DENVER — Maybe this is how the residents of Bethlehem felt.
Coloradans — even the non-football fans — are as shocked and awed as anyone by the miracle occurring in their own backyard with the rise of Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback and quite possibly the most famous Christian bachelor to walk the Earth in the past 2,000 years.
The “Mile-High Messiah” — just one of the many nicknames he’s acquired since arriving here last year — has led the city’s flagging NFL franchise on an improbable 6-1 run this season. In the process, he’s halted the team’s slide into midsize-market mediocrity and placed the Mountain Time zone at the center of the media universe.
“I think it’s been huge. He’s the talk of the NFL,” said Mohammed Suleiman, who runs a new pro-Tebow message every Monday on the electronic sign outside the headquarters of Multiline International Imports in Denver. “Every week, they talk about him on the news and ESPN. Just to be a part of that here in Colorado is a great feeling.”
After the Broncos pulled off another no-way-in-heck overtime victory Sunday over the Chicago Bears, Denver fans were ecstatic to bask once again in the national spotlight, even as they tried to find the words to explain the inexplicable.
Better to invent a few new words. “Unbelievabow and Timplausible,” said Denver Post sports columnist Woody Paige.
The nonstop Tebow coverage on national sports stations, the covers on Sports Illustrated and NFL the Magazine, the furious debate over whether his unorthodox playing style can succeed in the NFL, the relentless examination of his Christian beliefs — all this is manna from heaven for Denver’s business community.
“Every time this happens, we get more national exposure. We’re a national game now,” said Rich Grant, spokesman for the Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Denver is once again a ghost town during the game, at least during the fourth quarter. Nobody wants to miss the last few minutes or you won’t have anything to talk about the next day.”
CBS-TV and NBC-TV waged a well-publicized fight last week over broadcast rights to the team’s Dec. 18 game against the New England Patriots, with CBS ultimately winning out. “Sports Center,” ESPN’s flagship program, might as well be called “Tebow Center,” given the amount of time the national sports channel devotes to the Denver QB.
Forget the Dallas Cowboys. “The Denver Broncos have become America’s Team,” said Vic Lombardi, host of “The Vic and Gary Show” on KXDP-FM in Denver.
After the Broncos‘ win Sunday, Mr. Tebow was the hottest topic on the social networks. Four of Twitter’s top 10 trending topics in the U.S. were about Mr. Tebow (#allhedoesiswin, #tebow, #winner and #themilehighmessiah) and three more were about other players in the just-completed Broncos-Bears game (#mattprater, #cutlerandforte and #marionbarber’s).
“The popularity of Tim Tebow is bigger than the game,” said analyst Jalen Rose on the NFL Network. “If he ran for president, he’d get Sarah Palin’s vote. He’s that popular.”
Not surprisingly, Colorado’s Christian community has embraced Mr. Tebow, the son of missionaries who was home-schooled through high school. The quarterback’s practice of starting each interview by thanking Jesus Christ and ending with “God bless” has rubbed some people the wrong way, but not fellow believers.
“Tebow has given a terrific boost of morale to all of Denver and all of Colorado, not just with his amazing play on the field, but with his fearless, selfless and incredible natural expression of his deeply held beliefs as a Christian,” said John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University.
At Cherry Hills Community Church, pastor Jim Dixon ended his Sunday sermon with a shout-out to the quarterback. “There are some people who irrationally dislike him. I mean, what has he done to deserve this?” said Mr. Dixon.