- - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sometimes it’s hard to separate our true beliefs from our lip service.

One minute we encourage people to chase their dreams. The next minute we call them foolish and unrealistic.

On one hand, we say nothing beats failure but a try. On the other hand, we say don’t waste your time on the near-impossible.

One day we’re telling folks to believe in themselves and take chances. The next day they’re the objects of our derision.

Which is it for you? Do you applaud Tim Tebow for having the courage to potentially face plant on the diamond as he pursues a baseball career? Or do you ridicule him for thinking he can overcome an 11-year layoff and reach the big leagues?

From here, it seems like the laugh track is stuck in the on position.

But I’m clapping, even though with a gun to my head I’d bet my house that he fails.

Roughly nine out of every 10 minor-leaguers never spend a single day in the majors. These are guys who have spent their entire lives playing baseball, sometimes year-round. Between games and practices, Tebow has missed tens of thousands of repetitions in the batter’s box and in the field.

Yet there he was on Tuesday, at the creaky age of 29, displaying his ability for the world after not playing since his junior year in high school. It was the perfect stage for the pop icon to be embarrassed, to be castigated as an arrogant, obnoxious and vain athlete making a mockery of himself and baseball.

But depending on which scouts were asked, Tebow’s showcase at the University of Southern Cal ranged from a total waste to better than expected.

The former quarterback showed impressive raw power against batting-practice fastballs, but struggled mightily against live pitching that included breaking balls. His throwing was barely better than his passing. He moved like a 6-3, 255-pound linebacker in the field.

If the exercise was merely a publicity stunt, give Tebow an A-plus. According to his agent, the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s were the only major-league teams not represented among the 46 scouts in attendance. Several teams met with him afterward. I doubt one was represented by the anonymous American League scout who told USA Today “it was like watching an actor trying to portray a baseball player.”

Other assessments weren’t as harsh. “I wouldn’t say he was great; I would say he held his own,” an anonymous AL scout told The Washington Post. “He did as good as you can expect a guy to do in that situation.”

Tebow showed enough to pique interest among those who can let their imaginations run wild. He’s obviously a phenomenal athlete. If he can slim down, loosen up and spend the next year or three playing games, getting at-bats and working nonstop on his mechanics perhaps he can be a borderline prospect based on merit more than fame.

He certainly proved his ability to draw media attention hasn’t abated. His pursuit of baseball has induced saturation coverage. All of those internet clicks and highlight clips should have a positive effect on the Tim Tebow Foundation, set to enjoy proceeds from autographed baseballs and bats selling $125 and $175.

But Tebow said this isn’t about raising money, boosting his profile, strengthening his brand or stroking his ego.

He’s simply trying to reconnect with an old flame to see if they can get back together. He said playing quarterback and hitting a baseball were his favorite things as a boy. Walking away from the latter was a difficult decision but he hopes it’s not irreparable.

“This isn’t about publicity,” he told reporters. “It’s definitely not about money. I took a pay cut to do this. For me, you pursue what you love regardless of what else happens. If you fail or fall flat on your face, and that’s the worst thing that can happen, it’s OK.

“When did pursuing what you love become such a bad thing? I’ll make all the sacrifices to be the best I can.”

The cynics scoff and the skeptics jeer. But I agree with him completely and find it awesome that he couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks.

Former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik tweeted Tuesday that he begged Tebow to play H-back for the Buccaneers but the answer was always no. Tebow decided he would play quarterback in the NFL or not play at all.

Vanity? Not in my book.

That’s someone who knows exactly what he wants in life and won’t settle for a substitute when he clearly doesn’t have to. I see the same dogged determination at work now and it’s fantastic. Tebow has decided to give baseball a shot and he’s not listening to everyone who says he’s a crazy egomaniac.

Greatness in any field — athletics, business, politics, the arts, science, education, etc. — isn’t reached by shying from challenges and fleeing from long odds. It’s achieved by pressing forward and extracting every ounce of ability, especially the portions you didn’t know existed.

It’s attained by straying far from the familiar feel of comfort zones and ruts, by overcoming the fear of failure that short-circuits our potential and leaves too many of us figuratively paralyzed.

Tebow is trying to accomplish a dream. Supposedly, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s supposed to be the ideal.

Instead of making fun of his attempt, we should thank him for the reminder:

Lofty goals are OK, too.

• Deron Snyder can be reached at deronsnyder@gmail.com.

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