Tom Sorensen

Sorensen Classic: Regarding Tim Tebow – let the man pray

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow kneels on the sidelines before an NFL divisional playoff football game against the New England Patriots on Jan. 14, 2012, in Foxborough, Mass.
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow kneels on the sidelines before an NFL divisional playoff football game against the New England Patriots on Jan. 14, 2012, in Foxborough, Mass. AP

Editor’s note: This column originally published on Jan. 11, 2012.

A reader sent me an email Tuesday that criticized the liberal media for criticizing Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.

I’m liberal. I’m in the media. And I respect Tebow enormously.

The premise of the email, and of other emails like it, is that liberals don’t like Tebow because he’s deeply religious and drops to one knee to pray during football games.

I know Tebow’s overtly religious acts offend some people. I don’t know if the people are liberal. I never care enough to ask.

Why would I care if Tebow prays publicly? So many of us manufacture reasons to get upset. We wake up looking for reasons to be offended. If we didn’t, if there weren’t millions of us, message boards would go out of business.

I know athletes who can’t tell you what time it is without including a religious verse. I remember talking to John Kasay, the former Carolina Panthers kicker, and he included so many Biblical references that I didn’t quote him because I didn’t want to misquote him. His message had nothing to do with my premise.

Yet Kasay is one of my favorite Panthers of all time. I talked to him in October about his new gig, kicking for New Orleans, and asked if he was enjoying the nightlife in his new town, particularly the music. When I’m there, I do. The music feels like a gift.

Kasay was incredulous. He knew I was kidding. But he needed to let the media know he had yet to experience the nightlife, and never would. He didn’t offer any religious references.

Kasay never tried to convert me, and there’s no evidence Tebow proselytizes. That would offend me because it implies somebody knows the one true way. I’m at the age where I can search for one all by myself.

I was at Daytona International Speedway before the 2010 Daytona 500, and thought I’d say hello to team owner Felix Sabates, one of my favorite people in racing.

Tebow and Sabates shared a mutual friend, and the friend told Tebow, who had just finished a stellar career at Florida, that he ought to meet Sabates. Twice Tebow went to Sabates’ motorhome to find him. Twice Sabates wasn’t there.

Tebow returned a third time. A lot of stars – and non-stars – don’t do that. They’re accustomed to getting what they want when they want it. Tebow had won two national championships and one Heisman Trophy. And here he was, knocking on the door a third time.

Sabates introduced me to Tebow; the way they talked to each other I thought they were old friends.

What struck me was that (a) Tebow was bigger than I thought and (b) he was without pretension. He was gracious and humble and had a big smile. He didn’t need to let me know that he was famous.

“You meet him one time and you pull for him the rest of your life, “ Sabates said Tuesday.

Tebow might not be a long-term starting quarterback. He might not attain the consistency the job requires.

But as infrequently and as poorly as he often passed this season, he led six game-winning, fourth-quarter drives. Last weekend against Pittsburgh, he was what a coach wants his quarterback to be. When he had to be good, he was outstanding.

Denver’s overtime victory against the Steelers was everything Alabama’s national championship victory Monday against Louisiana State was not. It was watchable, for example. It also was thrilling. After the favorites in the first three playoff games won easily, Tebow and the Broncos offered fans a thrilling upset and the league an unexpected jolt.

Denver is the only double-figure underdog in the NFL this weekend. The Broncos play Saturday at New England.

I won’t pray for Tebow. But I’ll pull for him.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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