Even GOP Candidates Court Broncos' QB, But He Says He's Declined The Offers

DENVER (AP) – He kneels in prayer at times when many players would be pounding their chest, and is winning with a style the experts insist cannot work for long.

Tim Tebow‘s formula for success and fame is not typical for the NFL. So, is it a football miracle? Or the perfect blend of luck, timing and big plays? That’s the debate that makes the tale of the Denver Broncos quarterback one of the most compelling stories in America these days.

Hardly anyone stands on neutral ground when it comes to the purveyor of this unorthodox mix of throwing mechanics, big-time sports and devout religion, a 24-year-old Christian who is the subject of comedy skits on Saturday nights and serious sermons on Sunday mornings.

But what most people will agree on is that it’s hard to take your eyes off Tebow these days – a man who unapologetically uses football to take his message beyond the field while also taking his team on an unexpected ride through the playoffs.

“I’m just very thankful for the platform that God has given me, and the opportunity to be a quarterback for the Denver Broncos – what a great organization,” Tebow said after his latest shocker – an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime Sunday to beat Pittsburgh 29-23 in the wild-card playoffs.

The play, according to Twitter, spawned a record 9,420 tweets per second.

Not lost in that flurry was that Tebow threw for 316 yards and set an NFL playoff record by averaging 31.6 yards. That’s “316,” as in John 3:16, one of the most-often cited Bible passages for Christians, the most widely searched item on Google for much of Sunday night into Monday, and the message Tebow used to stencil into the eyeblack he wore when he played college ball at Florida.

Not that referencing the Bible or thanking God is anything new in sports. After NFL games for years, a small group of athletes gather around midfield, kneel, hold hands and pray. That devotion has been largely ignored or even criticized by media and fans.

“The thing with Tebow is that he seems more genuinely religious than most athletes, who seem to be religious to win games,” said Clifford Putney, author of the book “Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920.”

That might help explain why Tebow’s gestures are not being overlooked, but part of an ever-growing sensation. It started building when he won the Heisman Trophy and two national titles at Florida, though he was steeped in strong religion well before that – born in the Philippines to missionary parents.

More recently, he introduced mass culture to the art of “Tebowing” – kneeling on one knee, elbow perched on the other, fist to forehead – while chaos is erupting around him. The practice now has its own website, with pictures of people Tebowing in a research lab, in front of the Sydney Opera House, in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, etc.

Entertaining as all that has been, it has made fans and the media rethink the way they judge and cover their sports stars. Reporting that a player was including the Lord in his postgame analysis has long been widely thought of as trite and inappropriate, something to simply skip over when typing in the quotes.

Tebow’s five fourth-quarter comebacks and his four overtime victories – each more improbable than the last – and his steady, genuine, yet somehow unassuming insistence on bringing God into the conversation has forced an uncomfortable question upon those who want to make it only about what happens between the lines.

Does God really care about football?

“Not one whit,” said Joe Price, a professor in the religious studies department at Whittier College. “But does God care about people who play football? You betcha.”

In a sports season filled with unsavory stories – NFL and NBA labor wars, child sex abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse, and a baseball MVP accused of using steroids – Tebow is seen by many as a sports star who really could be a role model, contrary to what Charles Barkley or anyone else might say.

Tim Tebow receives high fives from fans after the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 8, 2012, in Denver. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

But the Tebow angst still exists, in large part because there is seemingly no way to analyze what he does on a football field without religion seeping into at least some part of that analysis.

Opine about his unorthodox throwing motion – widely derided by scouts and coaches and seemingly more suited for tossing a boomerang than a football – and the quick assumption becomes that you might not like him because of his religious beliefs.

Defend him as a winner who cares less about conventionality and depends more on moxie than mechanics – well, then you must be drinking the Kool-Aid, a Tebow fan because you’re in line with his Christian beliefs.

