By Jason Keidel
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Don’t curse me for failing to fawn over the Giants, who truly deserve respect. And forgive me for not piling on the stack of clichés about Eli Manning playing true to family form, how the 2011 team is morphing into the 2007 team – all the way down to the eerie symmetry of the Packers and Lambeau Field as the frigid portal to glory – and how horrific January has been to anyone named Ryan.
Enough people on this site will spoon-feed you healthy portions of Big Blue. And I promise that I will root hard for the Giants to limit Aaron’s TD dance to State Farm commercials.
But I’m downright foul after my squad just gagged to a far inferior team. If you’ve been reading this column for the last two years, you know my arteries pump black and my veins pump gold.
The New Testament just fell on my Steelers – yes, I still often speak in the collective – and thus the cosmos have just spoon-fed me the savagely ironic truth that the QB I so ardently defended as “special” beat the team that doesn’t lose to Tim Tebow. He was fine as long as he wasn’t my foe. We would expose his limited, if not prehistoric, gridiron machinations.
I defended Tebow for myriad reasons, not the least of which was to italicize the rampant and heinous hypocrisy of our me-first culture. Stevie Johnston can Tweet the deity, blaming him for a dropped pass, and then pretend to shoot himself in the leg during a TD dance. And Santonio Holmes can celebrate a touchdown while his team is down three touchdowns. But please don’t pray prior to a game, a play, or in a prison yard because, well, that’s just offensive. I’ve never said a prayer in my life, but I got jolts of vicarious glee watching Tebow slap the smiles off the PC Police with each kneel next to his helmet.
And depending on your angle, you can say Tebow and his Broncos beat Pittsburgh yesterday or the Steelers beat Pittsburgh yesterday.
The Steelers were a walking triage, with an injury list longer than the Magna Carta. Ben Roethlisberger limped around like he just stepped in a bear trap; starting halfback Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL last week; starting safety Ryan Clark was ruled out by team doctors; and their All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey was scratched. Then, during the game, they lost d-line beasts Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel. (Even running backs coach Kirby Wilson is in a hospital, in a medically induced coma, with severe burns on nearly half his body.)
And so it would be reasonable assert that if we were healthy and at home (where a 12-4 team should be against an 8-8 club), the result would be vastly different.
But there are no excuses; the Denver Broncos outplayed the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers couldn’t run, pass, catch, or tackle, particularly on the last play, when they made Denver really work for the win on the final drive – all 11 seconds of it. The Steelers’ defenders slid off the Broncos as though they just bathed in hot wax. There’s no better proof than this statistic: Tim Tebow had just 10 completions, but 316 yards. There was so much YAC and RAC that scorekeepers got carpal tunnel in the third quarter.
After the deed was done, there was my QB, Big Ben, in the post-game press conference, wearing a hat half the proper size, his big face bulging from his fedora, talking about shock and tossing out platitudes, most of them landing harmlessly, like his passes an hour earlier.
It was a perfect confluence of circumstances for the Broncos, for Tebow, and for fate. The gridiron gods would not be denied in Denver. I knew it was a wrap after we lost the coin flip. Indeed, by the time radio, network, and satellite hosts were done explaining the new overtime rules, it was over. Some receiver I never heard of (Demaryius Thomas), who was born on Christmas (seriously), got the ball from the Big Christian and then stiff-armed and stampeded Pittsburgh’s secondary for 80 yards.
And with it came that feeling every rabid sports fan has endured: soul-snatching horror, anger, and then sadness. In just 11 seconds I went from wondering how to beat Tom Brady to wondering if Mariano Rivera has another 40 saves left in his divine right arm.
Speaking of divinity, the mike and the lens turned to Tebow, whose preamble is as predictable as the sunrise: I’d like to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ. For about four months, that was the music to my rebellious ears. I snapped off the television.
All provincial whining aside, this game stamps, laminates, and validates the Tim Tebow Experiment, no matter how or when it ends. The young man is a winner – not just because he won yesterday in a sport that measures success in a succinct manner, but also because he cares. It’s his everyman ethos and blue-collar ethic. Someone I respect once told me that if you live properly, treat others properly, treat life like God is watching, and then find out there is no God, you’re still ahead of the game. You needn’t be religious to see the wisdom in those words.
Now, Tim, please beat New England. If not for yourself, then for Jets fans, for New York, or because you watched Ben Affleck in anything other than “Good Will Hunting” (particularly Daredevil) and want your money back.
I might even pray for it.
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The man, the myth, the football player. Your thoughts on Tebow? Sound off below…