DENVER — 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 24-year-old who is the subject of comedy skits Saturday nights and serious sermons Sunday mornings.
“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.
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 star who really could be a positive role model.
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, and the quick assumption becomes that you might not like him because of his religious beliefs. Defend him as a winner who depends more on moxie than mechanics – well, then you must be a Tebow fan because you’re in line with his Christian beliefs.
“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.”