Mania matchup: Tebow vs. Lin

Who is more influential, Tebow or Lin?

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    35%
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    65%

(Total votes: 8,029)

TIM TEBOW
JEREMY LIN

TEBOW GOT SLIMED

McManus By Jane McManus
ESPNNewYork.com
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It's hard to compare the spotlight glare produced by Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin, but both have transcended their respective sports to become fodder for discussion and admiration around kitchen tables everywhere.

What do they have in common? Both Lin, the Knicks guard, and Tebow, the Jets backup quarterback, are religious and seem to live their lives according to those principles. Both are also classic underdogs.

Lin somehow emerged from Harvard to don a pro team uniform -- a very rare outcome. Tebow was named the Broncos' starting QB despite lacking the ability to complete more than a handful of passes in an average game.

Still, Tebow holds the most sway.

He won the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award in the favorite male athlete category, putting him the company of fellow winners Katy Perry, the girl from "Twilight" and SpongeBob SquarePants. Sure, Lin has pull, but he's no match for a pineapple-dwelling cartoon character.

Tebow is in the top 10 of the Marketing Arm's Davie-Brown Index for all celebrities. That's right, not all athletes -- Tebow is up there with Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith in terms of consumer likability and trust.

Tebow. Oprah.

It's nothing against Lin. But the NFL is the most popular sport in the country, the quarterback is the most visible player on any team, and religion is a very important thing to a lot of people.

The Knicks are a nice team, they may make the playoffs, and maybe the injured Lin will even play.

Still … Oprah. Tebow.

It's not out of the question that Lin could become so popular that kids would vote to honor him with a dousing of green slime, but it hasn't happened yet.

But with all the things those guys have in common, they should totally hang out when they're both in New York.

EVERYONE LOVES AN UNDERDOG

Begley By Ian Begley
ESPNNewYork.com
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Tim Tebow was a first-round draft pick. Jeremy Lin? Undrafted.

Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy. Jeremy Lin didn't even win Ivy League Player of the Year as a senior.

Tebow was heavily recruited out of high school and attended one of the top football programs in the country. Jeremy Lin had no Division I scholarship offers coming out of high school. He ended up going to the one school that showed serious interest in him -- Harvard.

So compared to Tebow, Lin was a much bigger long shot to end up where he did, and I think that's one reason he's more influential than the Jets' backup quarterback.

Need another reason? Lin's influence has a broader reach.

Lin is hugely popular in China, home to one-fifth of the world's population. His rise has also debunked prejudices about Asian Americans and proved influential to anyone who has ever been overlooked or undervalued.

And he's not as polarizing a figure as Tebow is. Like Tebow, Lin is deeply religious and unafraid to talk openly about his faith. But he expresses that faith in a manner that doesn't seem to rub some people the wrong way.

Some people -- particularly the executives and coach who drafted him -- expected Tebow to start in the NFL. No one could have predicted Lin's rise from end-of-the-bench afterthought to NBA starter.

Don't forget, Lin was released twice in the preseason and played fewer than 30 minutes in his first six weeks with the Knicks.

He was nearly cut by the Knicks and replaced by Long Island native Mike James. But the Knicks decided to give Lin playing time on Feb. 4 and he responded with a 25-point night against the Nets.

Then Linsanity ensued.

Millions of kids -- Asian Americans in particular -- had a new kind of hero to root for. A guy who'd been passed over again and again, only to persevere.

What's more influential than that?