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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. ThinkAgain

    Does this guy's boss know that when he heard that Manning was coming to Denver that he "spent the next hour drowning my head in Twitter"?

    March 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • aspire2see

      Most writers work on pieces like these at places at starbucks. Plenty of time to tweet.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  2. Henry

    The only thing Tebow's public religious proclamations tell us is that he just isn't very smart. Note to Tebow, there isn't a single eyewitness account of Jesus–30+ years after death, based on oral hearsay is the best we can do–and the rest of the Bible is a complete mess of historical untruths and pretzel logic. Good luck in NY, where actions matter more than words.

    March 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  3. fretlessbass

    It's so awesome. The headlines haven't been Peyton is going to Denver. They've all been about Tebow being dismissed and where he will go (Jets I know.) But, even though people may act like they hate him everyone is looking at him. Awesome- admit it.

    March 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  4. Bryan

    Per GK's request that I resubmit my comment, there is much that I would like to say here. However, what I have said is based upon a model of the physical multiverse that I am developing (essentially, the physics of how God interfaces with us through the natural world), and I don't believe what I really want to say is going to be communicable in a mere blogpost. You can't develop such a model in a few economical words. And my book is currently in the works–look for it, I hope, next year: The Pursuit of the Sower. But I stand by what I said. My reasoning mind is convinced that the universe (or multiverse) is an information network with signals traveling back and forth between particles; and like any such network or web (computer, brain), a consciousness emerges within that and it has to interface with us by making the quantum particles of the multiverse unfold in such a way that we perceive meaning in the eyes of our minds and through prayer can have a conversation with it. The multiverse as a whole can be likened to a computer–and I am convinced–to the Internet. This may sound unChristian to some, but I have found nothing in established faith that is contradicted by its emergence. When science and religion have a common model for the multiverse the world will be a much better place for it. Hopefully many of the divisions which presently rock society over controversial figures like Tebow will then die, and there will be peace amongst us.

    Per your request, GK. Here is my post w/o typos (lol, it was my first comment post on a blog and I need to learn to check my typos!

    "I find it rather fallacious that self-professed Atheists on this blog would suggest that reading the Bible cover to cover would lead a upstanding, rational mind to atheism. Clearly these people do not understand what the Bible is: namely, a collection of writings which the conscious information network that makes up the physical multiverse (whom we refer to as God) inspired out of a series of chosen writers by choosing the path of unfolding quantum possibilities around them (as He does around us all) to unfold in such a way as to create meaning in the eye of their minds and, thereby, guide their pens to construct an optimal marketing message for His kingdom and Himself with the human race at the moment in human history each text was written. Understanding this, we should understand that the Bible is a history of a great teacher working with and guiding the human race under the constraint of possibility. For instance, 3000 years ago, mankind was not ready to hear a message like, "Love your enemies as yourself." This was a value completely alien to society in the world, say, 3000 years ago, and if God would of demanded that they obey it, the Israelites probably wouldn't have wanted much of Him at all! So God does the best and has always done the best with the resources that He has at a given point in space and time. We have to at least grant Him the once of faith to see the best in Him and His efforts–to see the true message of love and grace, to see the invitation to freely chosen friendship and love with God that is threaded through the Bible from its beginning to its end; for otherwise, we can never see HIm. But if we do believe, if we do have but an ounce of faith to look at our lives and see the patterns of meaning that He has woven into them–patterns which whisper to us and lead our lives down the best way–then we will see just this! And our rational minds will no longer be capable of doubting the presence of the Lord again, but have, like Tebow, a faith and joy and freedom from anxiety amidst all the critical voices arrayed against us in their ignorant condemnation of wonderful soul."

    March 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • GK

      Now I am far more confused and befuddled than I ever was . The vines are even more dense and entangled than they were before. I suggest that you purchase a chain saw and hack through them mercilessly, until you can see throught to the clearing on the other side. I was afraid to venture too far for fear I would get irretrievably lost.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • GK

      If it takes this many words to express what you are trying to explain, then it's not really worth paying any attention to. Ever hear of Occam's Razor? I get the sense that you are trying to formulate a scientific model, but is just seems painfully pseudo-scientific at this point. Without evver having read your book, and having only perused one awkward paragraph, your premise (whatever it is- I am not at all certain) already appears unwieldly and hopelessly complex. You need to pare down, to simplify things, if you hope to ever connect with readers. Your words are a wall keeping them out, not a door inviting them in.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Bryan

