Denver Christians mourn Tebow’s departure, say they’ll root from afar
Tim Tebow will now be "Tebowing" for the New York Jets.
March 21st, 2012
02:28 PM ET

Denver Christians mourn Tebow’s departure, say they’ll root from afar

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) – When star quarterback Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos this week, Denver pastor Jim Mackey signed at the thought that Tim Tebow probably wouldn’t be wearing Broncos blue and orange next season. The Broncos don’t need two star quarterbacks and the New York Jets announced Wednesday that Tebow is now theirs.

“It was a topic of conversation last night,” Mackey said in a phone interview Wednesday, describing Tuesday night services at his Next Level Church.

“It is an emotional thing and a bit more emotional for people who have connected with Tebow’s expression of faith,” Mackey said. “Rather than just a QB controversy, which is not unique in the NFL, this does seem to have hit more of a personal nerve for those in the Christian community.”

Mackey’s church meets Tuesday nights, not Sunday mornings, because Mackey believes Sunday is a day for people to do Colorado things – skiing, hiking and Broncos games.

Tebow, who helped turn the bottom-dwelling Broncos into a playoff team last year, transcended sports with his overt professions of faith and his late game heroics, which led some to believe that God was on the young quarterback’s side.

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Throughout the season, Tebow’s jersey was flying off the racks and “Tebowing” – the act of getting down on one knee and praying while everyone around you does something else – became to be an internet meme and widely recognized symbol. Tebow quickly became the public face of FRS Company and Jockey; for months, it was hard to click on ESPN without hearing his name.

“Tim Tebow seems to have won the hearts of not only football fans in Denver but the people here at large,” said Rob Brendle, pastor at the evangelical Denver United Church. “One of the most exciting aspects of last season was that casual sports fans and those who aren’t even interested in football, like my wife, became captivated by the influence of Tim Tebow.”

“Around the water cooler and in church, there is sadness at the likelihood of his departure,” Brendle said, a few hours before the Jets announcement.

Though Tebow cashed in with endorsements, he also lent his face and celebrity to causes he believed in, many in the Denver area. Like many players, Tebow invited individual fans to his games. In his last game with the Broncos, a playoff face-off with quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Tebow hugged Kelly Faughnan, a 22-yard old female who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and whom the Tebow Foundation had invited to the game.

Brendle said that Tebow showed that you can be both good at sports and good at giving back.

“It is hard not to cheer for the Christian kid,” Brendle said.

Jim Daly, president of the Colorado Springs-based evangelical group Focus on the Family, teamed up with Tebow for antiabortion Super Bowl ad last year. The spot illustrated how comfortable Tebow is trumpeting his Christian beliefs, even on a polarizing issue.

“I think there is going to be this period of mourning for Tim Tebow’s departure,” Daly said. “I think that that affection that people have for Tebow goes well beyond Denver and his ability to play football.”

Daly says Focus still hopes to work with Tebow in the future.

“Regardless of where he is, he is a national celebrity and it would be great to work with him again – even if he is in New York,” Daly said.

Matthew Ware, Executive and Worship Pastor at Victory Church in Denver, said Tebow fans were hoping for the quarterback to stay local even after the Manning announcement.

“I think most people were hoping for a "both/and" instead of an "either/or" situation,” Ware said. “We love the idea that perhaps Manning could ‘disciple’ Tebow into greatness in the next few years.”

Many believers in Denver will now have to balance being a Broncos fan with rooting for a New York-based Tebow.

“Tebowmania has a magnetism and loyalty that's undeniable,” Ware said. “While most people will ultimately support their home team, once in a while a player comes along that wins your heart. Tebow is that kind of player. He'll have Denver fans no matter where he plays.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Christianity • Colorado • New York • Sports • United States

soundoff (1,423 Responses)
  1. Pope on a Rope

    God is just testing Tim Tebow. Because as an all powerful, supernatural being in charge of the entire universe, he doesn't have shít else to do.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • I'm with you

      god has to set priorities, and the home team for Tebow just went to the top of the list. The sick and dying will just have to wait.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  2. mountaindawg

    Thank God Tebow is gone. I'm a Georgia fan who just moved back to Colorado last year. I had to hear about him endlessly for his four years in college and then endlessly on Denver radio last year. He's overhyped and overrated by the "Christians" who think he can do no wrong. The NFL is a business. You are paid to produce results. 47% percent completion percentage is a joke in college much less the NFL. Hell, that's a joke in high school. Look at who he beat last year and look at who he lost to. Anybody with any knowledge of the NFL knows that he feasted on crappy teams and good teams destroyed him. Sure he beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs, barely, at home. Pittsburgh had several, several key injuries before and during that game and Roetlisberger could barely walk. I'm so sick of hearing "but he's such a good guy". Guess what, there are a ton of good guys in the NFL who can actually play. Good bye Timmy. Good luck to you. You're gonna need it.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  3. Cinman

    NYC area hasn't had so much fun since Norm 'big feet' Sneed. Tebow's light will not last long much past his 2nd bad throw. Lots of NFL folks give time/money to those who need it and bring them to games without bringing attention to themselves. God loves him no more/no less than anyone else and his on field work is meaningless to him.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  4. treblemaker

    John Elway better hope that Peyton's neck is sufficiently healed.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  5. Pope on a Rope

    As a quarterback, Tebow is a gimmick. The Jets can bring him in to run the wildcat for a few plays. But you're never going to win consistently with someone who only completes 40% of his passes. They'd be better off converting him to tight end. If he can figure out how to run a rout and catch a ball, he'd be hard to stop.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  6. ProperVillain

    (rolls eyes) If your faith is shaken over the departure of someone who plays a game for a living maybe your faith isn't worth having...

