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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. donald henry

    I hope he stops his sideline shows in NY

    March 24, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  2. Joe

    Science flew men to the moon, religion flew men into buildings.

    March 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  3. Frank Cardenas

    "He doesn’t have a public faith agenda beyond saying Jesus’ name after games and helping sick people." Then why did Tebow and his mom do a commercial for the Focus on the Family organization? He is a religious fundamentalist and his religion is creepy.

    March 24, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • donald henry

      I certainly agree. He is nothing more than a gimmic

      March 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  4. charles m

    oh please. you guys are just a bunch of christian saps. god has nothing to do with it.

    March 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  5. Enlightenment666

    1 Timothy 2:12

    March 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • tony

      And Damn you back. That's Hate speech.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • tony

      And BTW, it was written by a another convert who had a vision of himself being able to speak for god.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Henry

      You do realize that 1st Timothy is a forgery, don't you? Paul most definitely did NOT write the book. It's a fabrication, as are about half of the other books attributed to Paul.

      March 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  6. Kay

    I just love how everyone can sit on the couch and criticize. As a fellow "Gator', Tim Tebow makes me proud and no matter what your religious beliefs are, you should respect someone who makes their religion an actual part of their life. If you don't want to hear it, just don't listen. Tebow has great skill on the football field and if people would quit fussing and let him play they could see it. Just because you do something different doesn't mean you can't do it!!

    March 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Silly Logic

      "you should respect someone who makes their religion an actual part of their life"

      Why is religion respectable? I respect hard work, courage, kindness, and intelligence – none of which have anything to do with religion. Willful ignorance AKA religion isn't respectable.

      March 24, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Thomas

      Well, with the fall out of the classless New Orleans Anything-but-Saints, it would be nice to see one of the nice guys of the league turn around the almost equally classless New York Jets. I wish him well.

      March 24, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Mary

      You are so right!

      March 24, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • TebowSucks

      Yes, it takes great skill to complete less than 50% of his passes or be second in fumbles even though he only started 12 games. The defense and running game had ZERO to do with Denver's wins.

      March 24, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Agree!

      Well said!! Tim will shine no matter where he is, no matter what position, no matter if he's the starter or the benchwarmer. Football is Tim's job. Loving and serving Jesus is Tim's life.

      March 24, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • GK

      First, you're a "Gator". Second, do you even know anything about football? If you do, and you've ever seen this lugnut throw, you would have serious reservations about putting his name, the word God, and the word football in the same sentence.

      March 24, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  7. Thomas

    "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."

    Calm down, buddy! It's just football.

    March 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Frank Cardenas

      He's mourning because he is making money $$$ off Tebow!

      March 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  8. Hairbear

    I'm glad all the Tebow hype is out of here! Now let's just watch him play ball, he can pray for the Jets!

    March 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  9. Mohammed

    ALLAH AKBAR!!!!!!

    March 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Thomas

      Can't argue that.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • GK

      Actually, I love this comment. Thank you for doing your part to break through the facade and hype surrounding this guy. I can't wait for the NFL's first devout Muslim QB. I want to see the reaction when he prays to Mecca on his prayer rug. Seriously. I imagine some people calling themselves "Christians" would have a decidedly different reaction than the kind Jesus would. WWJD? He would bank on the Jets going 4-12 and missing the playoffs this coming season.

      March 24, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  10. ja-coffalotte

    ALL religious people are mentally ill on some level. Do you really think Gawd would give juice to one football team or the other? Total nonsense. The NFL should ban Tebowing.

    March 24, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • tony

      I'll say!

      March 24, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • What??

      In all the interviews I've seen of Tim Tebow-and there are a lot!-I've NEVER heard him say he prayed for Denver to win. On the contrary, I heard him say he didn't pray for wins, but rather to do the best he could, for safety of all the players, etc. He is a young man who loves football and loves Jesus. It's truly sad that so many people have such a big problem with that.

      March 24, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  11. Cathy H

    Jesus H Christ! The author - in his 5th paragraph - "genuflects before the television"? Why on earth does he think that God, in whatever name or form, is all that interested in the outcome of a FOOTBALL GAME? That's the first thing that nauseates me.

    The second thing, which applies to Tebow himself, is this: has he never read the New Testament, Matthew 6:5, which says: "And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, THAT THEY MAY BE SEEN BY MEN: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward."

    God save us from the "Christians" such as these.

    March 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Best post of the day!

      March 24, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • JC Freak

      Cathy, why don't you do the loving and let God do the judging, girl! I'm inspired by your knowledge of Scripture. You apparently are one of the few here who've read Scripture, or at least know how to Google Scripture, but unfortunately, you cherry-picked Scripture - and in the process totally misrepresented the context of the passage you quoted. Read Proverbs 18:2. One other point - unlike the hypocrites in the Temple, how can YOU know that Tim, regardless of his location, wasn't "genuflecting" genuinely? You can't, girl, so again - let God do the judging because red just isn't your color!

      March 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • tony

      If the bible can be cherry picked, then it must contain contradictory ideas. Which isn't exactly a god's guide for it's followers.

