minor league players are non-prospect fodder for a sprawling developmental system to cultivate the handful of kids that actually matter.

‘Kids’ being the key word, not players close to exiting what is now understood to be the window of athletic prime.
It would be one thing if Tebow were doing this entirely on his own, outside of the auspices of a massive and widely connected talent agency. We could probably get around to seeing that as some kind of naive lark, easily befitting Tebow’s wide-eyed idealism and self-confidence. But when Brodie Van Wagenen is behind it, something else is up.

Van Wagenen is the co-head of CAA Sports’ entire baseball division, the one responsible for billions of dollars worth of MLB deals. For him to put his name and brand on this so publicly means it’s likely he already knows how it ends. In a statement, he said, “This may sound like a publicity stunt, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

Sure.

Dan Bernstein is senior columnist on CBS Chicago and co-host of “Boers & Bernstein” on Chicago’s 670 The Score.

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