Out of Bounds: Tebow-mania explodes on the national stage

High school star, two-time national champion, Heisman Trophy winner, activist, underwear model, missionary, NFL quarterback, Internet sensation and American obsession. At this rate, Tim Tebow might need to petition for more space on his Wikipedia page.

In a perfect storm of sport, religion and controversy, Tebow-mania has created enough buzz to make Muhammad Ali seem camera shy in comparison. Tebow has even managed to infiltrate the nation’s vernacular with Tebow-isms like, “Tebow-time,” “Tebowed” and “Tebowing.” Sports networks don’t completely monopolize Tebow-related news either, with everyone from Bill O’Reilly to Bill Maher scrambling for a piece of the action.

The firestorm of media coverage surrounding “God’s quarterback” grew to Ruthian proportions during the Denver Broncos’ first round playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the opening seconds of overtime, Tebow hit receiver Demaryius Thomas mid-stride for an 80-yard, game-winning touchdown.

Immediately after the Broncos miracle upset over the Steelers, Tebow landed himself in Twitter’s record books reaching 9,420 tweets per second. Let’s put it this way, if you had a nickel for each time Tebow was mentioned you’d have $471 – per second. That’s $28,260 per minute. Like any obsession, Tebow-mania has its downright ridiculous aspects, from airline pilots Tebowing in their cockpits to a coven of Salem witches gathering to put a hex on the highly religious quarterback before the Broncos’ AFC divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots.  

Rarely does such widespread fascination reach the realm of sports. In recent memory, no athlete has garnered as much attention as Tebow. Tiger Woods had a good run, as did Michael Vick and Jerry Sandusky. Yet Tebow’s fame shatters the mold created by many of his troubled peers. Ironically enough, Tebow devotes nearly an entire chapter of his New York Times bestselling book – yes, he’s an author as well – to how much he loved his childhood dog. Tebow seems to be the antithesis of nearly every archetypal negative sports-related story; in many ways Tebow is too good to be true. Unlike Woods, Vick and Sandusky, it appears that Tebow’s only major offense has been winning games he wasn’t supposed to.

Passionate Tebow supporters and critics are a dime a dozen. In some ways, the debate over Tebow will never fully be resolved. One can argue about his beliefs, throwing motion and NFL destiny ad nauseum; however, the facts remain the same: Tebow entered training as the Broncos’ fourth string quarterback, took over a 1-4 team and led them to eight wins, including six straight. He orchestrated six fourth-quarter comebacks, seven game-winning drives and a first round playoff victory over the league’s No. 1 defense. At times he was unstoppable and others nauseatingly unpredictable. Those are the facts. Anyone who argues that Tebow is anything other than an inconsistent, developing, second year quarterback, who is a proven winner and upstanding teammate, is fooling themselves.

In high school, Tebow played the entire second half of a game on a broken fibula, rushing for a 29-yard touchdown in the process. In his spare time, he works as a missionary in the Philippines and visits with sick children before and after every one of his games. Reports even surfaced that after the Broncos’ most recent loss to the Patriots, Tebow played with torn cartilage on his first rib, a bruised lung and fluid buildup in his pleural cavity. Come on, the guy is practically Superman. Surely, he has some dark skeletons buried in that seemingly empty closet.

 Personally, the intrigue, obsession and vitriol accompanying Tim Tebow are fairly simple. On the surface, Tebow is just too good to be true and we all deal with that differently. Some pine for him to fail so they can feel better about themselves and others worship him like God in football pads. In the end, Tebow probably isn’t nearly as good or bad as we think he is. In the end, Tebow-mania is our own creation.