TebowMania: afflicted or impervious?

As the legend of Tim Tebow grows with each improbable come-from-behind Broncos victory, longtime Tebow-philes, recent converts and steadfast skeptics argue over whether Tebow is the Second Coming or second-rate. espnW's contributors weigh in on the phenomenon that is Tebow and whether they've caught Tebow fever.

Now I'm a believer

By Amanda Rykoff

I know you've heard plenty about "Tebow Time," and yes, this is yet another take on the Tebow phenomenon. I mean, enough about Tim Tebow, let's talk about Tim Tebow. But I'm not going to try to explain why he's 7-1 as a starter for the Broncos this year. Or why Denver has been able to come from behind late in the fourth quarter in five of those seven victories. Or how the Broncos managed to win what seemed to be an absolutely unwinnable game on Sunday against the Bears, trailing 10-0 with two minutes left in regulation. No, that's not what I'm going to write about. What I do want to say is how much I've enjoyed watching the "Legend of Tim Tebow" unfold over the past eight weeks. And how surprised I am just to be saying that.

The truth is I've never liked Tebow, dating back to his days at Florida. I didn't like his quarterback style and those annoying "jump passes." Without getting into religion (I'll leave that to others to dissect), I resented his overly preachy message. I certainly didn't think he could become a legitimate NFL quarterback. I confess that I was rooting for him to fail when he first replaced Kyle Orton as Denver's starter. I gleefully watched as the Lions embarrassed Tebow and the Broncos 45-10 in Week 8.

But over the past few weeks, things have changed. It started during the Thursday night game against the Jets, when Tebow led an improbable game-winning drive against Rex Ryan's vaunted defense. I found myself surprised to be rooting for Tebow to succeed. Since then, he's become must-see TV. I watched every minute of the Broncos' win against the Vikings two weeks ago, and was glued to my television for Sunday's remarkable overtime win over the Bears. Love him or hate him, you have to watch him. And unless you're a Raiders or Chargers fan, you have to enjoy what is happening in Denver.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Tim Tebow's 7-1 record as a starter has made believers of Broncos fans.

Did Tebow hold the Bears scoreless for the first half of the game? No. Did he cause Bears running back Marion Barber to inexplicably step out of bounds with 1:55 remaining in the fourth quarter? Of course not. Did Tebow kick a 59-yard field goal to force overtime and another one of 51 yards to win the game? Nope. Did he force the fumble to set up Denver in overtime for the win? Hell no. But that all happened. And Tebow was the Broncos quarterback of record when all that took place.

The Broncos' defense has played inspired football. Denver has the inside track to an AFC West championship that seemed like a long shot just a month ago. What's the difference? Tebow. Coincidence? Maybe. But the team plays with a newfound confidence that wasn't there before he took over at quarterback. And though it hasn't always been pretty (OK, fine, it can be pretty ugly), it's been fun to watch. As Jim Neveau, a senior correspondent for The Hockey Times tweeted during Sunday's fourth quarter: "I am absolutely convinced that Tebow somehow causes people to do really, really stupid things against the Broncos."

I don't think that's far from the truth. As Tim Tebow said after Sunday's win: "If you believe, sometimes unbelievable things could be possible." Whatever it is, it's happening with Tebow as the team's starting quarterback. I'm starting to believe. And it's clear the Broncos are already believers.

Time is not on his side

By Sarah Spain

I guess you could call this malady I'm suffering from "Tebow Fever," though it feels more like the longest, most painful hangover of my life. Bears fans here in Chicago have pretty much universally agreed that Sunday's loss was the worst regular-season defeat we can remember. It's nearly impossible to wrap my mind around the improbable confluence of events that needed to take place in order for the Bears to blow a 10-point lead with just over two minutes to play.

But we're not here to talk about the Bears and how they gift-wrapped that game, we're here to talk about Tim Tebow. To be honest, I've never had a problem with the guy. He's polite, he's hard-working, he's humble, he's passionate, he's charitable and he's kind of easy on the eyes, too. Am I impressed by his ability to be on the field for Broncos victories? Sure. Am I amazed at his ability to lull opposing teams into submission with three quarters of simply awful play and then suddenly find an arm to throw with for the final 15 minutes of the game? Absolutely. Do I think he's the right answer for the Broncos right now? You betcha.