      Things are quite clear in my mind, GK. If your mind is open (which it sounds like it is), I encourage you to not be afraid to ask the deepest questions about things, as I did, not being afraid to doubt but having the eager willingness to believe that there was a God and that my human desire to figure things out and know truth was not something that would be in vain. I arrived at faith in my search, I can only encourage you seek it so that you might through experiences know God, because as much as I have faith I believe that the human mind must arrive at its believes in freedom. I hope you discover the Lord in freedom, though; for his friendship is the most valuable thing I have in my life.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Bryan

      the book is a novel. And I assure you, the words there present the model, amongst other things, in very approachable ways. But it takes a novel to present it. In fact, the more I think about it, the way I present it there is really the only way it could possibly be presented and understood by the average person. It's also quite entertaining lol, as any novel should be. That, I think, helps!!!

      March 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • GK

      So you question my belief because I challenge you to express yours more clearly? I believe it was Paul himself who said, "Test everything." We do God no service if we do not strive for clarity and cogency. There is no contradiction between logical and scientific rigor and clarity, and deep and abiding faith. If anything, each needs the other. God wants us to explain things in ways that make sense at all levels. If we continually claim that we cannot do so because the things we believe can't be explained, then we might as well not explain at all. The struggle to coherently and sensibly explain our faith is indeed an expression of authentic Christianity, something lost in the rampant drive towards mediocrity and shallowness in which Christianity itself is unfortunately swept up.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • GK

      And, as for your comment about having an open mind- even an open parachute needs some structure, or it is just a collapsed one, causing the person who depended on it to plummet to his death on the hard, unforgiving earth below.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Bryan

      Nice parable of the parachute! Honestly, I like it! And I think we agree on the necessity of structure.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  5. GK

    I just noticed- both Tebow and the author have the same vacant, brainwashed, 1000-yard stare that Hare Krishnas, and POWs, and people who regularly watch Joel Osteen have. So it's easy to understand the tenor of this article. They're both Kool-Aid drinkers.

    March 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  6. AtheistsSeeThePinkElephant

    It's depressing someone like Tebow is getting media attention. Even after nearly 2,000 years...

    March 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  7. RGH

    Gay for Tim much?

    March 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  8. Hypocrites

    "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."

    You know who did have a problem with public prayer???? Jesus. Ever hear of him?

    Matthew 6:5

    March 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • just sayin

      Best check your context before making a final decision based on only one verse. Do the garden of Gethsemane ring a bell, or the corporate prayer for Peter when he was in prison. The hypocrisy being exposed was the phony prayers of the Pharisees and religious establishment of the day. Prayer takes many forms, Jesus was pointing out the wrong form not establishing a law for all prayer.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • GK

      Funny how people who make a spectacle of their Christianity, those who allow it to be exploited for effect, those who act like they have it all figured out, are often those who have things all backwards and upside down, isn't it?

      March 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Hypocrites

      Ain't that the truth GK.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  9. Sam

    Okay, listen up, folks.. Lets say, Tiger Woods would do a tebow stance and pray each time he swung his golf club.. Or if Kobe Bryant did a tebow each time he did a free throw during a game.. Or if Rafael Nadal would kneel and pray before every serve.. Would that be acceptable ?? You get the point.. Enough of this 'Ooohh.. Tim Tebow is such a good Christian because he prays during his game' nonsense.. If a player from the Denver Broncos team was a Muslim, and would perform his 'namaaz' before the game, would people get all excited and support him too, coz he was religious ?? I don't think so.. So, please cut this Tebow cr*p once and for all.. Enough of this BS..

    March 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Jake

      Next time I play football, I'm gonna meditate like a Buddha for a few seconds.. Who knows ?? I may even win the game without even touching the ball..

      March 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  10. Cherokee

    Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Fortunately, you get to decide if you will kneel before the Jesus the sacrificial lamb now and recieve eternal life in heaven....or be forced to kneel before Jesus the rightous judge later and and spend eternity in hell. The choice is yours....choose wisely!

    March 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • GK

      And...? What does this have to do with the article? Are you saying that those who see through Tebow are evil, and will be cast into the lake of fire in Hell?

