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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. EPAB

    jmb – You posted a lot of quotes from the bible and so-called saints. Done any thinking of your own?

    March 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • tony

      What! He repeated himself, after I already called him out for doing the same earlier. He must be religious! Repeating nonsense and cannot see or hear facts, reality or corrections.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  2. Dan

    You should listen to what Mark Driscoll's view on this topic is

    March 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 24, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Transcendant

      so does a TV remote...should I worship one of those too...?

      you should try ontology–you'd be amazed at how you came to believe so many silly things.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • ghgh

      No it doesn’t

      March 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  4. Dan

    I don't really understand why everyone is saying hes terrible... He may not be the best but i don't think anyone posting on this board is an NFL quarterback, and about his faith, I think people sometimes get caught up in things that are meaningless like football and miss the fact that in the end its still only a game we play for enjoyment.... I like the fact that Tebow doesn't worship the sport, but has found where real purpose is in this life.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  5. kevin

    Why do christians feel that non-christians MUST hear their message? I'm not interested in religion, especially christianity, yet they JUST DON'T STOP.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • FSM Worshipper

      Have you heard the good news?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Brendan

      Yeah! Dumb religion people forcing us to read their articles on a site that posts largely atheistic articles! For shame, religious people, for shame!

      March 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Transcendant

      Keep your noodly appendages to yourself ya danged pirate!

      March 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • FSM Worshipper

      @Transcendant: Open your heart and allow His Great Noodly Apendages to touch you. It's your only way to salvation.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Transcendant

      I am a Pastafarian of my own right. Meatballs to you. Yarrr...

      March 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Abate

      It seems a very unreasonable question. "Why is the sun shining? I do not like light. Or, "Why is it raining? I do not like to be wet." Well, one can "hide" or ignore the light or the rain. Christians like their Savior love the world including you.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  6. Bush Destroyed the USA

    Just sayin'.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  7. calvin

    Did I read right ? Someone is mourning Tim Tebow moving away ?? GET A LIFE !!!

    March 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  8. Major Tom

    Tebow's 15 min are up. New Yorkers are not the inbred country bumpkins that were his fans in CO. If he sucks a s s as a QB, they'll ditch him.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  9. Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer is delusional.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • rob

      Totally agree...

      March 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Transcendant

      I'll drink to that!

      March 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Fred M.

      Belief in God, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus are all perfectly acceptable in children. It's when adults still believe those things that we need to worry.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  10. BW

    I wish him well with the Jets. I believe that he will be Sanchez' back-up until fans scream for him to play. He will go in and win a few games and then they'll sit Sanchez. Sanchez will get traded. The Jets will get to the play-offs and Tebow will start to get hurt again. He will then be traded to another team. thus the cycle will repeat itself. He is a very nice person, a great kid and I like him. I hated the circus in Denver–not Tebow, the fools around him. But he is not a starting NFL QB. As a human being he is a winner, but he will have a mediocre NFL career. His style will get him hurt and he will slow and get really hurt.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Fred M.

      The "circus" around Tim Tebow was one that be brought upon himself by shoving his religious views down the throats of every fan watching the games in which he played. When he goes into that religious display on television, I want equal time during the broadcast to tell everyone how absurd it is. Being an athlete does not give him some special right to inflict his religious views on all of the fans watching the game.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  11. GK

    God brought Tebow to the Jets because he's a Patriots fan.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Transcendant

      The Hooded One Loves You.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  12. jb

    Not to be too critical, but I will. Should the author find a razor along side his Bible? And who whacked the middle of his forehead? OK enough sarcasm, each to their own.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  13. Major Tom

    Face it: Teebow sucks a s s where it counts: on the football field. Prayers don't win football games, great football players and coaches do. If football was about who prays the hardest, football games would be held in church on Sundays, not on the football field. How STUPID can people be?

    March 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  14. EPAB

    Lot more potential converts in NY. And that is his major focus in life. Instead of working on his football skills.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  15. Religion

    The crazy Christian Taliban in this country is going to kill us all.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Brendan

      That's true as long as you're an idiot. You're an idiot, so for you, it's true! Congratulations! You officially live in your a fantasy world!

