He has inspired jokes about his superhuman abilities, top-selling merchandise and legislative bills named after him that attempt to change home-schooling laws.
He also has been a spiritual inspiration, through preaching in area prisons, doing mission work in the Philippines and writing Bible verses in his eye black.
As Tim Tebow graduates today from the University of Florida with a degree in family, youth and community sciences, he'll be leaving an impact beyond football. The 22-year-old Gator quarterback has been a pop-culture phenomenon,
transcending the world of sports perhaps more than any college athlete before him.
Religious leaders gush over his character, and parents call him a role model, while pundits debate whether the attention is overdone.
"Tebow is unlike any player in the history of college football — no player has ever come close to combining mythic on-field performance with mythic off-field performance in the way Tebow has," sports columnist Dan Shanoff said in an e-mail.
Shanoff writes the Teblog, a Web site focused entirely on the Gator quarterback. He's not alone in picking the subject. Tebow is a cottage industry online, with blogs dedicated to listing "Tebowisms" such as "Superman wears Tim Tebow pajamas" and others documenting the latest Scripture verse written under his eyes.
The Scripture verses, along with his work in prisons and overseas, have made Tebow a favorite among religious leaders. When he wrote "John 3:16" in his eye black for the last national championship game, Google experienced about 94 million searches for the verse.
Eric Brown, minister at Campus Church of Christ in Gainesville, said he has seen the Tebow effect every time he watched Gator games with non-Christians. Each time, he said, someone would break out their iPhone or other mobile device to look up the verse featured that game.
"He was able to, in some ways, change the conversation," Brown said.
Brown wrote "Why I pray for Tebow" last fall on a sign outside the church, explaining at the time that he was praying Tebow wouldn't be tempted into a scandal that discredits him. A year later — and in the wake of Tiger Woods' admitted infidelities being revealed — Brown said he's happy Tebow has remained a role model.
Dan Johnson, senior minister of Gainesville's Trinity United Methodist Church, struck a similar tone. He said Tebow has proven he's authentic, from his commitment to Christianity to him crying on the sidelines after the loss to Alabama in this year's SEC Championship Game.
"You don't have the sense that he's living two different lives ... He's the real deal," Johnson said.
Johnson's church has sold thousands of T-shirts featuring the "Phil 4:13" Bible reference in Tebow's eye black. Tebow shirts also have been a big seller in stores, with his No. 15 jersey bringing in nearly $77,000 last year for the athletic association as its biggest-selling jersey of an individual player.
Unsanctioned items also have been big hits, including shirts featuring the letter "T" in a Superman-esque logo. Jonesville resident Lori Evans formed the company Titletown T's to sell shirts and buttons featuring the letter "T" with a picture of a bow next to it.
Evans said she has sold the items to people who are Louisiana State, Georgia and Tennessee fans, indicating that Tebow's appeal supersedes team allegiances. She said she's sad to see him go — not because of its effect on her business but because of the way that he carries himself off the field.
"I'll miss the fact that he's a role model," she said.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The Tebow Effect
Nathan Crabbe has a piece interviewing various Gainesville figures, and contrasting their views of Tebow with national figures to show what the cumulative "Tebow effect" has been on us all.