12.14.11

Tebowing Goes Global as Winning Denver Quarterback Dazzles

As Tim Tebow leads the charging Broncos toward the Super Bowl, his habit of getting down on a knee and praying—dubbed ‘Tebowing’—has caught on from Afghanistan to Machu Picchu, and even made the Urban Dictionary.

There’s magic in Denver thanks to the “Mile-High Messiah.” Tim Tebow has made even the most serious of Grinches believe in miracles. It’s Tebow’s time and many in this city known for its Rocky Mountain sunsets have had a front-row seat to a supernatural season. The state of Colorado now stops what it’s doing on Sundays, hoping for another Tebow afternoon delight, and fans have not been disappointed.

The Denver Broncos, who won only four games last year, are the surprise of the NFL this season. Under quarterback Tim Tebow, who won the Heisman as a sophomore at the University of Florida, the Broncos are 7-1. Six of those wins were come-from-behind victories.

Three, including the latest 13-10 win over the Chicago Bears, were in overtime. The town is on the verge of a collective mile-high heart attack.

In the final minutes of Sunday’s game, with nearly all hope gone, one of the 70,000 fans on the edge of their orange plastic seats at Denver’s Invesco Field swore, “I don’t know what this is all about, but if Tebow does it again, I’m going to church.” He’ll have to make some room in the pew. The 24-year-old quarterback’s bandwagon is getting crowded.

“Whatever he’s got, bottle it up and give me some of that,” says long-time Denver Post sports columnist Mark Kiszla. Early on, Kiszla was one of Tebow’s harshest critics. “When the Broncos first drafted him, I said, ‘This can’t work. This can NOT work.’ He doesn’t have the basic fundamentals to succeed in the NFL on a consistent basis.” But now Kiszla admits, “The magic has built on itself.” This cynical, veteran sportswriter is so pumped up with optimism, I can’t write fast enough to quote him. Tebow-mania is contagious. It’s now a worldwide phenomenon.

Just this week, the Global Language Monitor announced that the word “Tebowing” has now entered the English language. Its six-week meteoric rise was so intense, the website, which monitors language trends, says it equaled the 2008 word “Obamamania.”

Tebowing also has made the Urban Dictionary as a verb meaning “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.”

Denver native Jared Kleinstein, who has transplanted to New York, invented the word in a bar after he and his buddies watched Tebow lead the Broncos to a comeback win over Miami on Oct. 24. That’s when Kleinstein first noticed a calm Tim Tebow on his knee in prayer in the middle of a chaotic football field. “I told my friends, “Let’s do some ‘Tebowing.’”

The next day, 24-year-old Kleinstein sent out a couple of Facebook pictures. He then designed a website. A month and a half later, Tebowing.com has had 15 million total views. “People have sent in pictures of them tebowing from 75 countries. We have them Tebowing from the Eight Wonders of the World. We were stuck at seven, but I did an international interview saying we needed someone to Tebow from Machu Picchu, and the next day, I had three.”

“It’s not about religion. It doesn’t matter what you believe in, as long as you believe in something.”

Soldiers in Afghanistan Tebow in their camouflage. Surgeons do it in their scrubs. There’s Santa giving the glory in his red suit! Basketball star Dwight Howard Tebows, and so does champion downhiller Lindsey Vonn (as of this week she and Tebow insist they are not dating).

There are Tebowing ultrasound babies. Tebow’s own favorite? Tebowing While Chemoing. A tweet picture sent to Tebow’s twitter, shows a boy on his knee hooked up to a chemo machine, in prayer, and the words “Im a cncr srvivr who’s trsting u wth his fntsy team. hope your not getting anoyed.”

Tebow was not ‘anoyed.’ When asked about it, he said, “How cool is that? That’s worth it right there for that kid...if that gives him encouragement to pray, then that’s really awesome and that’s really worth it for me.”

Tebow’s public show of faith has been a polarizing subject and has made his rise to fame about much more than football. In college he regularly referenced Bible passages on his eye black, a practice that has since been banned by the NCAA. He always starts postgame interviews with “I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” He then thanks his teammates and finishes the interview blessing the reporter.

He often preaches to his teammates. The night before the overtime win against San Diego a couple of weeks ago, his message was Proverbs 27:17—“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

He and his mother delivered a 30-second, pro-life ad for the Christian organization, Focus on the Family, which ran right after kickoff during last year’s Super Bowl. The message? Tebow’s mom was advised not to give birth to him, and she could have had an abortion, but decided against it. “That was his first foray into making the headlines outside the sports pages,” says Focus on the Family’s Gary Schneeberger. “The seeds have been planted. People will come to Christ because of him.”

Some Tebow fans have blogged that he is the Son of God. Others have shelled out $100 for Tebow’s number 15 jersey with “Jesus” on the back; a move that finally hit a nerve. “They’ve gone too far,” complains Tom Krattenmaker, author of Onward Christian Athletes, who has called for Tebow to ask for a product recall. “It’s time to stop overreacting to Tim Tebow. It’s gotten to the point where if someone criticizes Tebow’s passing game, Christians think it’s a knock on their faith.”

On the other hand, people who dislike Tebow are rabidly hoping for him to fail. Says Krattenmaker,  “It’s very undiscerning.”

Maybe a Tebow timeout is in order?

Not likely.

The Tebow Nation’s ego is bloated like a stuffed sausage about to burst. Denver sports talk shows that trashed the Broncos in early September are now boldly predicting a Super Bowl. Callers proclaim that they believe in unicorns. But reporter Kiszla warns that this Sunday, when the 10-3 New England Patriots march into Denver, the glow may dim. “Magic has a shelf life. Once it’s gone, it’s hard to get it back.”

But Tebow may be the man to do it.

Schneeberger says if Tebow Time runs out this weekend, the so-called God’s Quarterback won’t do anything different. “To Tebow, the game isn’t the most important thing. His interview will start with ‘I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

And then he’ll Tebow.

Even sports-scarred cynics, like Kiszla, are sold on Tim Tebow, “It’s not about religion. It doesn’t matter what you believe in, as long as you believe in something.”

Maybe it’s Tebow who persuaded the Broncos to believe in themselves.