January 13th, 2012
12:12 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow faces the game of his life on Saturday. His Broncos play the New England Patriots to decide who reaches the AFC championship game. But for Tebow himself, it's the game that will decide if he can be sold as America's next sporting icon.

On paper, Tebow is no marketing superstar. The numbers say he's - for the most part - a pretty average quarterback. He's rode his luck in most of the games he's won, and the public displays of his faith that routinely follow seem to split fans down the middle. With a five-year, $11.25 million contract, he's also not topping any rich lists anytime soon.

But all true sporting phenomena have something more special, more significant than a big paycheck. LeBron James has it. Roger Federer has it. Tiger Woods had it. Thierry Henry just regained it. Like it or not, Tim Tebow has it too - star power.

For all the questions about his performance on the field, Tebow's star power off it has never been in doubt. When his Broncos coach refused to give him the starting quarterback job, local businesses in Denver felt compelled to put up billboards calling for “Tebow Time” to begin. A recent marketing poll rated Tebow a more influential celebrity than Tom Hanks or Lady Gaga. His memoirs, “Through My Eyes” quickly became one of the best-selling sports books AND religion books of 2011 - it's still in the New York Times' best-sellers list. It just goes on and on. And on.

Most importantly, he somehow keeps winning games. And even those fans who despise him can't seem to get enough of the ongoing circus. There's just one problem though. Until now, the hype has outstripped the talent. If Tebow had thrown one yard for every thousand words written about him this season, he would have broken every NFL record going. Instead he became the lucky winner, a slapstick figure of fun improbably blundering his way into the playoffs.

Last week's outstanding performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers changed all that. Throwing for 316 yards (the same number as his favorite Bible passage), he looked every inch a star. Now he has the chance to prove he really is one, by beating another legitimate icon - the Patriots' Tom Brady.

See how Tebow's passing yard created a biblical number

We already know the world is watching. During that Steelers game, Tebow's game-winning touchdown became the second-most tweeted event of all time. Though even with such ridiculous momentum behind him, victory now is far from assured - indeed, the Pats have already given Tebow's Broncos a schooling earlier this season.

This time though, the stakes have been raised. Saturday's game in New England is about more than the AFC title race. If Tebow loses, it condemns him back to the land of novelty, as a quarterback curiosity. If he wins, the dollar signs will flash for the coronation of America's next sports phenomenon. And who's going to bet against him?

soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. saempersun

    Tim Tebow is an average player.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  2. Roger

    Why don't we run him from the position of god?

    January 13, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  3. Steve

    this is a little late, he already is the biggest star in America, in an ESPN poll he was recently ranked as the most popular sportman stateside, he also broke the record at the weekend for most tweets per second (over 9000) after Broncos overtime win against the Steelers

    January 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  4. Carl Smith

    Tebow is already a star, and widely regarded as the greatest College player of all-time. Even if Broncos lose on Saturday as expected against the Patriots he will still be the number 1 sports star in America at least until the NBA play-offs. He has already proven himself this season, remember the Broncos were 1-4 when they made him a starter and nobody was thinking play-offs at that stage.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  5. Alyssa

    Brady's going to own Tebow once more on Saturday.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  6. Jack

    I'm a believer, but I don't buy into it. Why should God be on anybody's side? Because one guy prays harder than the other? Ridiculous. Don't tell me God is behind Tebow's good fortune. Luck happens... to atheists, Buddhists, Hindus as much as mono-theist believers. You can't pray your way to the super bowl. You need skill, a good team, a good leader, and a little luck. Faith might give you an added edge, but God's not going to vote for any one believer.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  7. Turbojugend1

    Can't wait for the game.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  8. Stevo

    Don't you usually have to be good at sports to be a sports superstar?

    January 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  9. Damion

    Why do you all keep hating on this mans faith. I doubt, though I could be wrong, that Tebow has asked for a win from god, even once. He prays for strength, the strength to persevere even in the face of all the constant ridicule. He prays for his team mates and that god will protect and guide them no matter what the cost. But you people attack him because you don't understand faith and you assume he believes god is delivering him a victory, when all his faith is doing is bolstering his will so that he can go out there and face any possibility, even the one that he may lose.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  10. Martin Smith

    His favourite bible pasage come really, you guys need to got off the religion thing for everything that happens in America. The US is starting to look a lot like some fundementalist religous middle eastern country you all like to bash. And the world is NOT watching

    January 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  11. Luffy

    once he uses his passport Tebow becomes a nobody

    January 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  12. us1776

    The guy has ONE game where he played at NFL level and people are fawning all over him.