      However right at the beginning it says in Genesis 1;14. Read the lights in the sky for signs (from god presumably- who else?). And that's just what scientists have done. Which put creation at least 13.4 ish Billion years away.

      So who you gonna believe – God or God?

      March 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • bones

      It's just nice that he brings God into that arena. In any form or place...It's an awareness wakess up in unlikely places. It's all good.He also is just being himself and not hurting anyone. Jesus is the coolest cat!

      March 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Mary

      Bonea – great comment!

      March 24, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Michelle

      First, if God cares about the sparrow (Matthew 10:29) then I'm sure God cares about the PLAYERS on the football teams and will use a win or a loss in each of their individual lives to grow, teach, etc.

      Second, in Matthew 6:5 Jesus says not to be like the hypocrites – the religious leaders of the day – who made a point of making sure everyone saw them praying. Their prayers were obviously not coming from their hearts but from their desire to appear pious. If you believe Tim Tebow is trying to be pious, then you haven't been watching him or listening to him for the past seven years since he started playing for Florida. That is the furtherest thing from his heart and it is obvious to anyone who isn't set on judging him.

      March 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  12. Aaron

    Tebow mania has less to do with his actual religion than with the fact that people truly appreciate an honest and honorable person. He is an better human being than most of us regardless of his abilities in the pocket which are also better than any of yours. If I didn't think most of you were just hatefully trolling for religious arguments I would advise you to use Tim as an example for integrity and decision making.

    March 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • galaxy101

      Gotta love such blanket comparative statements such as, "he's a better person than most of us..." Apparently Aaron either knows most of the people in the world or is rife with piffle. I'm gonna bet it's the latter.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Mary

      Aaron – I agree.

      March 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  13. Mohammad

    PRAISE BE TO ALLAH!!!!!!

    March 24, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Thomas

      Sure, but how is Allah in the two-minute drill?

      March 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Thomas

      ...and will He throw any Hail Mary's?

      March 24, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  14. LouAz

    Man, these christians have no loyalty. This guy and millions like him (according to this story) have thrown that jeebus fellow to the side and now worship this feetsball player. Well maybe that's a good thing. The jeebus fellow never did deliver anything on his promises. There's always next season for "true believers". Halle Julia !

    March 24, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • galaxy101

      Well said.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  15. guitarharry

    I wouldn't be so sure Denver will be "...winning with Manning..." I would be surprised if he even plays out the whole of next season. Every defensive player in the league knows he has a bad neck and they will try to re-injure it if they get a chance.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  16. rob

    Any team that takes Tebow is going to end up severely regretting its choice. Not only is he a no talent, but he'll give them headache after headache espousing his kooky, intolerant, hateful views. Especially his support of a repulsive hate organization, Focus on the Family. They should have put more thought into their pick. This fanatical bigot Tebow must have a great PR agency. He's a no-talent, nobody, yet seems to get his name in the papers quite often. Kind of like Zsa Zsa Gabor or Lindsey Lohan. Can't wait to see him fail this season so we never have to hear about him or his disgusting mother again.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • thebest12211

      NY is a live and let live kind of place that has little regard for those that want to inflict their religion on others. He won't last in the Big Apple unless he truly can walk on water.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Leah

      Can you tell me exactly why his mother is so disgusting??????

      March 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Mary

      You need help....must be a very unhappy person.

      March 24, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Michelle

      If you can't see the goodness in someone like Tim Tebow, you truly are blinded by hatred. How very, very sad.

      March 24, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • GK

      Michelle, if you can't see the hype and shallowness in a guy like Tebow, then you're blinded by ignorance. How very, very sad.

      March 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  17. a disgrace

    the jets to trade tebow to mcdonalds for lunch...

    March 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Thomas

      The Jets better negotiate for extra fries in that Happy Meal.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • GK

      The Jets trade Tebow to the Cleveland Browns for $50 and a year's supply of gatorade, flavor not yet confirmed.

      March 24, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  18. Bobbie Jones

    Oh please, LOTS of NFL players live a Christian lifestyle and are way more talented than Tebow. Tebow has marginal skills as a quarterback, so stop praising him just because he fell to his knee and tried to portray himself as a religious icon. He is not really a good quarterback. Why else did Elway choose the older and surgically repaired P. Manning over a young and healthy Tebow? How do you explain that? Also explain why Tebow is going to the Jets not to replace Sanchez, but to be a BACKUP quarterback??

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

      Hmm, let's see. A couple of college championships, a Heisman trophy, came in mid-season with Denver's losing record to lead his team to the playoffs. Nope. He doesn't have any talent at all. And he'll only get better with time.

      March 24, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  19. Mary

    Great article Mr. Dodd! Hopefully you will never see my comment because you are smart enough not to read the responses to your piece. The vitriol spewed by some these people is unbelievable.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Transcendant

      Right? Why are Christians so intolerant?

      March 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  20. Transcendant

    CPC is alive and well. At least Islamists embrace martyrdom. You Christians just whine and play the victim.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Transcendant

      CPC=Christian Persecution Complex

      March 24, 2012 at 5:43 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.