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My Take: A Colorado Christian bids farewell to Tebow
March 24th, 2012
10:16 AM ET

My Take: A Colorado Christian bids farewell to Tebow

Editor’s note: Patton Dodd is the managing editor of Patheos and the author of The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football’s Most Polarizing Player.

By Patton Dodd, Special to CNN

Denver, Colorado (CNN) - As a lifelong Denver Broncos fan, I’d have to be crazy to second-guess my team’s signing of the great quarterback Peyton Manning, assuming he’s as healthy as Broncos’ Vice President John Elway wishes him to be. And I’m not crazy.

I got chills watching Manning hold up the new #18 Broncos jersey at his introductory press conference, and I’ll be counting the days until his September debut.

But as a Tim Tebow scribe, general religion nerd, and sucker for inspirational sports stories, I’m mourning the loss of something special, something larger than football, and something Denver may never have again no matter how many championships the team wins.

Tim Tebow is moving to New York to play for the Jets.

Ten weeks ago last Sunday, I fell to my knees in my friend’s living room as Tebow threw a strike to wideout Demaryius Thomas to open overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the NFL playoffs. Thomas ran 80 yards for the score that won the game, and I genuflected before the television, shouting Tebow’s name.

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He had thrown for 316 yards, led my Broncos to their first playoff win in six years, and made good on a season of shaky promise.

On that day, Tebow wasn’t just what he had been all season long — a polarizing religious athlete, questionable quarterback and reliable comeback kid. As I watched Thomas saunter into the end zone, I saw Tebow finally cementing his place with the Denver Broncos. Whatever happened the next week didn’t matter (and it’s a good thing, because the Broncos would get crushed by the New England Patriots).

Tim Tebow was the future of the Denver Broncos, and the future was now.

On Monday morning, a co-worker popped over to my desk to see if I had heard the news: “Peyton Manning chose Denver. They’re signing him today.”

I shouted and clapped my hands. I spent the next hour drowning my head in Twitter for confirmation after confirmation that yes, the Broncos had nabbed the most decorated free agent ever. Peyton Manning — Peyton Manning! — was a Denver Bronco.

Later that morning, someone asked me how I felt about Tim Tebow.

He hadn’t yet crossed my mind.

Maybe I’m fickle — it’s a familiar trait of sports fans — or maybe I’m devoted to the Broncos first and their players second. My childhood bedroom was an orange and blue shrine wallpapered with clippings of Broncos stories from the Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post and Sports Illustrated.

As an adult, my love of sports has merged with my love of studying religion, and I’ve been tracking the Tebow story and its religious angles since he entered the University of Florida. Last fall, I wrote a Tebow e-book and several Tebow stories, gave dozens of interviews on the Tebow phenomenon, and treated Broncos games like pieces of performance art.

They were frustrating and weird and begging to be interpreted, as the Broncos scored precious few points but often won by hook or by crook of Tebow’s stubborn heroics, punctuated by prayer and a post-game shout-out to a sick young man or woman whose presence at the game was always the best part of Tebow’s day.

I love Tebow’s story in part because it’s a misunderstood story. He gives the lie to many stereotypes about conservative evangelicals. Sure, he has missionary zeal, and his faith rises to the surface of his language with regularity, but he isn’t a virulent culture warrior.

He doesn’t seem to see Christianity as something that needs to be protected from outsiders or critics. He doesn’t have a public faith agenda beyond saying Jesus’ name after games and helping sick people. He doesn’t even believe God helps him win football games — all that game-time prayer is reflexive religious passion, pure and simple.

If Tebowing taught us anything, it’s that plenty of people of all faiths don’t have a problem with public prayer, at least when politics is out of the picture.

To be sure, lots of people didn’t want to hear this larger-than-football Tebow story, including many football storytellers. In the press box of one game I attended last year, I watched as a reporter took a knee — mocking Tebowing — before the kickoff and prayed aloud, “Oh God, please tear his ACL today and make all of this finally stop.”

Another reporter told me, “You’re here to cover the culture story. We are covering the sports story.”

No argument here — but the culture story of Tim Tebow brought a lot of people to sports last year, and it gave sports people the occasion to reflect on the meaning of the game.

