NFL Spotlight: Tim Freakin' Tebow
Even if you’re not a huge football fan, it’s hard to avoid Tim Tebow, who has practically become a household name. A devout and outspoken Christian, the college-superstar-turned-Denver Broncos quarterback has emerged as one of the most polarizing players in sports history. Both taunted and supported for his beliefs he is at once a media darling and whipping boy.
As proof of how Tebowmania has driven the media insane, ESPN SportsCenter devoted an entire hour to the Denver Broncos rookie. Seriously. The programming caused #SCTebow to achieve the No. 1 trend ranking on Twitter during the show.
A gifted athlete, Tebow was known for wearing Bible verses on his eye black long before his days as a Heisman trophy winner and two-time National Champion at Florida. Now, as one of the most talked about players in the NFL –every sports fan has an opinion one way or another - Tebow makes headlines for everything from his jersey sales (he has the second best selling jersey in the NFL shop) to his new haircut.
For many, Tebow first came to attention during Super Bowl XLIV when he appeared in two 30-second ads for the socially conservative group Focus on the Family. The high profile ads spawned a horde of detractors blasting him for the group's pro-life message.
The ads tell the story of Tebow’s mom who faced life-threatening complications while pregnant with him. At the time, his parents were missionaries in the Philippines where doctors were convinced his mother would die if she didn't abort "Timmy". She refused citing her religious beliefs, and the rest is history.
The fact is Tebow’s family genuinely believes he was born to do great things. He has a unique story —from the circumstances of his birth, to his home-schooled roots, to his record-setting collegiate football career with the Florida Gators. His 257-page autobiography, "Through My Eyes," details his faith, his will to succeed and, in certain passages, his commitment to abstinence. Yes, you read that right. The good-looking 23 year old is saving his virginity for marriage.
Credit Image: © Louis Lopez/Cal Sport Media/ZUMAPRESS.com
The ever growing buzz surrounding the Broncos quarterback has placed personal faith in a giant spotlight alongside Sunday NFL games. Tebow's praying motion, knelt down on one knee with his head in hands, has morphed into an internet phenomena where fans post pictures of themselves mimicking the action in costumes or bizarre locations. Some even get tattoos of Tebow praying.
Kneeling down to pray after a good play or score in football is something that has been done by players for decades so it’s a bit puzzling why Tebow seemingly gets credit for it. The pose has actually transformed into a verb as ridiculous as "Tebowing" sounds. There’s also "Tebow Time" getting "Tebowed" and a host of other chants Denver fans regularly use to honor their QB. And with Christmas around the corner, a Gainesville fan has even created a unique “Tebowing” lights display.
Tebow, who was picked in the first round of the 2010 draft, still has a lot to prove in the NFL but it appears he has already demonstrated his worth to many Bronco fans. His starting stats aren't anything special but he has posted a number of wins which is really the only stat that matters. Infact, it seems a miracle is delivered on an almost weekly basis. It will be interesting to see if the same fans that have embraced Tebow will feel the same way about this God-sent player if Denver doesn’t win the Super Bowl this year.
Love him or hate him, Tebow has got a lot of character. By all accounts he's very talented though somewhat of a paradox. He has a strong arm and great agility which seems to compensate for his unconventional form. He does things that most quarterbacks dare not to do in the NFL...like run the ball (some purists say it’s because he doesn't pass as well as he should). Tebow has yet to deliver on his promise and many pundits feel he'll never be a franchise quarterback until he greatly improves his accuracy and throwing motion.
Sportscaster John Anderson sums up the divide pretty well by saying:
"Tebow lovers think he can walk on water, Tebow detractors say he only walks on water b/c he can't swim."
Tebow is reputed to be a genuinely nice guy though which is a rarity. He is known as a team player who inspires those around him. He even volunteers to help orphans in the Philippines during his spare time. His spirituality may be part of his allure and for many, he is a role model .
Tebow isn’t the first NFL player to be outspoken about his faith. But he might be the first to ascend to unprecedented heights of notoriety because of constant media coverage. In the press room after each win, Tebow begins by thanking his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"Part of the phenomena we're seeing with Tebow is not nearly that he is a gifted athlete and a devout Christian, but that the social media and the immediacy of it's impact have generated a great deal of the fervor about his position," said Joseph Price, author of "Rounding the Bases: Baseball and Religion in America" and "From Season to Season: Sports as American Religion".
It will be interesting to see how Tebow continues to reference and utilize his faith amid the groundswell of attention and headlines. He has over a half a million Twitter followers (@TimTebow) and trends regularly (#Tebow). He also has nearly a million Facebook fans with whom he shares Bible verses as he preps for games. His signature GB2 stands for God Bless + Go Broncos.
"At the end of the day," Tebow often says, "it's more important who you are than how you play on the field." Regardless of career, that’s good advice.
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