By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – Sundays at our house during the 2011 NFL season were organized around the Denver Broncos.
Late in the afternoon, it was Tebow Time.
After the Broncos got off to a 1-4 start, the coaching staff put its fate in the hands of quarterback Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy winner from Florida – and he delivered them to the playoffs.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was compelling television. During a six-game win streak in November and December, two Broncos games went to overtime and three others were in doubt until the end.
I’d sit and laugh and yell at the TV and annoy our cats, who tended to sleep through Tebow Time.
And I noticed a curious thing – when ESPN.com would ask a poll question about Tebow, the states with the highest level of support for him were Colorado (of course), Florida (ditto) and … Mississippi.
Why would that be?
Fans of both Ole Miss and Mississippi State regarded him as a worthy opponent – the Rebels get the assist for the Gators’ most recent national title by beating them 31-30 in 2008 in Gainesville. That defeat was followed by The Promise – “a lot of good will come out of this,” he vowed – and a march to the national title.
The next year, MSU’s Johnthan Banks made a name for himself by returning two Tebow passes for TDs in Starkville.
So football explains part of it. Tebow’s high-profile religious beliefs also hold appeal hereabouts.
But not everywhere. Even as fans embraced his success and bought his jerseys, Tebow emerged as one of the most reviled athletes among the chattering class on 24-hour sports TV and radio.
For some reason, there are people who take Tebow’s Christianity as a personal affront. They were delighted to see him run out of Denver after Peyton Manning came to town, then struggle after (unwisely) choosing to play last season for the Jets.
Even though he’s still in search of a new team, Forbes Magazine recently cited Tebow as the world’s most influential athlete.
One late-night talker I heard the other day just couldn’t understand it.
I could. Tim Tebow may not be on an NFL roster, but he’s most certainly on a winning team.
John L. Pitts (firstname.lastname@example.org) is sports editor of the Journal.