There was plenty of Tebow hatred and Tebow fatigue — and plenty more ignorance of the content and meaning of Tebow’s faith — but there was also a remarkable amount of thoughtful, generous responses to this unique religious sports figure. One of the most shared and most discussed sports articles I’ve seen in ages was Rick Reilly’s “I Believe in Tim Tebow,” an account of Tebow’s habit of meeting with the sick and dying before and after every football game.

Or take Chuck Klosterman’s “The People Who Hate Tim Tebow,” an attempt to understand the epistemology of faith, fandom, and disbelief. How often do we get reflections like that in the middle of a sports season?

Tebow didn’t add the qualities of virtue and faith to sports — they were already there in spades, but his story forced us to pay close attention. Were Norman Mailer alive, he may have delivered to us something like his famous coverage of Muhammad Ali. Mailer may or may not have liked Tim Tebow, but he would have recognized the young athlete as a moment of American culture that warranted a major response.

So I do have mixed feelings about the Broncos’ move. Winning with Manning will be fun, but winning with Tebow is the better story.

Shortly after New England finished decimating the Denver in the playoffs, I sat in the interview room at Gillette Stadium waiting for Tebow to emerge from the locker room. I wasn’t the only “culture” writer there — GQ, The New Yorker, and People had reporters in the room, because at the time Tebow was still the nation’s biggest story. Still, the only questions being asked of Tebow were about football.

But near the end of the interview session, I reminded Tebow that his season had provoked nationwide discourse on religion, especially about the relationship between winning and faith. “The Bible says, ‘Victory belongs to the Lord,’” I told him. “But what about losing? How do you make sense of losing in light of your faith?”

Tebow answered, in part, that his job was to give God glory, win or lose: “Whether I’m the hero or the goat, I still honor the Lord and give him glory, because he’s deserving of it. Just like my faith shouldn’t change, neither should that.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Uncategorized

soundoff (469 Responses)
  1. Why Does God Hate Amputees?

    Never in the history of mankind has an amputee grown an arm or a leg despite TONS and TONS prayers and rivers of tears. Why does god hate amputees so much?

    March 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • JAUNTY HUMPHREYS

      Hello friend ................... My God does not hate Amputees. So sorry to hear that yours does.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  2. Realist

    When is Tebow FINALLY going to come out??

    March 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • JAUNTY HUMPHREYS

      Yikes Realist ................ Living in your small world,looks like you missed the train. Mr Tebow came out a long time ago. Sounds like you ought to let Jesus call you out, like Lazuris, of the grave your in and have some REAL fun with this football story. Jaunty

      March 24, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Realist

      Well it sure looks like he's "out" but I'm not sure if he's made it official. 😉 I wonder what else will fall out of his closet?

      March 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  3. tallulah13

    Poor Patton Dodd. His man-crush is moving on.

    March 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  4. Martin

    Dodd obviously doesn't ask "what would Jesus do"....Jesus called public prayer the act of a hypocrite, which is what Tebow is...he supports religious hate groups and partisapates in young male genital mutilation in the Philipines...

    March 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  5. Major Tom

    Tebow is a modern day prophet for tiny minds and sheep who hunger to be led and who have zero capacity for thought.

    March 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  6. palintwit

    When Sarah Palin arrives, teabaggers are sure to follow. And teabaggers bring with them the trailer parks. And trailer parks bring nascasr tracks. Nascar tracks breed John Birchers, the KKK, republicans and Walmart. It's a vicious circle that's eroding our country. So very, very sad.

    March 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  7. tony

    I think the belief blog creates more atheists by the minute, than most churches create believers by the year.

    March 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • TheBob

      And nothing creates more atheists than reading the Bible. Over 95% of the people who consider themselves Christian have never actually read the Bible. I don't mean reading or hearing a verse here or there. I mean actually reading the damn thing from cover to cover, UNCENSORED, not the watered down Sunday school version. No rational, healthy, moral human being can read the Bible and remain a believer.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Martin

      I was raised a Baptist. It only takes ONE cogent thought to create an Atheist.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  8. Philo99

    My children are taught not to worship false prophets. My children spend their Sundays reading the bible not worshiping media icons on the football field.

    Just a few months ago Tim Tebow was doing fundraising for a religious hate group. That uses funds not to feed the poor but to spread their hate and to condemn. Supporting groups like Focus on the Family is the most un-Christlike thing a Christian can do. Jesus tells us not to judge but to love. Tim Tebow supported this group to gain more popularity. from the false Christians of hate.

    March 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Martin

      you are correct...

