For a few minutes Thursday night, I found that place, in a seat near the side of an end zone at Gillette Stadium. From there, I watched Tebow play half of the Patriots' preseason game against the Giants. He was inconsistent. He made a handful of mistakes. But in a generally meaningless game that might've represented the last meaningful action of his NFL career, Tebow still entertained.
The beginning of Tebow's first drive went well—he threw for a couple first downs—but he didn't look confident or calm in the pocket. Some of that probably had to do with the third-string offensive line, but Tebow's always been easy to fluster. In the same drive, on second down, he was sacked twice in a row, resulting in a punt on a long fourth down. The crowd became hostile, booing and heckling. One kid behind me, probably 12 or 13, started chanting and clapping for Tebow, maintaining his enthusiasm throughout the half. He was oblivious—part of me wonders if he's ever heard of Skip Bayless—and he seemed perfectly content to be there among the tired, irritated masses coming down from their light beer buzzes. The kid's cheers were surprisingly not annoying; the hefty guy across from me yelling "WE NEED MORE DEFENSE, BELICHICK," certainly was.
Fast-forward through a few more unproductive series to the fourth quarter. On the third play of a drive, Tebow zipped a nice pass to Quentin Sims for a first down. Whoever was calling plays gave Tebow a few more chances to show off his arm in the shotgun, but his first two passes went wobbling out of bounds. Then, on third and long, as impatient hecklers voiced their displeasure, Tebow rewarded anyone watching the fourth quarter of the fourth preseason game.
The pass to Quentin Sims was high, but well thrown. Sims snagged it, evading
rookie corner Trumaine McBride, and created enough space between rookie safety Cooper Taylor to go untouched on a 52-yard touchdown pass.
The previously booing critics were now going crazy. Behind me, Tebow's No. 1 fan was celebrating like someone had stuck him with an IV of Mountain Dew. The Patriots sideline was elated. The minutemen fired their muskets. That fucking Bon Jovi song started playing. Preseason football is a shitty, cynical affair just this side of consumer fraud, but that moment was undeniably awesome.
Maybe enjoying Tebow is hard to explain, because no one's done it well yet, and I probably won't either, but I know why I enjoyed watching him Thursday night: He makes every play feel like the game clock's set at 0:01 in the fourth quarter. That's not an attribute you'd want in a quarterback. You want quarterbacks who manufacture a lot of prosaic and successful drives. But when nothing's on the line, it's plain fun as hell to watch a bad quarterback fuck up the first two downs and try to compensate for it tenfold on the next play.