    Maybe we should name him MVP of the season?


    January 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  13. William

    We love him in London!

    January 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  14. analias

    due to the god/jesus hype this loser is spouting, i hope his spine gets severed in at least 5 different spots.

    January 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  15. willy

    Odd, how can he be so poplar in a non Christian country?

    January 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  16. achepotle

    If they lose, will everyone admit gods are a crock of $hat?

    January 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  17. karma

    @analias – do you believe in karma, dude ? talkling like that of someone's faith will make you swallow your words any time soon...just be patient cuz soon you will feed the flowers ;)

    January 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  18. analias

    you're an idiot.
    the world

    January 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  19. Rob Beattie


    January 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  20. Jack

    it seems to me he has never once said he wins or doesnt win because of God- its everyone else implying that because he does something very foreign to some -he prays and gives thanks to God. I think its nice to see some one actually be thankful to someone other than himself. Nice to see a bit of humility. As for all the Christian bashing- I wonder what will be going through your mind when you face death. I bet then God will cross your mind, hope it wont be too late.

    January 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  21. Carm

    If he was ugly, he wouldn't make the headlines. I'd be thanking God too, if I was making his salary!

    January 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  22. coder

    he is the favorite of the media but not the fans of the game
    he exemplifies the problem with religion today – TOO many people around the world "flaunt" their religion
    that's simply indecent – like flaunting your money, or taunting others – Faith is a private matter, between you and your god

    January 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  23. Ruth in Ohio

    This is a man that kids can at least look up to.....who in this United States do we really have as a role model...players that sleep around ,politicians who lie,sleep around too,hollywood stars,would not give them respect.....at least this is a person who is moral ,a virgin ,and I respect him for that alone,who the same age can actually say that?

    January 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  24. analias

    i wouldn't want my kids to look up to him. he's no role model for them. that's my job.
    "daddy, why is he always talking about the bible, and god. what are these things?"
    "well, you see, he's insane. remember that homeless guy muttering on the street? that will be him someday."

    January 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  25. PeterS

    The bottom line is he is a winner. He took a 1-4 team that was falling apart and not only got them into the playoffs, but beat one of the best teams (and the team with the highest ranked defense). Forget about Religion, the problem with Tebow is that the media favors stats, which is why Rivers and Romo are considered good quarterbacks. Tebow wins games, which is all that matters. He makes his teammates play better, even the defense. These are things that can´t be defined out to two decimal places like a quarterback rating, so the media can´t write quick 3 minute articles about his score dropping etc. Do you think the Cowboys or Chargers wish they were playing in January? That is all that matters.

    January 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  26. wanderer

    He becomes popular and a sensation not only because of his performance in football but because of his character. Before he became famous in the football field he was already doing missionary works with his family until today.Right now he is helping to build the Childrens'Hospital in the Philippines. He is the athlete with a heart and soul. That's the difference. That's what makes him unique. We the people in the Philippines are thankful and honored for choosing us as part of his life.In and out of football field you are our star. Win or loose you will remain in our hearts. Go Timmy!!!! The Filipinos are praying for you.

    January 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  27. Charles Hubbard

    God led me to communicate to Tim Tebow that his endorsement of NIKE is WRONG!

    God had me show Tim of the proof in His Word.

    Tim rejected the truth.

    NIKE began with Satan... the company that Tim endorses was named in honor of the pagan goddess NIKE.

    The Bible says that other gods are demons... and if you think the goddess NIKE is nothing... you can't prove God is a liar. God says they are demons. God is always right.

    And in this case... Tim Tebow is wrong.

    He will never be a good role model until he learns how to truly HONOR GOD.

    Jesus would NEVER endorse a company honoring the pagan goddess NIKE.

    Tim Tebow wants to profit off of both.

    No one should have a role model like that!

    January 13, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  28. Frank

    @Charles, you need to relax. Get out more.