      March 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Well, it's refreshing to see that someone who is Christian possesses the intelligence to separate the wheat from the chaff. Well done.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • sarah thompson

      "Jesus tells us not to judge but to love. Tim Tebow supported this group to gain more popularity. from the false Christians of hate."

      Is it just me... or did you just judge?

      March 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Adam

      Good to hear. Thank you for showing that you can be a Christian without being some little sheep.

      March 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • GK

      Sarah Thompson, why is drawing logical conclusions based on the evidence at hand "judging"? God gave us brains, and he expects us to use them. If we allow ourselves to be duped by people just because they call themselves "Christians", are we using our brains? I am sure that Satan loves people who are easily fooled by his deception. He can use even that which appears pure and sacred to his evil ends.

      March 24, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  9. jnpa

    Let's get real here, IT'S A GAME, get over it, move on!

    March 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  10. Bootyfunk

    this
    is
    a
    story....?

    March 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Pokydoke

      Given no religious indoctrination, children and other living things are naturally atheists. You have to beat it into them to get them to believe. Nice.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • tony

      10,000 mindless repeated posts and counting. Got a Rosary?

      March 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • just sayin

      All creation is in Gods order and following the pattern in obedience to God. The only exceptions are those angels who rebelled and mankind which is given free will to choose or reject God. Children born come directly from the throne of God and should be returned to God after a brief lifespan on earth. Evil diverts some as evidenced by those even here who have rejected God. Woe to them and more so as they influence innocents.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Religion Poisons Everything

      Snapping my fingers changes things. Every time I snap my fingers something changes.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Martin

      prayer is doing nothing, thinking you're helping

      March 24, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • just sayin

      Or is prayer the most important thing you may ever do?

      March 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It it's the "most important thing YOU ever do", just sayin, then you wouldn't be here, masturb8ing by posting incessantly.

      Get a clue, MORON!

      March 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • GK

      I'm prayimg that you would cease and desist, but so far it hasn't worked at all.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  12. RCinSC

    Something special happened as Tebow played for the Broncos last year. He is first to admit he is not as good at playing QB as he needs to be, and thus seeks to be coached to become a better QB. He offers to work extremely hard, and do all he can to help his team win. He gives all credit for wins to his team. He is devout in his faith, and not preachy. He seems to make many people uncomfortable, as some of them work so hard to denigrate him...while he spends his time and focus to bring a nice day to someone less fortunate. It seems that he is a great role model of genuine goodness that makes many of us love and root for him, even though he is flawed as a QB...and he makes many other very uncomfortable in themselves and thus lash out at him.

    March 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gee. And do you honestly think there aren't MILLIONS of ordinary folks just as selfless, honorable, dedicated, and worthy? Please, enough with the mindless hero-worship of these athletes who make millions.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The Broncos season wasn't that special. Sadly, a lot of really good efforts by the defense, and especially by kicker Matt Praeter, were overshadowed by Tebow's showboating. Others have claimed that kneeling is an act of humility, but there is nothing humble about singling yourself out in front of thousands in the stands and potentially millions of TV viewers.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • GK

      Oh, come on! Are you really this gullible and vapid? I can't wait to see Jets fans tear this guy apart. Who knows, maybe God sent him there to get him to finally shut up!!!

      March 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  13. doug

    I fell to my knees in my friend’s living room as Tebow threw a strike to wideout Demaryius Thomas to open overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the NFL playoffs. Thomas ran 80 yards for the score that won the game, and I genuflected before the television, shouting Tebow’s name.

    Maybe that is why Tim is gone. You should be shouting the Lord's name, not Tebow's. Even Tim would say that. Are you really a Christian? I weep for this younger generation of Chjristians who seem like only sucess in the field validates their existence. Tim does not feel that way.

    March 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • portland tony

      AMEN to that!

      March 24, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How do you know how Tebow feels? Have you spoken with him?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  14. # 15

    Christian Tebow makes news repeatedly on the belief blog and draws the non-believers by the droves, begging for more 😉

    March 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Tebow "draws" comments from those who are atheists and agnostics because idiots like you worship him.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • tony

      Christian?