      March 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Religion

      You believe in imaginary men who live in the sky and I am the one living in a fantasy world?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  16. El Giblet

    All the Christian hate on here... of course, I wouldn't expect more since this is just a notch above the Atheist/Antichrist channel.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Transcendant

      Don't be boring. I don't care about your beliefs, so long as you keep them to yourself.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • EPAB

      Who's a hater? How do you feel about gays and lesbians, muslims, atheists, agnostics, prayer in PUBLIC schools, birth control, etc,etc.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Fred M.

      It has been less than 24 hours since one of your fellow Christians told me that I was an idiot who would burn in hell for all eternity because I am an atheist.

      Perhaps if you and the rest of the God Squad would cease attacking anyone who isn't a Christian, stop shoving your beliefs down our throats, and stop trying to codify your religious views into federal, state, and local laws, we'd be a bit more charitable towards you.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Mike Francis

      If Christians are getting any "hate," it's karma biting them on the ass for the centuries of hate, oppression and evil they have perpetrated. Now that you on the other side of the table, how does it feel?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Brendan

      Are you serious? All of the comments are "Lolz religin is for childrenz i am so much smarer than Christians because i am a englitenged indivivual." Yeah, right, Christian hate. Quit playing the victim.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  17. Thomas

    Conversely, here's a New York Christian mourning the arrival of Tim Tebow. After a couple of weeks playing for the Jets, he's going to have to look up to see Hell.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • GK

      Ah, I think you've summed it all up. No need to say anything more!

      March 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  18. Bryan

    GK, I am sorry, I didn't realize that you were a Christian (as from your last post it sounds like you are). I agree completely with you on faith and reason. And I hope that you will give me the benefit of the doubt that I can, if given the chance in a work of literature, express myself quite clearly. Indeed, using something like a parable (the multiverse can be likened to a computer...) to explain the physics of God is probably the about the simplest and most approachable way you could go about explaining such a thing, don't you think?

    March 24, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • GK

      All I'm saying is this- you can use words to confuse, or to clarify. No matter how hard you try to camouflage a false premise by hiding it in a jumble of words, the essential idea is still invalid. If you, however, strip off all of the superfluous verbiage, bring it out into the open, and it is still valid, then it is worth serious consideration.

      March 24, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • GK

      And it is a fallacy to compare "reality" to some computer simulation. The explanation is too convenient, too simplistic. One must constantly struggle to express something so ineffable as the full nature of our "reality". If one does not, one misses the entire point. There are things beyond us that we may never be able to adequately explain. That's one reason that I laugh when people mention a "Theory Of Everything". The philosopher Godel proved emperically that our knowledge is always incomplete. He proved that any system that is complete is inconsistent; that it, it has holes in it that defy filling. And he proved that any system that is consistent is incomplete; that is, it it too small to qualify as an adequate explanation of all that is. So beware of theories, of models, of explanations, that too easily describe that which is beyond the ability of words to describe. They are not simple, they are simplistic. That is, they can't be traced back to the complex thing from which they have been derived, but are instead complex truths that have been chopped down to the extent that they bear no resemblence to that from which they came. It's as if the universe is always one or two steps ahead of us, never quite letting us catch up to it. And thank God for that! I would hate living in a universe that we fully understood.

      March 24, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  19. tony

    A talentless person of no relevance gets an article published by piggy-backing on someone else's achievement and "fame".

    How so very Christian. All religious leaders are of course similarly propped up by their referring to the imaginary "god" that they continually say supports their authority to speak.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Taylor

      Whenever you use the term "all" for a group of people, you prove yourself to be an idiot, bigot, or both. And who in their right mind would believe God is imaginary because an idiot like you says so? The Bible even has aword for nonbelivers, and the word is "fool."

      "A fool says in his heart there is no God." You sir, are a fool.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Religion

      He is a fool because he doesn't believe an invisible man in the clouds tells him what to do?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • EPAB

      Taylor _ Evidence, you got any physical evidence to support your beliefs? And who's the fool? you sir are a fool. And not a very deep thinker either.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Transcendant

      OOOooooo...If it is in the bible, it MUST be true...!

      March 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • tony

      @Taylor. All is correct in this particular case. Have your god come out and show not.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  20. eric

    God am I sick of Tebow.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Taylor

      Good news, Eric. He's not sick of you. He's nearly even heard of you. You've accomplished nothing.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Fred M.

      God I am sick of God.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Michael

      Taylor -So because of that he has to be a tebow fan, huh?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:51 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.