Greeson: Tebowmania grabs headlines from Tom Brady

Greeson: Tebowmania grabs headlines from Tom Brady

January 14th, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

There's no debating that the Tim Tebow overkill has dominated sports news to such a point of saturation that there's a real possibility ESPN has just started an hourlong special "Tebow: Boxers or Briefs?"

At one point Friday morning, four of the five ESPN channels had something Tebow-related -- at the same time. And it was 9:05 a.m.

(And if you're wondering the one that was Tebow-less, ESPNU was airing "College Basketball Live," and unless Tebow has been working on a point-to-the-sky hook, they'd really be stretching it to get the lad on that show.)

The Tebow craze is beyond control for us. Maybe it's because he's from the SEC and area football fans and followers have had several years to get accustomed to the good player/great guy/strong Christian total package that is Tim Tebow.

But here's guessing that even Tebow's mom flips the channel when she sees another ESPN talk show discussing her son. It's beyond imagination.

How hot was Tebow during Denver's upset over Pittbsurgh last Sunday? Earlier this week social media expert Darren Rovell noted "Tebow tweets/second (9,420) beat out Royal Wedding (3,966), Bin Laden Raid (5,106) & Steve Jobs Death (6,049)" as they were happening. Wow. Read that again.

And sweet Bibles, bullets and bootstraps, if Tebow and Denver win at New England tonight there likely will be a new ESPN channel -- ESPNT -- by Wednesday morning that is devoted to nothing but Tebow.

Popularity granted, Tebow is not the winningest quarterback around. He does not have the best speed or the best arm. Far from it, in fact. Still, he's become a lightning rod the likes of which are reserved for only the top superstars or the larger-than-life personalities in all of sports.

Tebow is neither of those; his skills are far from dazzling and his persona likely never will be described as sizzling.

Beyond his now renowned, signature move -- to "Tebow" is dropping to a knee and pointing to heaven -- and the occasional Bible verse on his eye black, Tebow is far from over the top with his well-known faith. In fact, it's fair to say on the NFL level his talents are as modest as he is.

So why? Why has Tebow touched such a nerve -- positively and especially negatively -- for so many people?

"The whole thing really is people are looking for something genuine," Hunter Huckabay said Friday. "Whether you agree with Tebow or not, he doesn't waver from what he believes in. His faith is genuine and he doesn't mind showing it, and he doesn't mind the negative stuff that comes his way because of it. That's interesting and admirable."

For 20 years, Huckabay was the rector at the St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chattanooga before retiring in 2006. For as along as he can remember, he has loved the men on the gridiron, especially the LSU Tigers, so it's safe to say that Huckabay is well versed in both of the South's religions -- God and football.

And Huckabay, like many of us, has been drawn into the Tebow-mania. For him the reason is simple.

"I think the one big thing is the guy produces," Huckabay said. "Not every time, and not in a consistent or orthodox way, but when you have this many last-minute wins, that's something.

"Who cares if he stinks and it's a win?"

Production over pretty and success over stats are admirable. But it's more than that, and so is Tebow.

Denver's borderline miracle win over Pittsburgh last week has only added to the legend. The Broncos were the biggest home underdogs in recent NFL playoffs history to win, and the numbers have added a mystical quality to the magic.

His passing total -- 316 -- has been linked with John 3:16, the most famous Bible verse of them all. It didn't end there. Tebow averaged 31.6 yards a completion. The Steelers had 31:06 in time of possession, and according to ESPN, the television ratings for the final quarter of the telcast were -- you guessed it -- 31.6.

"The older I get, the less I believe coincidences," Huckabay said. "That's amazing stuff. There's a pattern to a lot of things and often I have no idea what it is."

No one does. And may be that's a part of the attraction.

"People are watching the Tebow show because he's a second-rate quarterback, and he's winning games, often against great odds while playing his best at the most opportune times," said Carter Turner, a professor of philosophy and religion at Radford (Va.) University. "For a large segment of the population, Tebow's success is proof that God intervenes in our lives. Doesn't God reward faith? Lord knows Tebow has faith."

Sure, faith can be rewarded, but is Tebow's left arm being guided by the right hand of the Lord? Frankly, here's at least one vote that God has bigger fish to fry than who will win in the AFC playoffs.

"I'd be very surprised to find out Tebow prays for a win or to do well," Huckabay said, agreeing that God has more pressing issues than football. "I'd bet [Tebow's prayer] is 'Let me do what I'm capable of, and let me play my best.'"

And that humble and faithful pursuit of his best has captured a nation's attention.