By Jason Keidel
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I’ve never been to Heaven. Not, not that Heaven, but the one on Earth, where a cable provider provides every NFL game in real time. Instead, I got Jets-Bills, Eagles-Pats, and Raiders-Bears.
At least last night CBS realized we were far less interested in Angelina Jolie (on 60 Minutes) than the Chargers and Broncos battling in overtime. Thank Heaven.
Tim Tebow seems to have his deity on speed dial, and he’s got the Denver Broncos (6-5) caught in a collective religious experience, inching their way from the cellar to celebrated, just a game out of first place in the AFC West. There are epiphanies aplenty when you go 5-1, their record this year with Tebow under center.
I’m not a religious man, and I don’t give a darn about Denver, so I have no spot in Tebow’s tableau. Honestly, I just think it’s cool that the guy we gave no shot is shooting holes in all our diagnoses.
Frankly, I don’t know why he’s so polarizing. Mariano Rivera is equally religious, yet nothing stops us from worshipping him. Indeed, this summer I sat in the Yankees’ dugout alone with Mo and talked Christianity for at least 30 minutes, and I could listen to him joust for Jesus for days. But Tebow, who bows before the same God, isn’t afforded the latitude or gratitude given the Final 42.
Consider the rampant foot-and-mouth malady around the league, led by Stevie Johnson, whose appalling touchdown dance yesterday – a series of repulsive convulsions – should get him a call from the commissioner. (Johnson’s prior viral vignette included angrily tweeting his deity after whiffing on a winning touchdown pass against Pittsburgh last season.)
By contrast, Tebow’s solemn, silent knee next to his helmet should be an oasis inside the savage and self-serving expressions we see on Sundays. And it’s not like Tebow is in the center of a celebrity makeover. He’s had a pious posture since the first camera recorded him on turf. He’s building a children’s hospital in the Philippines, for crying out loud!
The haters will say that the team’s recent resurgence is more about the bulls on Denver’s defensive line (Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller), or the fact that Philip Rivers forgot how to play football. Every week and every win will bring more excuses.
Going into yesterday’s game Tebow had completed just 44.8 percent of his passes this year, sporting a malnourished 78.4 QB rating. In his last three games he’s gone 9-for-18, 9-for-20, and 2-for-8. All of them were decided by seven points or less, but they were also decided in Denver’s favor. He meets none of the nouveaux aesthetics, with a mere eight TD passes in six games. His iconic predecessor, John Elway, throws better with his left hand than Tebow (a southpaw) throws with his left hand.
But, as Tony Dungy said on NBC last night, the Broncos believe, and that comes straight from No. 15. Yes, the odds are against Tebow, who heaves the ball like it’s a javelin, and you’ll catch me cringing at his throwing motion, and no quarterback in NFL history won with his feet first. Chances are that Tebow will go the way of the Wildcat, soon to be stuffed and stored at the Smithsonian.
But what if he’s not? What if, in a cold, corporate league that takes a tape measure to every corporeal contour, where your time in the forty means more than your family history, forgetting what made football great – intangibles – Tebow sneaks in and sparks a movement?
Maybe some of us are tired of the “perfect” quarterback, who stands daintily in the pocket with a rocket arm, offended that any defender dare touch him, begging for a flag every time his jersey gets dirty.
Maybe once in a while we can measure a player by a different power – even a higher power.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.firstname.lastname@example.org