Dec 07, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Okay, it sounds straightforward enough. The Denver Broncos were once 1-4, boring and irrelevant. Then it turned things around, winning six of seven to give itself a shot at the AFC West title in the closing stretch.
A strong running game with a resurgent Willis McGahee had something to do with it. So did stout defense. So did a sound kicking game, and so did the hard work and discipline instilled by new head coach John Fox, who engineered a similar feat at his previous gig in Carolina.
Oh yeah, and that quarterback part.
It isn’t a stretch to state that Tim Tebow has turned into the most debated figure in American sports. Depending on who you listen to, either he’s an inspiring leader whose Christian faith and devotion contributes to his on-field success, or he’s a religious zealot that ought to stick to football and shouldn’t try to convert anyone.
What further complicates matters is the cacophony of analysis surrounding Tebow as a player. Either he’s the prime reason Denver is contending, with so many late-game comebacks and clutch drives, or he’s a liability and bad fit and ought to be looking for another job (or another profession) instead of infecting the NFL waters.
None of the above is completely true, and a lot of this is downright silly. What isn’t in dispute, though, is that Tebow’s overt Christian faith colors the way he is critiqued. And that’s not entirely fair.
Really, you have to go all the way back to his high school days. With the missionary work he and his family have done in places like the Philippines, Tebow had all sorts of notoriety even before he stepped on the Florida campus.
His work in Gainesville only made things worse. Florida won two national titles, and Tebow claimed a Heisman. He was, without a dispute, a great college player, but as that took place, the anti-Tebow sentiment escalated, and not just in SEC circles.
Part of it was the onrush of praise in all media outlets about Tebow as a Great Player and Great Guy. That’s bound to cause resentment, and when religion is thrown into the hopper, that grows tenfold. A whole lot of people don’t want to be preached to.
Plus, Florida fans, the self-proclaimed “Gator Nation”, took to Tebow like a deity on Earth, feted him in a way that was a bit over-the-top even by SEC standards. They put his 2008 post-game speech after a loss to Ole Miss into an engraved memorial of sorts in the athletic complex.
Once out of the college realm, the pro crowd took over and dissected all things Tebow, most of them convinced he would never make it in the NFL. When Denver selected in the first round in 2010, the ridicule outside the Rockies was quite loud.
At the same time, a vast segment of fans, Broncos and otherwise, embraced Tebow, in large part because of that professed Christian faith. Tired of seeing stars in all sports tainted by all manner of scandal, they found, in Tebow, a role model, and were literally praying to see him succeed.
Small wonder, then, that when Denver had that 1-4 start and the chorus for Tebow grew louder, the know-it-alls dismissed it as sentiment over common sense. After all, they, and they alone, knew football, and they were sure Tebow would fail if he ever did start.
The ensuing two months have proved amusing. Week after week, the yak fests have centered on Tebow, with most of the “wise” men disparaging him for one reason or another, saying he will never, ever, ever get to be as good as Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers.
Then the Broncos win, usually in some dramatic manner, and the cycle repeats itself. People are breathless to report about how John Elway, now a head honcho in the Denver front office, doesn’t like Tebow and will find some kind of way to get rid of him. Then the Broncos win again and – well, you get the picture.
Why do I get the feeling that the NFL is terrified of Denver getting into the playoffs or, heaven forbid, making a run to the Super Bowl? They’re afraid it’s all going to turn into one big holy war, Tebow and his supporters on one end, the forces of reason on the other, with no way the divide can be bridged.
Here’s an idea for the bashers – try, if you possibly can, to separate Tebow the football player from Tebow the public figure. Denigrate his religion all you want, but allow him to have those strong convictions. Tell us he won’t make it until you’re out of breath, but then acknowledge that you’re wrong if the Broncos keep winning.
In an NFL season overwhelmed by the Packers’ pursuit of 19-0, Tim Tebow has made things a lot more interesting, believe him or not.