    March 22, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • I'm with you

      Sounds like Tebow worship to me.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  7. Steve

    It's going to be interesting to read comments about the Broncos and Manning on Jan 2013. Winning in football is not an individaul sport. It takes positive faith and harmony to be a great team. Elway will wish he had Tebow back. He spent 95 million on
    on potential where he could have spent 10 million on another potential. Let's see if the extra 85 million is worth more than positive
    faith, harmony of the team and good feelings of the supporting fans.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • mountaindawg

      Potential? Four time NFL MVP, one Super Bowl win, and another SB appearance. One of the top five QB'S of all time. Yea, I'd say he has potential.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Tallulah13

      Which is exactly why Manning is better for a team than a guy why steals the spotlight for himself with self-serving on-field displays. The only thing Manning displays on the field is leadership and the ability to win.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  8. delectapix

    ...and now he has gone to Babylon.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  9. Ryan

    Wow man... I'm trying to be objective reading these posts and see this story from all angles... but honestly all I'm seeing is varying degrees of Tebow-hate. And it's a shame; because NONE of you even know the kid.

    To me all he's done is professed that he's a evangelical Christian. But he seems to be heavily involved in things that make people's lives better. Heavily involved in charity of all types. I don't understand the uproar against the man. What did he do to you?

    Since he said he's Christian, now everyone dissects his motives; and anything he does is regarded as "shoving his faith down your throat" when, in fact, a lot of people who don't claim to be Christian are involved in the same things he does. No one bashed those guys for it.

    What has he done wrong? Start charities? Been a upstanding citizen? Help others? He has not done all the things you say religious fanatics do, so I'm lost as to why there's this hatred.
    You guys just really seem to hate Christians. And if this guy represents what Christians are supposed to be like, I see no reason for it.

    Maybe your hate is aimed at some people who say they're Christians and really aren't.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      Let me make this easy for you. Like politics Religion does not belong in Football, it ruins the game for the non-believers and the non-Christians. Frankly I am sick of watching some guy run a touch down in to the endzone and point at the sky as if god cared anything about the sports we humans feel so strongly about. Secondly good deeds are good until you start braging about it or being demonstrative to the point where you are known for the religion you wear on your sleeve rather than the deed you are doing. Tebow has compromised both Christianity and the NFL in one fell swoop. I hope this helps...I am not hating Tebow as a quarterback or a Christian. As a man he has made stupid choices in how he wants to represent himself.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Scott

      Well said, Ryan, well said. The name of Jesus is so powerful that it invokes hatred from those who don't believe. You are either for him, or against him. There is no middle ground.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Over It

      Scott – "You are either for him [Jesus], or against him. There is no middle ground."

      In your black-and-white only world, perhaps.... so far away from realism.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Ryan

      Who are you to say where religion belongs?
      Who are you to tell us we can't enjoy something as much if someone associates Christianity with it?
      Are you actually telling me that a player pointing to the sky after a TD made scoring it less exciting or fun to watch? Are you seriously telling me that building a shelter or staring a cancer charity is less helpful to the people it benefits because the deed is done by someone who openly says he/she is Christian?
      That's ridiculous. None of that stuff affects me. If he were to help me if I were sick, I would fully accept the help whether he was or was not a Christian. There's no way that a player can run a 85 yard TD with no time left on the clock and ruin that enjoyment of it by pointing to the sky. That's just petty.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Greg

      I agree Ryan. People don't like the fact that his popularity is based on his outspokenness regarding his faith. They're annoyed by it, so they want to see him fail. That will make them feel better about themselves. The guy is a Heisman Trophy winner with 2 championships who has exceeded expectations at the pro level and has seemingly stayed humble and true to his faith all the while. He may never start again, but then again he might continue to improve in the mold of someone like Doug Flutie. But I don't remember seeing this same kind of hatred directed at Reggie Bush or Ricky Williams or Vince Young – former college superstars who never lived up to their talent or expectations, neither on the field nor off. I don't even see that much negativity directed toward Ben Rothlisburger, in spite of the character he has displayed off the filed. The negative sentiment toward Tebow is purely do to his display of faith and the fact that other Christians are rooting him on, and that's pretty sad, imo.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Scott

      Over it,

      You don't have to like Tebow or even me. It really doesn't matter. All I am saying is that the most basic difference between Christianity and other religions is where faith is placed. Good works, if there were ever such a thing, cannot save us from ours sins. It is in Christ's blood alone that can atone and bring about justification and salvation. I am not making this up, for God spoke it.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Over It

      Scott – "I am not making this up, for God spoke it."

