National Football League
'The play' turns Tebow myth into reality
National Football League

'The play' turns Tebow myth into reality

Published Jan. 10, 2012 12:00 a.m. ET

Tim Tebow’s career is in reverse. You are supposed to start at the bottom and work your way through hard times up to love and adulation.

Then, if you have a play like the one Tebow had Sunday, throwing an 80-yard, game-winning pass on the first play of overtime in the playoffs against the defending AFC champs, well, that’s when you turn into a legend.

It was the opposite for Tebow, who already was a legend. He started as one and had to work backward. Then came the hard times and hard work.

Before the Denver Broncos' 29-23 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Tebow was rumor. He was prayer. He was theory, Bill Maher and doubt. He was religion, debate, the best, the worst. He was hope vs. pessimism, luck vs. magic. But that play?


It made him real.

Reality finally matched myth with that play, in that moment against that franchise, with that pass defense, ending with the longest overtime touchdown pass in the shortest overtime in NFL playoff history.

For some reason, people want to continue the same old, tired debate about Tebow. But they aren’t sure where to take it. That’s because it isn’t the point anymore. Yes, we get it: Some people think he’s a great quarterback; some think he isn’t. It’s sad, really, if you can’t enjoy the Tebow moment, can’t have fun with it. It’s sad if you can’t get caught up in something.

Most people are there with Tebow. But everything has to be broken down into a debate on Twitter, or between hyper, overacting, overly serious sportswriters on TV.

Just look at how different Tebow is. How many superstars spend their time doing everything they can to serve their “look at me’’ needs. The Tebow Scrooges think he is trying to make a spectacle of himself, too.

Even former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer said he wishes Tebow would cut out the praying on the field. But when Tebow drops to a knee for a prayer, he isn’t trying to show off. He is doing what he feels. He isn’t asking people to look at him; he is doing what he believes, and people are looking. There is a difference.

Tebow is not a great quarterback. He is a role model. The guy he beat, Ben Roethlisberger, is a great quarterback but no role model. Which one would you want your kids to emulate?

Tebow is changing the narrative, giving us something to believe in from a sports world that rarely offers up anything pure. This isn’t to say that Tebow will be a lasting phenomenon, or that he won’t be. It’s that he is one now, and sometimes there is a moment when you can stop arguing and just watch and enjoy.

Years ago, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers named Mark “The Bird" Fidrych was capturing the nation’s attention. He was quirky — talking to the mound, talking to himself, talking to the ball — but also unhittable. Like Tebow now, he was a phenomenon.

And the truth is, no one even remembers if Fidrych ever won a World Series. He didn’t. Most everything he did as a player happened in one year, 1976. But that’s OK. He did have that one year, and that made it all real. Everyone was watching him, enjoying.

The argument will start up again after the Broncos play New England on Saturday. Tebow is going to lose that one, and the "See, he can play" group will sit down while the "See, he can’t play" group will pipe up. Stephen A. will not have to melodramatically bite his tongue while Skip gloats on and on, as if he invented the idea of believing in Tebow.

Blah, blah. That stuff doesn’t matter right now.

You wonder if we even have the ability anymore to just sit back and say “Wow.’’ It’s hard for us to look at things the way we did when we were kids, wide-eyed, believing.

But maybe that pass Sunday in Denver will have won over people, not in thinking that Tebow's a great quarterback but, rather, in allowing themselves to be taken in by a phenomenon.

It can be a little scary now. Too many things end up being phony and disappointing. Too much pessimism.

It is amazing how many people want him to stick out his tongue and say, “I told you so,’’ yet say he’s too nice to do it. No, that’s wrong. He’s not too nice to do it. He’s actually too nice to think it.

Tebow isn’t arguing. He isn’t like other athletes, upset about not getting his respect. He is just thankful for the opportunity to kick butt on a football field and genuinely thrilled he’s doing it.

Tim 3:16 threw for 316 yards (and 31.6 yards per completion), breaking John Elway’s record for a playoff debut. And Elway, his boss, has been one of his biggest doubters. In your face, John? No way. Tebow does not think like that.

The bandwagon is open for all comers, early or late. Tebow will welcome you personally, if you like. And he’ll mean it.


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