Mr. Tebow is everywhere. My 6-year-old son knows all about him, as do all of his little first-grade pals. There are probably homeless refugees in the Middle East who know how to Tebow.
Tebow mania is running amuck right now in our football-crazed culture.
Denver fans were clamoring on Opening Day, calling for Tebow when Kyle Orton was the starter. They eventually got their wish and Tebow got the starting gig, for which he rewarded them with their first playoff berth in six years and a first-round playoff home win over vaunted Pittsburgh.
I do get his appeal. He is a clean-cut young man, who is well-spoken and has stayed away from any negative publicity. Good for him, but he is getting far too much credit for Denver’s second-half success. Did the Broncos begin to win more because of him or in spite of him?
I now believe they are winning at least partially because of him. They do have solid defensive and special teams units, too. Initially I thought they might be winning more because of good defense and other teams’ woeful mistakes.
I do believe his positive mental outlook has to help at least some and is likely rubbing off on his teammates. It certainly can’t hurt. There is no doubt in my mind, the Broncos beat the Steelers Sunday because of him.
I just get sick of hearing so much about Tebow. It’s become too much. Football is the ultimate team game. There is more to the Broncos, and the entire NFL for that matter, than a statistically mediocre quarterback. Yet, he is what we hear about over and over again.
It’s become so bad that last week CBS was promoting the Denver-Pittsburgh game in a TV spot and I condescendingly said something negative about Tebow. Being a Raiders fan, I pretty much always cheer against the Broncos. My son and I don’t even refer to them by name really. We call them the Denver Turkeys. Don’t ask why, it was funny when my son was 3 and it’s stuck.
But that day my wife cut me short. She said, “Why wouldn’t you want your son to cheer for somebody like Tim Tebow? He has a good faith base. He is humble and always talks team first, giving his teammates more credit than himself. He plays and competes really hard to the final buzzer. What’s not to like? Really? Aren’t those all things you’d like your son to aspire to?”
So, after trying to catch my breath following that verbal assault to my gut, I took a few seconds to gather myself. It was yet another example of a conversation with my wife where I had little ground to stand on if I chose to argue back.
I’m sure I answered with something really deep and meaningful, like, “Yes dear.”
Shortly thereafter, it hit me that she was exactly right. Maybe that’s a bigger issue there ... it took me a while to realize she was right. Oops. Anyway, that’s another issue for another day.
Tim Tebow is likable. He never comes off as selfish or a me-first guy. He takes responsibility for his mistakes, which is especially impressive in a society where most people try to blame the other guy. He fights through adversity, often leading late-game comebacks despite horrific stat numbers through three quarters or more.
So again, my wife’s words of “What’s not to like?” have to be asked. While Tebow is very popular right now, he is also very polarizing. But that’s the case with any popular athlete. Millions of people love Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and Tom Brady, but millions love to hate them as well. If you are hated in professional sports, it probably just means you’ve arrived.
To make a long story short, I’d been railing on Tim Tebow for the better part of the last two months. But last weekend, watching Denver and Pittsburgh clash on the gridiron, I found myself cheering for him. I even understand why and I know I’m not the only one.
In America we love the story about the little guy. The guy who people believed couldn’t get the job done and then he finds a way to do just that, and in dramatic fashion. That is Tim Tebow and that’s why he is beloved, at least as long as he keeps winning in our what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world.
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s sports editor. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org