PHOTO GALLERY: Broncos 29, Steelers 23

“I still have doubts about him as a long-term answer, as I think most reasonable people do,” said radio host Sandy Clough, who has been manning Denver’s sports talk shows for more than 30 years. “Does one game, if he plays well, not only invalidate his play from the other (bad) games but anything anyone’s ever said about it? Well, no it doesn’t. It’s all part of the mix. It’s a fascinating mix. He’s the toughest player I’ve ever had to analyze, because there are all these extraneous factors you have to bring in.”

Sensing the excitement and loving his message, Tebow is also being courted by Republican presidential candidates. The quarterback recently told The Associated Press he’s been asked by more than one of the contenders for his support. He wouldn’t name names, but did say he’d declined the offer.

“I think you have to have so much trust in who you support, just from product endorsements to endorsing a candidate because if that person or company does something (bad), it reflects on you,” said Tebow, who’s a pitchman for Nike, Jockey and FRS energy drink.

Tebow has, however, placed himself in the political realm before – two Super Bowls ago when he starred in a Focus on the Family commercial with his mother sharing the story of how she gave birth to him in the Philippines in 1987 after spurning a doctor’s advice to have an abortion for medical reasons. After being criticized for that ad, he didn’t do an encore and instead tries to toe the line of showing his religion without shoving it down people’s throats.

That hasn’t stopped people from mocking him – and worse.

After Tebow was particularly bad in an ugly loss to Buffalo on Dec. 24, comedian and talk show host Bill Maher sent out a tweet that basked in the QB’s misfortune, blaming Jesus for the loss. “And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler `Hey, Buffalo’s killing them,'” Maher tweeted.

Maher, in turn, was roundly ripped for the post.

Less toxic was the recent skit on “Saturday Night Live,” where “Jesus” materializes in the locker room with an actor portraying Tebow, admits he is pulling some strings during these Bronco games, then after being told the New England Patriots are next on the schedule, suggests Tebow substitute his playbook, “the holy Bible,” for one with some Xs and Os.

The “SNL” Jesus also concedes that he, personally, prays to the Broncos place-kicker, Matt Prater, whose excellence has defined what the Tebow sensation has been about for most of this season: a bunch of teammates, motivated by a less-than-perfect leader who never gives up, coming together and picking each other up when the going gets tough.

A great story line that has held most of the year.

The twist on Sunday, though, was that for the first time this season, it could reasonably be argued that Tebow was a one-man show. In the win over Pittsburgh, he completed five passes of 30 yards or more. And with his defense struggling, he threw a perfect strike for the game-winner to receiver Demaryius Thomas, who didn’t have to change his stride and, thus, ran untouched into the end zone.

“He was the same Tim, calm and collected,” Thomas said. “He took it one play at a time and was in the huddle and said, `It’s either we win or we go home.'”

By EDDIE PELLS, AP National Writer

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (121)
  1. test says:

    The fast black

  2. Play Yard says:

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  6. PixelDuster says:

    It’s so nice to see so many people acknowledging the good of people. Maybe there is hope for this country yet!

  7. no says:

    What the fick is a tebow.

  8. Mark Sands says:

    I would be very surprised if Tim Tebow considered himself religious. True Christianity should be the least religious of all the belief systems, including atheism and secular humanism.

    Jesus was decidedly opposed to religious practices. The except is noted in James 1. True Christianity is about relationship and springs from a deep, deep love of our Saviour. Love for all people will always flow out of the true Christian. Tim Tebow is an example of that, but with an amazing platform to show it.

  9. Drake says:

    What if Tebow was black? Do you believe the criticism would be the same? This whole Tebow thing is just the result of envy.

  10. nolie says:

    One more reason to like Tebow. If only the slobbering maddog liberals in Hollywood and in sports would follow his example and spare us their “thoughts” on politics.

  11. Sparky2 says:

    Tebow is smart not to endorse anyone because he is already despised by the liberal media and athiest groups. He will be a great candidate for the senate when he decides to leave football….and of course he will be a republican conservative. But for now, he will and should stay out of politics.