      March 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Nah. I just think it's funny that christians get all hot and bothered about a person who is essentially a mediocre NFL quarterback. Unless he radically changes his game, he will spend quality game time sitting on a bench, not kneeling on the field.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  15. portland tony

    Goes to show ya, America along with a bunch of evangelicals have long lost faith in the ultimate triumph of human goodness and have turned to anyone, who gets enough press coverage, for salvation. Be it a good looking football player or an Asian basketball star, these zealots don't care. They just need someone or something to worship! Sad.

    March 24, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • JAUNTY HUMPHREYS

      Who"s your god Tony?

      March 24, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • portland tony

      @JH.. There is no "who" in my God. But I'll bet there's a good baseball player you can fall down and worship! At least until Tim gets back on the field!

      March 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  16. JAUNTY HUMPHREYS

    Hello Patton ...... Wow, another Patton,Peyton,Payton, makes his mark ..... Great article here my friend. I have been a Radio Personality for over 40 years now. Once working afternoos at KLTT/Denver (80KLITE) in 1986. Thats when i became a bronco supporter. Never have i had so much fun watching "my team" as the second half of last year. Polorizing is the word. And my faith in Jesus just jumped in delite as my wife and i watched this Christian Athlete make every moment count on the field of valor. I have had to say words for a living, not spell them, so please bear with my spelling. Patton, what i beleive we had the previlage to see last year was nothing short of watching what i will call "THE COMPLETE ATHLETE". I would liken it as unto the picture of the Pre-Saved Jew coming to Christ. He then is finally complete. My heart aches for more Soldiers on the football field to come to Jesus. That brings me to this idea. What if Jesus himself could have taken Mr Tebow out of the Denver Bronco lineup, and placed him in New York City? All that being said, i now have two teams to follow this fall. Never in a million years did i think that the New York Jets had anything to offer. Now they have my BROTHER IN CHRIST. Write me,and we will exchange thoughts on how we can better pray for this fine man, and our beloved Broncos. Wow, wouldnt it be just tope if they ,The Broncos and the Jets, found themselves in a SuperBowl some day? Give my Gospel Music Show a listen on Sunday Morninings at 7Am your time. All of Jesus' best to you and yours ... John Timothy Humphreys – GOSPEL'S GLORY ROAD – KOHORADIO.COM –

    March 24, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • JAUNTY HUMPHREYS

      Jesus wants you to give me money. Turn on my radio program and find out how you can help Jesus by giving me money. You will go to hell if you don't give me money.

      Call now – operators are standing by.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  17. michael wiltse

    Thanktou Peyton for choosing Broncos! Tim is a Great young Man......I am sure he will watch your skills and focus on football,and your character. You have been through the battle! Fans will cheer because..of your skill set,student of the game outlook.The Team will ralley! This is pro football,Tuff business! Nuff said.

    March 24, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  18. Atheist

    Meanwhile, children starve.

    Can we please get our priorities straight here? All this idol worshiping a guy who throws a ball and happens to belong to a particular religion is simply nuts.

    March 24, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  19. Sue

    A Colorado atheist says, goodbye Tim. Best of luck in your next job, but there's no god to help your football game and you'd be better thinking than praying, and then doing some real and positive action if you sincerely want to help the world.

    As the saying goes, 1 pair of hands working to solve a problem does more good than1 billion pairs of hands praying (whether the owners of the praying hands are in tebow position or not).

    March 24, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • DAP

      Sorry, Sue. Tim has galvanized millions of praying AND working hands. He gives comfort to the sick, helps the poor and is building a hospital in the Phillipines. People of faith ARE the ones who take action in this world while all too often people without faith criticize.

      March 24, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • John

      But Sue, he does participate in "real and positive action". Where have you been? I'm not religious at all myself but I find avowed atheits to be the most self-righteous pompous people around. Your post sort of proves that.

      March 24, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Prove that Tebow has "galvanized" anything other than fan-dom.

      March 24, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Jeremy

      Hey DAP don't get it twisted, there are millions of agnostics, atheists, christians, muslims and buddhists who change the world every day...and quietly. While people like you of "real faith" toot their own horns and beg for attention and praise. If you could just shut up and do good then no one would bother you, but you can't handle good for good's sake, you have to make sure everyone knows how great you are. Is that what Christ taught you?

      March 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Sue

      Sorry, DAP, but you are the one who is wrong. Those benefits are non sequiturs that have nothing to do with any result of the prayers, nor with any divine action.

      Care to try again, stupid?

      March 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  20. Tim

    Reblogged this on HD Nazarene.

    March 24, 2012 at 10:24 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.