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December 20, 2011

Jim Bailey: What does Tebow have to do to earn respect anyway?

ANDERSON, Ind. — Since the Denver Broncos named Tim Tebow as their starting quarterback, they have won seven of nine games, putting the Broncos in the thick of the playoff race after a 1-4 start.

Yet opposing players, the talking heads on sports channels and even Tebow’s superiors at Denver seem reluctant to give him unmitigated credit for Denver’s resurgence.

Is it perhaps Tebow’s outspoken Christian faith that makes some people back off? After all, he doesn’t fit the mold of an NFL superstar. His passing statistics are less than spectacular, unless the game is on the line. He actually RUNS with the ball if the passing lanes are covered. And he not only doesn’t exhibit an ego, he gives most of the credit to somebody bigger than himself. But not for winning — just for playing well enough to be in that position.

His pastor, Wayne Hanson of the Summit Church in Denver, goes further. And perhaps he does Tebow no favors by his insistence that the Broncos would not be on the winning track if God hadn’t decided to reward Tebow’s religious beliefs.

Well, I don’t know about that. I suspect the Almighty is more concerned about athletes being all they can be, physically as well as spiritually, than about who comes out on top on the scoreboard.

Any number of athletic superstars have fallen flat on their faces by neglecting the development of their personal integrity even while honing their tremendous physical skills.

And if God were in the business of rewarding athletes’ spiritual commitment, why did the Indianapolis Colts only this Sunday notch their first victory with many of the same exemplary personnel, including a number of believers, who appeared in two Super Bowls?

Tebow’s commitment to Evangelical Christianity not only is no secret but is on display. But not in a boastful way. He respectfully demurs to his teammates in the manner one would expect from one who practices Christian humility. “I don’t think it’s Tebow Time,” he said after Denver’s incredible comeback win over the Chicago Bears a couple of weeks ago, “I think it’s the Broncos Time.”

He certainly has a point. The Broncos have done it in large part with great defense, a team-first concept and a tremendous level of trust in one another. Of course, his unorthodox style has helped by confusing the typical NFL defenses.

But his outspoken faith and personal deprecation seem not to fit in with the concept many people have of sports, where it’s all about finely tuned athletes who relish basking in the spotlight or being in their opponents’ faces as much as possible.

I tend to believe Grantland Rice, the legendary sportswriter of an earlier era, had the right idea with his famous verse:

“For when the one Great Scorer comes to write against your name,

He’ll not write that you won or lost, but how you played the game.”

Jim Bailey’s column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by email at

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