The Tebow phenom
By Rick Wilking
Do a Google search on this new celebrity and there are 299,000,000 results. Brad Pitt? No, he only has 187 million. I’m talking about the newest phenom in the world of sports – Tim Tebow.
Being a Denver-based photographer where Tebow plays starting quarterback for the Broncos has kept me in the vortex of the Tebow storm. Going back to his first start late last season and then training camp in August, we’ve been focusing on his young career. Would he start this year or would he not was the hot topic back in late summer. Kyle Orton was eventually chosen as starter but when the team went 1–4 Tebow got the nod and Orton was out. Then the fun really began.
Tebow was a superstar in college at the University of Florida (first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, won not one but two NCAA National Football Championships) but how would he do in the big leagues? He was a first round draft pick in the NFL meaning many had high hopes for him to succeed. But the NFL game is so much different than college there’s no guarantee a player will repeat. Scrambling around on the field can only go so far in the NFL before getting tackled repeatedly by much bigger and faster players will destroy you.
Being a rookie in the league with a great pedigree means extra attention to start with but then add this element: religion. I don’t think a sports writer out there can remember any athlete starting most press conferences with “First and foremost I have to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ.”
Growing up the son of active Christian missionaries Tebow has always been devout, and very public about it. Now that he’s on the biggest stage in American sports he’s not about to clam up. In fact he has said he uses the attention to spread his beliefs whenever he can.
And this is a big part of all the hoopla surrounding him. At a time when Americans are more polarized on almost every topic the “I love (or hate) Tim Tebow” yelling is at a fever pitch. “Religion in sports? – no way!”, many say. Except the Tebow fans who say “about time!”
Covering the Broncos since Tebow arrived has added another dimension. With any team that has a standout player you have to have good coverage of him no matter what the team is doing; he will be in the news win or lose. So you keep one eye on him while trying to watch everything else going on. Imagine picture-in-picture on your TV only it’s you doing it not your TV. Don’t try it at home.
When Tim comes down to the endzone to pray before a game he is surrounded by still photographers and TV cameras to get the famous “Tebowing” shot. The “Tebowing” has started to spread – earlier this month when I was in the Colorado mountains covering World Cup ski racing the winner of the women’s Super G event, American Lindsey Vonn, struck the same pose before climbing the podium – in her ski boots.
Shooting from the sidelines since Tebow has started with the team means more photographers than ever. Media outlets that normally might send only one photographer are sending two or three now just to be sure to have every Tebow angle covered. If this team makes the playoffs I can only imagine the sideline chaos.
Still the fans in Denver are loving it. Even non-religious types are on board to the thrill of “the kid” succeeding which, after all, is one of the oldest themes in sport. Tebow has just had two losses this season since starting. With three games to go in the regular season people all over will be watching to see how the story ends.
Until next year when it will all start up again – as long as Tim Tebow’s name is still on the roster.