But do I think he's one of the league's top quarterbacks? No. Tebow Time is running out. Tebow is to this year's NFL what the Wildcat offense was to 2008 and 2009. The more snaps he takes and the more video opposing teams have to watch, the easier it is for them to stop him. The Bears absolutely shut him down for three quarters on Sunday before Lovie Smith inexplicably switched from a Cover 1 defense to a Cover 2. And even with that switch, the game was won until Marion Barber ran out of bounds and left enough time on the clock for an improbable comeback. But there I go talking about that Bears game again.

If this terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach really is Tebow Fever, I'm not worried. It's the kind of sickness that will be cured with time. Come 2012, 2013, Tebow will still be a great person and a great role model. He'll just be leading by example from the sidelines.

He gets by with a little help from his friends

By Adena Andrews

Don't believe the hype about Tim Tebow in the fourth quarter. He is not parting defenses like the Red Sea. Even Moses had help doing that. "Tebow Time" exists because of the work of a dogged offensive line and a kicker with a golden toe.

Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater is one of only two kickers in NFL history to have a 50-plus-yard kick to force overtime and then another 50-plus-yarder to win it in overtime. Prater, who was recognized as the AFC special teams player of the week after his performance against the Bears on Sunday (a 59-yard field goal to tie the game, and then a 51-yarder for the overtime victory), has hit 28 of the 29 career field goals he has attempted in the fourth quarter or overtime. The win against the Bears gave the Broncos their third overtime victory of the season, and Prater had a hand (or, more accurately, a foot) in all of those victories.

After Prater, there's the Denver offensive line, which is making the space for Tebow to run in the fourth quarter. The Broncos' O-line works harder than most because of Tebow's unpredictability in the pocket. The line is ranked first in the league in rushing, and it always has a little energy left in the fourth to clear the way for Tebow. ESPN's hit show says "Numbers Never Lie," but in the case of Tebow and the Broncos' offensive line, it seems they fib a bit.

The intangible factor -- Tebow's ability to lead a team -- shouldn't be overlooked. Maybe it's his faith or his darn good looks, but whatever it is, the man can motivate a team to march into hell wearing gasoline underwear (which is eerily similar to playing in Oakland).

"Tebow Time" is just a figment of our imagination and the brainchild of an alliteration-addicted journalist. The phenomenon is actually the product of a clutch kicker, an inspired offensive line, and Tebow's leadership qualities. Denver's Holy Son himself said it best: "It's not Tebow Time, it's Broncos Time."

Something to believe in

By Melissa Jacobs

All the flu shots in the world cannot protect us against Tebow Fever. Tim Tebow is ubiquitous. He transcends the NFL.

I only recently became fascinated with Tebow. As in, Bears-Broncos recently. For most of the past month and a half, I tried consciously to block out all the "Tebow Time" banter and Tebowing nonsense. Sure, the Broncos kept winning in miraculous fashion, but it seemed nonsensical to give Tebow full credit for Denver's success. Look at that throwing motion -- I could brew and drink a cup of coffee in the time between when he releases the ball and when it has clunked its way over to a receiver. And what about the Broncos' defense? It deserves some credit during "Tebow Time," as evidenced by the numbers.

The Bears were about to render Tebow human Sunday. They exposed the read option's flaws throughout the game because you can do that with a speedy defense. The Bears had one simple task to ensure victory: Kill the clock. But when Marion Barber, a trusty veteran, ran out of bounds in the final two minutes, that was it for me. I became a believer. Tebow simply cannot lose.

As an NFL fan, I love that Tebow is the talk of the league. He is a refreshing figure for all the reasons we know, and a rarity in a league whose superstars are often mired in scandal. He is the ultimate anti-Favre. Tebow was already bringing in a new fan base by wearing his religion on his sleeve and being the ultimate goody-two-shoes. Now he's bringing in new fans by actually playing well on the field and leading his team to shocking victories on a weekly basis. Not that I can explain how he does it.

