Sat, Dec 03, 2011 - Page 19 News List

NFL: Tebow mania captivates US sports culture

Bloomberg

The Denver Broncos’ Tim Tebow “Tebows” before their game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, California, on Nov. 6.

Photo: AFP

Tebow mania is spreading with every Denver Broncos win, one knee at a time.

Tim Tebow, a quarterback in his second season who combines football and faith on the field, has a 5-1 record as the Broncos’ starter, including three fourth-quarter comebacks. Replicas of his jersey are among the NFL’s best-selling and he has spawned a fad known as “Tebowing” through his kneel-and-pray pose after victories.

The Broncos’ offense is geared to Tebow’s strength as a runner, while masking his weakness as a passer.

The style has been criticized, with even Broncos coach John Fox saying: “If we were trying to run a regular offense, he’d be screwed.”

“We’re seeing something very unconventional,” Joe Theismann, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Washington Redskins who is now an analyst for the NFL Network, said in a telephone interview. “For the traditionalists, you can sit there in denial all you want, but it’s happening right in front of you, and it’s fun.”

The Broncos are 6-5 after a 1-4 start to the season and trail the Oakland Raiders by one game in the AFC West. They are on the road against the Minnesota Vikings tomorrow.

Tebow’s No. 15 jersey is the second-best seller during the past two weeks at NFLShop.com, behind Aaron Rodgers of the Super Bowl-champion Green Bay Packers. Tebow, 24, also has the sixth-best selling jersey this year, even though he started the season on the bench.

Tebow, who will be on the cover of the first edition of NFL Magazine on Dec. 13, was born in the Philippines while his parents were Baptist missionaries and he readily shares his religious beliefs during interviews. After wins, he gets down on one knee with his head bowed in prayer.

The practice has given rise to imitators and a Web site that defines “Tebowing” as a verb meaning, “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.”

It includes photos of people on one knee similar to Tebow in unlikely places: during the bridal dance at a wedding, in front of the Sydney Opera House in Australia and on the kitchen floor in front of the Thanksgiving turkey in the oven. T-shirts with “Tebowing” and a silhouette of the quarterback are for sale on the site in Broncos’ blue and orange.

At New York’s Madison Square Garden, Boston University hockey player Ross Gaudet knelt on the ice in a Tebow-style pose after his overtime goal gave the Terriers a 2-1 victory against Cornell University last Saturday.

Denver’s success is not a surprise to Tebow, who won two national championships and a Heisman Trophy as college football’s top player at the University of Florida.

“We’re just believing and it’s such a positive atmosphere,” Tebow told reporters this week. “It’s a special team when you got a bunch of guys that aren’t going good. We get closer instead of pulling apart.”

In terms of marketing appeal, 80 percent of consumers like Tebow to some degree, said Chris Anderson of the Marketing Arm.

The figure would be higher, Anderson, except that Tebow is “such a polarizing figure.”

Kurt Warner, who stressed his Christian faith during an NFL quarterback career that included a Super Bowl title, told the Arizona Republic last week that he would advise Tebow to tone down the religious rhetoric so people do not become calloused toward him.

Theismann said he questions how long Tebow’s on-field success can continue, pointing to previous unorthodox offensive and defensive systems that had initial success before opposing teams figured out a way to stop them.

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