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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. Bob A. Booey

    I made in my pants.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  2. Recovering Republican

    Dumb move. Manning is a Hall of Fame QB in decline. Tebow is a Hall of Fame QB in the making. The Broncos are too late on the Manning legacy. Kind of like buying Enron stock six months before the crash.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  3. Flatlander

    Two things. First Tebow is not a great quarterback, he may become one, but he is new and untested. Secondly he is a faux Christian. A real Man of God would not take a job that requires him to miss church for most of the year. Or a the very least would be doing something with his wealth and fame to make a real difference. Kirk Cameron threw it all away for his faith. An example Tim should consider carefully.

    Tebow is a fraud on both counts.

    March 27, 2012 at 2:49 am |
    • laci

      i disagree. i don't know about your Christian church but mine has multiple services & for all you know he goes to church in the evening or early in the morning. as a Christian, what happened to judge not lest ye be judged. and mind your business.

      March 27, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • bannister

      Yours is the most ridiculous post I have ever read. Tim Tebow isn't a "real" Christian because he can't attend church on Sunday?

      1) Most church's have early morning service and evening services. Further, God is not only present on Sunday. Some churches have service every single day. I have no doubt that Tim Tebow attends service at least once a week, if not more.

      2) Are saying that any man with a profession that requires him to work on Sunday is not a man of God? What about a fireman or a policeman that saves lives? What about a doctor or emergency paramedic? What about the soldiers throughout history who fought and died (sometimes on Sunday) for your freedoms – are they "faux Christians" too?

      3) God calls a man to do many things. One of the most important is to provide for his family and help others. By "working on Sunday" Tim Tebow is earning money for his family, for his extended family and for his Church. He donates generously to charity as well. I am sure that Mr Tebow's financial blessings have touched many lives.

      4) You statement that Tebow "should do something with his wealth and fame to make a difference" is absurd. He IS making a difference! By his simple action of bowing before his savior in front of millions of fans, he has made a powerful statement. His openness about Christianity has inspired many others – including perhaps, other athletes to wear their faith on their sleeve.

      5) Christ said "Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged" – with that in mind, have YOU advanced Christianity as much as Tim Tebow? Have YOU touched as many lives? What I see in you in jealousy and envy. I would recommend taking that plank out of your eye before you criticize the splinter in Tebow's.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  4. anonygrazer

    I think the media dreamed up Lin-sanity in an attempt to diminish the Tebow thing. Petty stupid media.

    March 27, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Proven
    Powerful

    March 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Jesus

      No it's not. You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!

      March 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • M. Gallegos

      I'm a Christian, democrat, and bronco fan. Thanks Tim for the ride.

      March 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • just sayin

      Prayer made me think the emergency number is 811.

      I'm stupid. Proven hourly.

      March 27, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • b4bigbang

      It's so funny, the prayer changes things guy and the anti-prayer 'Jesus' guy are like Siameze twins; whereever the one goes, the other is right there with him!
      Definite lol!

      March 27, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Mark

      Prayer changes nothing, except your own little mood
      There is no proof at all that it works, and many anthropologist believe religion has its origin in drugs
      Religion is a rather ugly trait our species evolved with, though not to our benefit. It may lead to our demise.
      Forcing a child into a RELIGION IS CHILD ABUSE!!!! (Can you read the news?)

      March 27, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
  6. Seth

    Typical denialism. "Oh, but he has so much faith!" Wrong. He has so much PUBLIC faith. None of which makes him a good QB, and that's why Denver is glad to see him go.

    March 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  7. Sue

    Too funny that this loser QB had/has any following, and his fans are so typical of stupid Christian sheeple.

    March 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • MTB

      Sue, Faith is the realization of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. This translation from Old Testament Hebrews (which you might not know predates Christianity, Sue...) illuminates the recognition that faith is a verb, not a noun. It means it is something people (no, Sue, not sheep-ple, but real, live, individual human beings) choose to DO, not HAVE. Most adult Jews and Christians wrestle with faith their entire lives, often returning to the faith of their families out of love and respect for generational traditions and for meaning. For people (not sheep-ple) like many of us, Sue, Tebow is an inspiring individual, who places football in a proper context and perspective. If that is a loser QB in your book (and Sue, by the way, Tebow has had a winning record every year he played the game), and if rooting for a respectful, kind, giving man is stupid (versus what, Sue, rooting for a uniform or a statistic?), then your impeccably argued logic prevails...Tim Tebow must be a loser, with stupid followers, because...they have Faith, the Morons! Well, God Bless you, Sue. Go Tebow.

