Monday, May 14, 2012

The Tim Tebow Phenomenon

Unless you were hibernating last winter or stranded on a U.S. airport taxiway awaiting takeoff, you’re no doubt aware of the attention surrounding Tim Tebow, lately of the New York Jets.

Tebow is arguably the biggest draw in the NFL, America’s premier sports league. His jersey sales are among the leaders. He is discussed in minute, excruciating detail on the sports channels. And his larger-than-life celeb status has his photo in all the magazines of choice for those who follow the gossip.

However, there are plenty of vocal critics who denigrate his throwing motion, who question a team’s need to build an offense suited to his specific (and some argue, limited) skills, and who foresee his likely inability to become a bona fide NFL quarterback over the long term.

Others detest him for his religious displays and his kneeling in prayer on the field, a fad now popularly known as “Tebowing.” Many find it offensive that he uses football to take his message beyond the playing field, which he does enthusiastically and unapologetically.

He is both loved and reviled for his religious displays and beliefs in a nation where there seems to be little or no middle ground remaining.

Why is Tebow such a polarizing figure? After all, he’s a willing role model, a good citizen, and a man of faith who is building a children’s hospital in the Philippines. His good works are authentic and numerous.

Mothers (and probably many fathers) would want him as a son-in-law. Some would prefer that he leave football and enter politics, eventually seeking the presidency itself.

And he’s a winner. Americans love winners, right? Tebow was a part of two BCS national championships at the University of Florida. He was awarded the Heisman Trophy in 2007. He’s in the conversation as being perhaps the greatest football player in collegiate history. In the pros, he lit a fire under a lackluster Denver Broncos team and took them to the playoffs last season, defying the naysayers and validating his standing among his growing legion of followers. According to Twitter, immediately after his 80-yard touchdown pass to beat the Pittsburg Steelers in the wild-card playoffs, 9,420 tweets per second were generated.

I confess to being a Tebow admirer. I certainly didn’t like it when his Florida Gators were beating my Georgia Bulldogs in all but one of their meetings, but I always admired Tebow. And I still do.

As for the controversy, is one man kneeling in prayer, humbly and sincerely, really such a threat?

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