  12. alisa kablotsky says:

    Tim Tebow would do well to remember what the Bible says about praying in public:

    Matthew 6:5-6
    5: And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
    6: But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    Showing off is not showing faith. Forcing your faith down your teammates throats is not faith. He’s just doing it to show off. Not a good thing for someone who says he’s a Christian to do.

  13. Evangalic Atheist says:

    Being forced too wach Tebow commit prayer at football games violates my first amendment right to seperation of church and state. WHy dont atheists sue him for forcing his religioun on others?

    1. Richard says:

      Uummm…because he’s not. One, you are not forced to watch the Broncos games. Two, the NFL is not the Federal, state, or local government. Three, there is no constitutional right to not be offended.

      Tebow isn’t forcing anything on anyone. Just change the channel. Watch the Cowboys or Eagles. But please…actually read the Constitution someday. You just might actually learn something. Like there’s no actual ‘separation of church and state”. That is from a Supreme Court ruling in the 60’s. What the Bill of Rights does say is that the “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Meaning Congress shall not create a state sponsored religion, nor make a law against any religion. It says nothing about a private entity such as the NFL, Broncos, CBS or Tim Tebow. They are all free to pray, worship and believe anything, anywhere and yes even on tv.

      Sorry about using facts to answer your question. It happens.

  14. ed zeppelin says:

    >an uncomfortable question upon those who want to make it only about what happens between the lines.

    Does God really care about football?

    This is NOT the question. The real question raised by the Tebow phenomenon is: why are so many people so uncomfortable with Tebow’s unabashed and frequent mentions of’his lord and savior Jesus Christ’?

  15. William Merica says:

    Interesting take on the whole Tebow phenomenon.

    “What Businesses, Atheists and Believers Can Learn From Tim Tebow”

  16. Adam Smith says:

    Tebow played a great game. When Tebow came on as QB Denver was 1-4, going nowhere and turned around. The reality is that he is a great leader, he reads the field well, he is a very tough runner and, as we saw from the Pittsburgh game he can throw very accurate perfect long spirals but throws poor spirals that are inaccurate wobbling ducks for medium and short distances. As I see it, he can improve his short and medium throws by just adopting the motion he uses for his short throws. Work to be done but this is a second year player in his first year as a starter and in case anybody forgot, what matters is winning the game. The fact that he is a genuine, authentic, moral human being with a strong set of values is excellent but the main point is that since he came on Denver turned their year around. Great for him and for his team-mates who follow his lead and have become a resilient lot. It is sort of pathetic that all sorts of anti-Christian bigots hate him precisely because he is true to his values, because he genuinely lives his values by serving the unfortunate. They can worship philanderers like Clinton, or tax cheats like Rangel, or dog fighters like Vick but let someone actually believe that he should live out Christian values and this inspires intense hatred. Just remarkable . . . .and sad.

  17. mulistic says:

    To clarify, I am referring to the mass media’s treatment of Tim Tebow for as long as I can remember.

  18. mulistic says:

    It is amazing to me how thinly veiled is the hatred spewed by the “open minded” set. If I have learned nothing else in my near-half century of travels, I have found that the more adamantly pro-diversity and open minded a person claims to be, the less tolerance they have for anyone, or anything that differs from their beliefs.

  19. liz ramsey says:

    ‘But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;they shall mount up with wings as eagles;they shall run,and not be weary;and they shall walk ,and not faint Isaiah 41:31

  20. BRadNC says:

    Thank God for the REAL deal.

  21. snowwwizard says:

    for all the nay sayers – remember #16 the superbowl 25 mvp Jim Plunkett – he lived through ridicule and scorn as well as a QB and he couldn’t run or scramble but he was big 6’3″ and hard to bring down – in the end he got it done in ’81 – Raiders were wild card all the way and he lead them – BTW he took grief off the field as well for not partying all the time – why, cause he was doting on his parents because he was a good son , oh, and they were blind

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