      March 26, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • J.W

      One good thing about conservatives is that they make Sue really angry.

      March 26, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Patrick Bruce

      Hi Sue.
      I would love to talk to you about faith. Please don't get upset with me. I'm just a man who believes in something that I have never seen. I could never explain why I have faith in God, and have faith in Jesus, who I believe is His Son. But I am very glad that I do believe. We all have the great gift of free will. You choose not to believe in God. That is completely your choice. I choose to believe in a Creator. I choose to believe that I am a creature. I don't have a problem leaving all the 'Creating the Universe stuff' to God, and working on my part of making it all seem.......tolerable. It's tough being a human being. I root for Tim Tebow because; A) he is good at running the football into the end-zone for a touchdown, B) he is really good at not giving up, and C) he seems like a really nice guy that loves people. I don't like to compare or judge other people (athletes), but I do the way he treats women and children and his elders. And he believes in God, which should really not cause any concern because it's his own free will. I haven't heard him demand anyone else to believe as he does. Lets all just agree to disagree. I hope you understand that I would never judge you, Sue. Have a good day. PPB

      March 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • WCL

      Sue,

      When you get to Hell, tell Mehmet Ali Ağca that the Pope may of forgiven him, but I have not. Good luck with that eternal damnation thingie...

      March 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Thinkingisfun

      MTB-

      Faith cannot be a verb. Sorry, no attack on religion; rather, I'm just an English teacher that has trouble with people randomly turning nouns into verbs and vice-versa.

      March 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @MTB... your response is typical and I could have written it myself and I'm an atheist. Why could I have written it? Because, I have seen your response a thousand times in my atheist life, it is typical and tired. Religious people always return to the same tired rhetoric when faced with the facts against religion.

      March 26, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • MTB

      TO THINKINGISFUN...From the Catholic Encyclopedia..."But that the word does itself contain the notion of belief is clear from the use of the radical, which in the causative conjugation, or Hiph'il, means "to believe", e.g. Genesis 15:6, and Deuteronomy 1:32, in which latter passage the two meanings — viz. of believing and of trusting — are combined. That the noun itself often means faith or belief, is clear from Habakkuk 2:4, where the context demands it. The witness of the Septuagint is decisive; they render the verb by pisteuo, and the noun by pistis; and here again the two factors, faith and trust, are connoted by the same term. But that even in classical Greek pisteuo was used to signify believe, is clear from Euripides (Helene, 710), logois d'emoisi pisteuson tade, and that pistis could mean "belief" is shown by the same dramatist's theon d'ouketi pistis arage (Medea, 414; cf. Hipp., 1007). In the New Testament the meanings "to believe" and "belief", for pisteon and pistis, come to the fore; in Christ's speech, pistis frequently means "trust", but also "belief" (cf. Matthew 8:10)."
      TO THECOLLEGEADMISSIONSGURU...Wow, guru, I'm impressed. I'm am sorry that you're oh so weary of the feeble rhetoric of the religious in the face of your facts. It must be a burden to be an atheist genius, who sees the cold hard dark and lonely truth, and so must disdain or condescend to your religious lessers. What part of Tim Tebow being an inspiring individual did you miss in my note to Sue? It's astoundingly clear that people as gifted as yourself see right through Tebow, alright...and yet you voted for Obama, correct? Who's faith in what is being put to the test now, wise guru?
      >PS TO ALL< My response to Sue was simple; just because someone finds the Old and New Testament's to be a more reliable guide to life's mystery and beauty than Sartre, Wittengenstein, Neitzche, the Rationalists or Empiricists (though I loved Kant's Critique of Pure Reason) et al, doesn't make them sheep. Peave and Love to you my Brothers, and Go Tebow. We love you, Man!

      March 28, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      'Faith' is a noun, not a verb. Christians can't even get Junior High School Grammar right.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  8. GK

    I have a confession to make. I have not conducted myself in the best of manners on this forum. I have denigrated some people who have contributed comments, called them things like "idiots", and "morons". I know this is wrong, and I apologize sincerely. It is one thing to question ideas and viewpoints, and another entirely to question the inherent value of people. I have been guilty of the second, and I will not engage in that sort of behavior in this forum again, and I will endeavor to eliminate such conduct from my dealings with others altogether. (But I still think Tebow is a bad quarterback.)

    March 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Meathead (of the Word)

      GK, I stand with you on this one. In fact, I was convicted point blank by the Holy Spirit. "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no GUILE! (crafty-especially w/words)

      As if I didn't know I've always struggled with sarcasm. Really, no place for the christian life.

