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The Ryan King: Do the Tebow

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In light of one of my most recent columns, “Heartbreakers,” a few readers actually came up to me and told me I was being way too depressing. I understood—they obviously, not being USF fans, couldn’t comprehend such sorrow (unless any of them follow the Bengals, in which case I retract that statement completely and offer my condolences). Regardless, I knew that even if the Bulls turned in the worst performance of their lives the next weekend I had to find something more positive to write about. Alas, the last week of the college football regular season has passed and although the Bulls very nearly turned in the worst performance of their lives (a 30-27 loss against West Virginia, to be exact, but I’m currently pretending it didn’t happen for the purposes of this column) it’s almost impossible to dwell on any sort of negative in the sports world. Why? Tim Tebow exists.

I’ll be honest with you: I am an unabashed Tim Tebow fan. I’ve had a huge soft spot for him going back to his college days at the University of Florida, ever since, in his junior year, he delivered “The Speech.” After getting stopped on a 4th and 1 that led to a one-point loss to Ole Miss, Tebow gave a press conference that ended with the statement “You have never seen another player work as hard as I will for the rest of the season. God bless.” Tebow’s Gators went on to sweep the rest of their schedule and win the national title. That’s what I love most about Tim Tebow—his nearly comical dedication to succeed in everything. And succeed he does. I remember Rick Reilly once wrote a column singing the praising of Tiger Woods, both on and (ironically enough) off the golf course, stating something along the lines of “It shouldn’t be allowed for a guy to be so all-around gifted.” Tebow basically embodies Reilly’s thesis in a nutshell.

His bloodthirsty desire to win, somehow still unconquered, is matched with a strict Catholic, clean-cut attitude. It’s almost ridiculous, yes, but what about Tebow isn’t ridiculous? The teary interview he gave after losing his final regular season college game in which he called opposing coach Nick Saban a “great man?” His admitted tendency towards religious trash talk on the field—insult of choice being “Jesus loves you?” Certainly not his family-friendly Super Bowl commercial from a few year ago, which went something like this:


Tim Tebow’s Mom: Hi guys! I’m Tim Tebow’s mom!

(Tim Tebow’s Mom is mysteriously hit with a football)

Tim Tebow’s Mom: Ow! Tim!

(Tim Tebow enters stage left)

Tim Tebow: Haha! Sorry Mom! Abortion is bad!

Case in point. It’s been almost surreal watching his rise from heavily maligned backup this summer to the John Fox-appointed savior of the Broncos franchise. All he’s had to overcome along the way is his own general manger who, in essence, called him a scrub (and who is also John Elway), thousands of shots from ESPN analysts who claimed he couldn’t hit the broad side of a chapel, and seven NFL defenses while fronting a team that was in total disarray before he showed up. But voila! The Broncos have won all but one of Tebow’s starts and are now very much alive in the AFC playoff race.

It’s all happened in perfect Tebow fashion too. After taking the starting job from Kyle Orton (who was 1-5 to that point) in the seventh week of the season, Tebow performed awfully for three quarters before rallying for an improbable overtime victory against the Dolphins. He followed that up with a dazzling two-touchdown defeat of the Raiders, two come-from-behind victories against the Chiefs and Jets and yet another overtime win in a thriller against the rival Chargers to pull to 6-5. This Sunday, with a share of first place in the AFC West on the line, he predictably fell behind the 2-9 Vikings before staging a fourth quarter rally and picking up the W. Ho hum.

In all honesty, the most entertaining part of Tebow’s rise has been the polarizing effect he has had on the football world. You can’t turn on ESPN these days without hearing two bearded men in suits who should probably be doing something more productive with their time dissecting the quarterback’s every move. Football purists hate him because his average passing abilities and ungainly throwing motion shouldn’t possibly translate to a 6-1 record as a starter. Fans hate him because his nice-guy image doesn’t fit the NFL stereotype. The entire nation hates him because no one can possibly explain how a quarterback can complete less than half of his passes, run a college-style offense and still come out on top every week.

The answer? I couldn’t tell you. I’d love to say it’s Tebow’s unrivaled desire to win that I referred to earlier, but who can say for sure? It could be John Fox’s willingness to experiment and try an option offense at the professional level, or halfback Willis McGahee, who alongside Tebow has sparked the Denver rushing attack, or even the Broncos’ defense, which has held their opponents in check and given the offense time to get adjusted to the wacky new schemes. In actuality it’s probably some combination of all those factors, but that doesn’t change how inspiring it’s been to see Tebow’s tendency to simply will his team to victory in close games continue in the NFL.  For every naysayer, there are just as many who stand firmly behind him, or, at the very least, are enjoying the heck out of watching him play—the emergence of has started a strange craze in which dropping into prayer at inopportune moments is dubbed “Tebowing.” Having a successful starting quarterback who regularly quotes the Bible and spends his offseason giving sermons in Haiti is really quite remarkable. And a bit funny, yes. But that’s just a bonus.

It won’t last forever. At some point, defenses will start keying in on Denver’s option offense and force Tebow to start passing. Will it happen this year? It’s possible. Will he still succeed when forced to rely on his arm instead of his legs? It’s far too soon to tell. But no matter what happens, it doesn’t change the fact that Tim Tebow is a role model, the likes of which are tough to come by in the National Football League today. That, and the whole situation in Denver is incredibly ridiculous. Take my advice—enjoy it and do the Tebow while you still can.

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The Ryan King: Do the Tebow