      March 24, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  11. Janice

    The entire heroism argument for this guy because he says he's a Christian and says some things openly about his faith is disturbing. He's still pretty far from Mother Teresa, folks. He has a gift and he's a millionaire because of it and he gets treated as a "god" because of it. When Tebow gives the millions away to the poor and starts taking some personal risks like helping people on the streets personally himself, then maybe it would apply. Pat Robertson and his hang up on Tebow was even more disturbing. If a preacher takes note of Tebow – in my mind he's missing the poor in his community who sometimes take far more risks and have to struggle a heck of a lot harder just to keep food on the table.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Cleopatra

      Get your facts straight before you start judging someone's activities with the poor. Obviously, you have no idea how much Tim Tebow does with his money and his time. And just to be clear, the Christian scriptures admonish followers: "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men." And then there's the point about not judging ...

      March 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • GK

      Cleopatra, I think you miss the point. Being a discerning person is not being a judgmental one. If God had a problem with discernment, he would want us to be mere witless shells, incapable of making wise choices based on reason. How could God have a relationship with such a vacant, hollow being? We are to bring ourselves before God as complete beings, faults, shortcoming, and all, even our disgust and our anger. For it it not evil to be angry, because there is evil to be angry about.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  12. GK

    Steve Young is a Mormon, yet you never saw any of this kind of foolishness with him. Tom Brady is a Scientologist, but any press about it? And Tony Romo is a Satan worshiper, but nobody pays any attention to that! I demand equal time for all religions!

    March 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  13. Jack

    Patton,

    I am sure there will another modern day prophet/athlete coming behind Mr. Tebowl. As long as there are mommies staying at home to spit out dozens of DNA mutated jesus freaks for their MAN and MASTER.. You can bet your holy cross chain encrusted in Gold on it.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  14. LeeCMH

    Perhaps, if the New Yorkers don't like him, Tebow can nail himself up on his cross - I'm sure he carries his nails wherever he goes.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Gecul

      How about a single provable example??

      March 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • just sayin

      life changed by salvation, praying to God

      March 24, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  16. Scott

    You can say what you want. Tebow is working it and taking it straight to the bank. It's the greatest show on earth. Nothing more. You all should be ashamed of you're selves.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • GK

      Looks like you're just as big an idiot as he is. That's all I can say about this comment.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Stephen Johnson

    from the articleL

    "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"

    That's the reason why Elway didn't even wait for the ink to dry on Manning's signature to deal Tebow away. As a football executive, Elway's job is to put a winning team on the field based on cold, hard logic, not fan sentiments. Tebow may be an exemplary person off the field, but he's a sub par player on it. Even with Manning as the starting QB, Elway didn't want to take the chance that the fans would force him to give Tebow the starting role again.

    Now Tebow is the NY Jets' problem. But as a NY Giants fan, I'll try not to lose any sleep over it. 😉

    March 24, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • GK

      Geez, I just don't understand it. I feel cheated. Everybody's all worked up about a crappy QB like Tebow because he calls himself a Kris-chun. But I'm a Redskins fan, and we had a crappy devout Mormon QB named John Beck before the Broncos ever got Tebow. And Beck is even worse than Tebow. What's with that?

      March 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  18. GK

    Look at the expression on that guy's face. He's an airhead. Would you let a dolt like him QB YOUR team?

    March 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Eli

      Typically anyone who reverts to jesus for everything and anything tends to be of below average intelligence. Fact.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • mgthink

      Right Eli – like the founding fathers, CS Lewis, and a million other thinkers, etc. Sounds like you're a real thinker yourself, Eli

      March 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  19. A Normal Life

    Religion is the opiate of the masses. The Dumb-*ss masses.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • ThinkAgain

      Depends on how you practice your faith and whether you're insecure/egocentric enough to believe you've got all the answers. Better to focus on just leading the best, most loving and positive life you can.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • ThinkAgain

      I knew a devout Mormon once who could always sink a half-court shot playing high school basketball. All his Mormon friends and family took it as a sign that he was "right with the Lord."

      How do evangelicals explain that?

      March 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  20. Ryan

    unfortunately for Teblow, moving to New York means no free passes for being a flamboyant christan anymore. He's actually gonna have to earn some respect by playing good football

    March 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • JohnRJohnson

      He's also going to have to learn that living in a pluralistic society with many faiths (and no faiths) all around him will require some sensitivity and humility.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • GK

      And he's gonna crash and burn. Just wait and see.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
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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.