      Thanks for that one precious Holy Spirit (of cleansing and burning from 'the poison of asp upon the tongue').

      If you read anything further from me. It should be nothing but that which will bring edification to the hearers, or defending the faith.

      March 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  9. Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer is delusional.

    March 25, 2012 at 7:45 am |
  10. PsyGremlin

    Wait a second... you genuflected in front of your TV, yelling "Tebow?" Seriously? Tell me, what of the player who – to quote you – ran 80 yards to make the touchdown? What about the rest of the players that ensured Tebow had the ball in the first place? Last time I checked, football is a team sport, and yet everybody is hung up over a third rate QB, who is at the bottom of nearly every QB stat for the season, because he prays in public. What about all the players that make the sign of the cross when they score – I don't see you raving about them.

    Additionally, if it was God who helped Tebow throw his 316 yards, where was He when the Broncos got smashed and Tebow was running backwards in panic? Or didn't God have a need for him any more?

    March 25, 2012 at 5:44 am |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    March 25, 2012 at 5:42 am |
    • Jesus

      -.You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!...-

      March 26, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  12. PsyGremlin

    Wait... you genuflected in front of your TV, shouting Tebow's name? Excuse me, but what about the player who = to quote you – ran 80 yards to make the touchdown? Of the players who were able to get Tebow the ball in the first place? Football is a team sport, and yet everybody is going gaga over a third rate QB, who's at the bottom of nearly every QB stat for the season, because he prays.

    Tell me, if God was helping Tebow throw his 316 yards, were was He when the Broncos got smashed, and Tebow was running backwards in panic?

    March 25, 2012 at 5:37 am |
  13. GK

    All I can say to people who don't think Tebow stinks is this- Rex Grossman took the Bears to the Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer WON a Super Bowl with the Ravens. And Grossman's even Jewish. But the one thing that both of them have in common is that they stink. So just because Tebow won a few games with the Broncos, don't think he's any good. He stinks just like they do, maybe even more. And he hasn't come anywhere close to being in a Super Bowl.

    March 24, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  14. GK

    Well, if he weren't terrible, don't you think that: A) The Broncos would have kept him and groom him under one of the best QBs ever to have played in the NFL; and, B) The Broncos wouldn't have traded him for just a FOURTH ROUND pick? Get real, everybody. This guy will be a footnote in the history of football in a short while. Just like Richard Hung now is in the world of music.

    March 24, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 24, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Jesus

      ~~Jesus

      -.You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!...-.

      March 26, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  16. Jesus Loves You

    You are but what am I?
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6zGK-XblGA&w=640&h=360]

    March 24, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • reason

      Great video. Thank you!

      March 24, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  17. George Marshall

    I am not a religious person, but I respect the right of others to have religious beliefs and to express them in public or in private. Since I am not religious I would not join Tebow in the huddle to pray, and I would hope (is it too much to expect?) that I would not receive hate mail and death threats. What is important is that governance not be determined by religious dogma, that religion not be organized, integrated, or inculcated into public school or other government agencies that are funded by tax payers of many different religions or of no religious persuasion, and of course that religion not be infused into science classes, conflating the two, and thereby making a mockery of both.

    March 24, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  18. Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer is delusional.

    March 24, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • watnen

      Amen

      March 24, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  19. stainedundies

    This is the whole problem with the idea of a "personal relationship with God/Jesus". It is incredibly arrogant and self-indulgent of evangelical Christians to think that they have a personal "in" with the creator of the universe and that they can get the creator to do what they want. Wake up all ye selfish Christians!!! Your so-called personal relationship with God is actually only in your head!

    March 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Brooklyn Boy

      I agree. But then, the moment someone tells me that their most important personal relationship is with somebody who's been dead for 2,000 yers, I suddenly loose all interest in any other details about their social life.

      March 26, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Meathead (of the Word)

      Quite the contrary. True followers actually understand that the Lord is completely soveriegn in his dealings with man. And that His ways are truly deep and past finding out (discovering completely). 'How unsearcheable are His judgements'.

      I like to refer to what you are speaking of as 'the gumball-machine god'. Some do indeed think this way. That all they have to do is pull the handle and God will cater to their every whim. When the truth is, "He works everything out after the council of His own will. And there is none who can say unto Him.... what are you doing."

      March 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  20. Lenny Pincus

    I think you'll find that a large majority of the football players involved in the bounty system are also Christian. I don't think there is a correlation. After games a large number of players from both sides get together in the middle of the field and pray.

    Most people I know don't like Tebow because he's just not very good. I watched Kyle Orton win a bunch of games for the Bears the same way.

    March 24, 2012 at 8:45 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.