Can't take my eyes off of you

By Jane McManus

Ever since Charles Barkley insisted that he is not a role model, I've tried not to confuse what an athlete can do on the field with who he is as a person. If you get too much satisfaction from Tiger Woods' flailing on the golf course since his divorce, then you will be disappointed when he wins another major.

So here's the crux.

Tim Tebow isn't just a quarterback, he is a symbol. If you believe in his god, then your worldview is being vindicated as long as he is winning. If you were raised in a different faith or belief -- stay with me here -- that religion is an outdated artifice created by people who are trying to explain a world without the benefit of quantum physics, then perhaps you see Tebow's success as an impediment to your world view.

To this, I say, relax. Tebow is a quarterback. And I defy you to not feel the blood course through your veins a little faster when he hits his mark in the fourth quarter. Maybe it's unsustainable. Maybe he's secretly dating one of Woods' exes. Who cares? It's amazing to watch him in action.

Tim Tebow might be an interesting footnote in NFL history, or he may make the Hall of Fame. He is a good story. And that's what I root for. Whether things end up happily ever after, finding out is part of the fun.

Mr. Nice Guy

By Whitney Holtzman

When it comes to college sports experiences, I pretty much hit the jackpot. Between my acceptance at the University of Florida and my graduation (a span of only roughly four years -- don't worry), the Gators racked up two NCAA basketball titles, two football championships, two SEC titles and a Heisman Trophy. As a sports reporter for a few outlets in Gainesville, I was able to spend time with one of the greatest guys I've ever met -- Tim Tebow. Tebow was always exceedingly polite and well-spoken during news conferences, he played with his heart on his sleeve, and he never said no to a child's autograph request. I was continually impressed by the behavior he exhibited and, frankly, I found him to be nicer than most non-athletes I know.

I remember walking out of his pro day news conference, and there he was -- talking to a little boy in a wheelchair, signing a football for him. No matter how much attention Tebow got, he always remained appreciative. After games, he would take a victory lap around the inside of the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to high-five the fans. During my sophomore year, he decided to host a sorority flag football tournament to raise money for charity. Not only was he one of the first ones at the event in the morning, but he also enthusiastically cheered on all of the participants. Whether you agree with his religious beliefs or not (I used to joke that reporters weren't going to know when the news conferences of Tebow's successor, John Brantley, were over, because Tebow had always concluded his with "God Bless," and that's how we knew it was time to go), it's refreshing to see an athlete who has values. And it's not just Tim. I had the opportunity to spend some time with his brother, Peter, at UF's pro day in 2010. He was as nice and humble as could be. Pam and Bob Tebow must be phenomenal parents. They seem to have instilled respect, humility and kindness in each child, and that's rare to find in college kids -- specifically athletes -- these days.

So here's what bothers me. There are so many negative things happening in sports -- Cincinnati and Xavier turned their basketball game into an MMA fight; the NBA and NFL players and owners locked out for months to figure out how to divide billions of dollars; Ndamukong Suh put on his own version of "Stomp," using an NFL field as his stage; and then are the accusations of horrific abuse at Penn State and Syracuse. On top of that, it's rare a week goes by that you don't hear of an athlete getting into some kind of trouble -- whether it is drugs, alcohol or, you know, driving into trees.

We always criticize these athletes (rightfully so) for setting such poor examples for the impressionable minds in our country. Now, we finally have a guy who does it all right. He's winning, he works hard, and he exhibits perfect behavior off the field. As a society, we should be celebrating this guy. We need to be showing the next generation that we are proud of what Tebow is doing. We always talk about how we want our athletes to set good examples. Finally, we have a guy who is doing just that, but we're contradicting ourselves by criticizing him. That made a little more sense when he wasn't winning, but now he's 7-1 as a starter this season. Sure, things are usually a little quiet until the fourth quarter, and sure, Tebow's throwing motion may not be ideal. But he's winning. And guess what? I don't care if he completes negative-16 passes a game, because stats don't matter when you win. Sometimes stats are an indication of performance, but they are never more important than tallies in the win column.

Will Tebow go on to have many years of success in the NFL? Frankly, I have no idea, and really, neither does anyone else. What I do know for sure is that no one works harder or wants it more than Tebow. And it's hard to argue with passion. It's time we start celebrating the guy who does it the right way.

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