      Really? What makes you think that?

      March 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Tallulah13

      I don't know the guy but I am not a fan of personal showboating on the field, even if it's religious in nature. That said, Manning has proven himself to be a great QB and leader. Football is a game, not a popularity contest, and Manning is simply a much better quarterback than Tebow.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Ryan

      Though I agree that Manning is clearly a better QB, I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "showboating." Kneeling has always been a sign of submission or assent. No one kneels to show off; by its cultural and social definition, kneeling is a sign of giving credit or allegiance to someone other than the self.
      Once again, it is his outspoken faith that makes people call this showboating when he does it; we see players kneel all the time on the sideline and no one has called it showboating until now.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Scott

      For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

      March 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Tallulah13

      Ryan, there is nothing humble about making a making a large physical gesture on a playing field in front of thousands of fans and potentially a national audience. If Tebow wishes to thank his god in a humble manner, he can pray on the sidelines while the next down is in play. Kneeling while the cameras are rolling is simply a "look at me" gesture – no more humble than any end zone dance.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  10. justme

    T T T Timmy and the jets? wow i feel a song coming on, any lyrics?

    March 22, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Mike

      If so, they'll need to work in the words "mediocre" and "overrated" a lot.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  11. CarrotCakeMan

    If Tebow's deity is so all-powerful why does it need this football player to provide it free advertizing?

    March 22, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  12. ThinkAgain

    Anyone who thinks God cares about professional sports and who wins is an imbecile. And if going to a new team lessens Tiebow's (or anyone else's) faith, then I feel sorry for them.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  13. Rob Anderson

    Good bye theocrate Hello Super Bowl !!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  14. Not All Docs Play Golf

    I, like many, grew up thinking the 3rd commandment (thou shall not take the name of the Lord they God in vain) referred to cursing. In reality, it means invoking God for personal gain...much like the plumber who puts the Christian fish symbol in his yellow pages ad to promote his business, or anyone who uses religion (politicians, anyone?) to promote themselves or gain from it. Many "Christian musicians" do this, getting rich selling Jesus rock music because they couldn't make it in pop. "Christian book stores" are a gold mine. Artist Thomas Kinkade used religion to promote his assembly-line art work to the naive. Or even a football franchise trying to revive itself by hiring a popular religious evangelical fan-magnet. Jesus himself would call all of these "moneychangers in the temple."

    March 22, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      Well said! The way these so called Christians flock to the money is heritical. The way some evangelicals have used financial success as a measurement of gods work on earth is also reversing the message that Jesus brought to us.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      To SurelyUjest.....yes...I find Joel Osteen and his "prosperity gospel" adherents utterly disgusting. I even once heard someone locally, talking about some good financial fortune that came their way, say "God has been loyal to us." WHAT !!??

      March 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  15. c5qu4r3d

    Shouldn't you folks be in church on Sundays?

    March 22, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  16. toby

    Being "good" christians, Denver-ites should be happy for New Yorkers that they now have TT to cheer for.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:37 am |

    Tim Tebow was a great person off the field, in his short time in Denver he did so much for the community. But on the field was a different story, he was not a great QB. Truthfully if he was not a "Christian" he would have lost the strating job almost immediately. He completed around 40% of his passes (Not good), and because of this the Broncos always found themselves with a 3rd and long...which was rarely converted. This wore down the defense and when they played good teams, he was not able to "lead them back". When there was hope the team rallied around Tebow...when they were down by 14 or more the team quit on him. True Broncos fans realize this is how it goes...players come and go...but the Team is always here. If you have to "split" your affection between the Broncos and Tebow (Jets), you are not a real fan...please stay away from Sports Authority Field.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  18. Manamal

    All I've got to say now is Broncos have a real quarterback. He's your problem now Jets.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  19. tl

    Jesus has left Denver, so now God really is behind the Jets!!! Whoever wins against the Jets must be backed by the Devil!!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  20. JoeW

    Didn't Tebow have one of the worst QB ratings last year?! This guy is phony icon capitalizing on christianity with a weak arm and mind to match. Another stellar move by Rex Ryan and co...

    March 22, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • tl

      couldn't agree more

      March 22, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • @youignantdotcom

      not "one of the worst"...THE WORST QB RATING IN THE NFL

      March 22, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Jeff

      Your comment shows you have never been around Timmy. Your loss. I remember this one Quarterback in college one year that would rather take a sack than throw the ball away to protect his passing efficiency rating. If you are so into numbers why not look at the teams win/loss category?

      March 22, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • JoeW

      Yeah, thats smart, lose yardage by taking a sack... Maybe Timmy's worse then i expected.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • @youignantdotcom

      "Your comment shows you have never been around Timmy. Your loss. I remember this one Quarterback in college one year that would rather take a sack than throw the ball away to protect his passing efficiency rating. If you are so into numbers why not look at the teams win/loss category?"

      Yeah ok, I guess Tim Tebow kicked game winning field goals, played middle linebacker and played on special teams too right? Wins and losses of that team were not do to tim tebow at QB. 2/8 for 70yards against the Chiefs? Are you kidding me?

      March 22, 2012 at 11:45 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.