"The Chosen One": The Denver Post's Coverage of Tim Tebow

By Mirabito, Timothy; Huffman, Landon et al. | Journal of Contemporary Athletics, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

"The Chosen One": The Denver Post's Coverage of Tim Tebow


Mirabito, Timothy, Huffman, Landon, Hardin, Robin, Journal of Contemporary Athletics


Introduction

Tim Tebow was named "America's favorite professional athlete" by ESPN's Sports Poll in December 2011. Tebow co-authored a book, Through My Eyes, in 2011 that detailed his life in and out of football from his high school career through his rookie season for the National Football League's (NFL) Denver Broncos (Tebow and Whitaker, 2011). He won a Heisman trophy and two national championships while at the University of Florida, has been associated with several charitable organizations, and there is a website dedicated to people mimicking Tebow's routine of dropping to one knee and genuflecting in prayer. This has spawned an addition to the lexicon in regards to the act which is referred to as "Tebowing" ("Tebowing", 2011). Debate regarding his ability to play quarterback at the professional level gained traction among pundits and fans alike, as has his outward expressions of his Christian faith (Dodd, 2011a). The association of Tebow's faith with his sport has polarized fans throughout the United States.

Every interview with the media Tebow uttered the phrase "God bless" at the end and was noted for beginning those same interviews with a variation of the phrase, "I'd like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (Dodd, 2011b, para. 4). A devout Evangelical Christian, Tebow credited his parents and their work within their church for influencing his commitment to his faith (Tebow and Whitaker, 2011). Patton Dodd's book, The Tebow mystique: The faith and fans offootball's most polarizing player (2011a), highlighted Tebow's devotion through anecdotal evidence. Some of the examples included mission trips to the Philippines, spending time with terminally ill children, philanthropic efforts started on the campus of the University of Florida, and a story of Tebow appearing in a 2010 Super Bowl commercial with his mother supporting pro-life advocacy (Dodd, 2011a).

Tebow has polarized fans because of his expressions of faith and because of his abilities as a football player (Dodd, 2011a; Goldman, 2011; Morrissey, 2011). ESPN's Outside the Lines (OTL) aired a story about the Tebow phenomenon in September 2011 that described conflicts between supporters and critics of Tebow (Schwartz, 2011). The piece, which aired before Tebow became the starting quarterback of the Broncos, delineated the arguments of both sides. Tebow was perceived as inept at quarterback and described as "grossly overrated" and "terribly flawed." His adversaries were said to be a "seething army of detractors" who openly opposed Tebow as a football player and as a religious devotee (Schwartz, 2011). Tom Krottenmaker, a columnist for USA Today and Tebow proponent, was interviewed in the OTL story and has written several articles about Tebow that dispute those previous charges (Krottenmaker, 2010; Krottenmaker, 2012). He has referred to Tebow as a "cultural warrior" and likened Tebow's "athletic, religious, and political visage" to that of a "saint" or even "God" (Krottenmaker, 2010, para. 9). After the Broncos lost in the playoffs to end their 2011 season, Krottenmaker (2012) wrote of Tebow:

The rises and falls of Tebow these past few months have provoked all manner of speculation about the theological significance of the Jesus-professing quarterback of the Denver Broncos, just as his exploits have stoked a vociferous proxy battle in the ongoing national argument over the public standing of the evangelical faith embodied by the Broncos' No. 15 [Tebow], All of this has come at a volume that has made it hard for anyone to think straight, (para. 2)

A point of contention cited by supporters and critics alike was Tebow's display of Bible verses on eye black worn during football games in college. The display of images such as "John 3:16" aided the debate of the appropriateness of religious displays in sporting events (Schwartz, 2011). It became so contentious that the NCAA subsequently banned all messages on eye-black. The interjection of sport on religion in the United States has dated back to the 1800s with the emergence of the Christian organizations such as the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA; Coakley, 2009). …

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