Gator Legend Tebow Prevails Over Bowden, FSU
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Farewells come in all flavors. Saturday was for last bows at the Swamp, whether the 22-year-old senior Florida quarterback, or the 80-year-old Florida State coach.
Tim Tebow and Bobby Bowden. Do you prefer your legends young or old? Would you rather have the triumph of an athlete in the spring of his life, or the weary defeat of a man in late autumn?
The young legend played his final home game Saturday. Tebow won, 37-10. He left them standing, cheering, chanting his name -- some of them even weeping -- with the celebration of a fantasy career that may yet have an even happier ending.
If only, most of Gator Nation mourns, he had one more season.
"Remember how much I cared," Tebow said of his hopes for his legacy. "When I stepped on the field, I stepped off with nothing left."
The old legend coached his last game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday. Maybe his last game anywhere. Bowden lost, 37-10; the latest bad day of a painful walk into the sunset.
You mean, much of Seminole Nation wonders, he actually wants to go one more season?
"Yeah, I want to coach next year," Bowden said when the long night was over. "But let me say this; I've got to go home and do some soul searching."
The young legend is unbeaten and headed for the SEC championship showdown against Alabama. Then, possibly the national title game.
The old legend is 6-6 and trudging toward one of the bowls in fine print -- maybe -- where nothing will be at stake, except pride. The Seminoles will need a victory to avoid Bowden enduring his first losing season in 33 years.
The young legend could not hold back the emotions when he was announced with the rest of the seniors before the game, trotting out to embrace coach Urban Meyer.
"(Number) 15 broke down pretty good," Meyer said, "when he came through that tunnel."
Tebow's glory is still alive and shiny. Two national championships in three years, and maybe a third to come. He ran for two touchdowns and passed for three more Saturday. Among his many feats: He never lost to Florida State.
"If you had told me when I was a kid that would happen, that would have been hard to believe," he said. "This rivalry does mean a lot. There's a lot of hatred out there, but it was a lot of fun, all four years. Especially today."
The old legend coached his 521st game Saturday. His glory was yesterday. Two national titles in 34 years, and almost certainly no more to come. It grew so ugly Saturday, he had his kicker try a field goal with the Seminoles behind 30-0 in the third quarter. Wide left.
"The worst thing that could happen to us was to get shutout," he explained later. "I don't believe I've ever done that."
"It's been 34 years. We've had some great wins here. We've had some great tail-kickings here. This was a pretty good tail-kicking."
Once, he owned this football-mad state. Now Urban Meyer does.
"He's doing a great job," Bowden said, "and he's looking at me and saying, 'You used to do a great job.'"
The young legend's final plays came in a fusillade of camera flashes, thousands wanting to preserve he moment.
The old legend stood alone in the final minutes, left to his own thoughts, perhaps remembering when trips to Gainesville did not end like this.
When it was over, the young legend looked up at the old legend, two men of faith exchanging comments at midfield about how good God had been to both of them.
The young legend is a son of a minister.
An annual award given by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes carries the old legend's name.
"It's like playing with 12 people," Bowden said later of trying to defend Tebow's ability to multitask on offense.
"He gave me a hug," Tebow said of Bowden, "and he left."
Tebow has a hard game ahead, Bowden a hard decision.
"Don't ask when I'm leaving, please," Bowden said to open his post-game press conference. But clearly, as the legends parted for good Saturday night, he was wondering that himself.