    January 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  29. Ed

    Reading these posts, I really don't understand why the strong feelings for and against Tim Tebow. I see him as a good man, who works hard, loves God, and tries to help others. That being said, there are many others like him who live a good, clean life outside of the public eye. It is us, not Tebow, who is to blame for all the fuss. Man has always been plagued with insecurities, misdirected anger, and fanatical hero worshipping. Tebow just happens to be our latest excuse to voice them.

    January 13, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  30. wario

    The Inspector Closeau of the NFL: Not great skills, but never give up.

    January 13, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  31. BecinOrlando

    I'm a Florida Gator and I've seen this man accomplish things that most said wouldn't happen. Why do people insult him for his faith and perseverance? Wow people, take a break from hurling insults at a man who has a clear vision of what he believes. I think he will win the Patriot game.....I've been following him for years.....maybe some of you could use some faith in your lives.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:25 am |
  32. Rick

    @ Ed, thanks for providing some sanity. I agree with you. People like anallas are disturbing, he only seems to know hate. It's sad to read most of these comments. I'm not religious nor of faith, but I can respect a man for his. Besides, he does have talent, as anyone who followed NCAA football during his time at University of Florida.
    @ us1776 (very patriotic BTW), "ONE game", seriously? Denver was 1-4 when he came to the rescue, he's the main reason they've made the playoff's, are you really going to say all those games were won on luck? Come on. Give the man some credit.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:36 am |
  33. Bill Fitzgerald

    Can anyone seriously tell me that they think that if the Savior were here he would pose for Jockey? Is modesty forgotten? What a farce. No he is not following Christ by posing for Jockey. Anyone with a brain can firgure that out no matter what religion they are or are not.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  34. Eric

    i have yet to see or hear anything interesting to me about football or tebow from any source.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  35. Rob

    Luck has a nasty habit of evening out. So likely Tebow is going to throw a handfull of interceptions and be sacked a dozen times.

    January 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  36. coderjones

    flaunting religion is how the world got into its current state

    the same will happen to tebow

    January 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  37. Steve

    Tebowmania comes to an end tonight from the hands of Brady & co. He barely got by a banged up Steelers team last week. Not to take anything a way from him. He did make some fantastic passes but with Ben not being able to move kept Denver from falling behind and ultimately won the game for them. He is just an avaerage QB. Hardly a superstar.

    January 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  38. Fitty Stim

    I don't know about you, but I pray to satan all the time to come and suck up Tebow's brain. But it hasn't happened yet. I guess lucifer is just having a hard time finding the darn thing...

    The Broncos have no chance. Today is the Patriots' day!

    January 15, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  39. iamajim

    In a word, NO, he isn't; not by a long shot. Journalism is loooong dead....sigh

    January 15, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  40. Susan Thom

    Tebow is nothing but a delusional, mentally-ill jerk who thinks he's so superior because of his sanctimonious, smug, public displays of his blind eagerness to worship an imaginary, invisible, and non-existent deity.......

    Can we please ban Christian marriage so these lunatics can be stopped from reproducing? Please???

    January 15, 2012 at 2:07 am |
  41. jose

    "second most tweeted event of all time" cnn really does write whatever it feels like...

    January 15, 2012 at 3:28 am |
  42. Layne A

    It's just a game. so the depth of feeling particularly critical of the religion might be better served by adopting a more sane level of passion. He's essentially just some guy. You may prefer criticising the people fuelling the hype instead.
    I wouldn't be so critical of the religious if i was so enamoured of watching groups of neanderthals hurting each other for the amusement of the crowd. It doesn't necessarily smack of an enlightened position (whatever that is). I enjoy violent sport as much as anybody, but i just impose limits on how emotionally involved i should get.
    Also last time i checked i couldn't play football worth a damn, so i wouldn't be too critical of the talents involved.

    January 15, 2012 at 4:50 am |
  43. George

    Not after Saturday's fiasco. He proved what he is; a third string QB who had a lucky streak. He can't throw a decent spiral or throw accurately. He got schooled by a real QB on Saturday. Now can we please stop hearing about him? He was always nothing but hype and the pandering to religion was nauseating. Neither God nor Jesus gives a damn about your football game Tim.

    January 15, 2012 at 6:05 am |
  44. guides

    Born in the Philippines...

    January 15, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  45. normsw

    HAHAHAHA! bIG JOKE. AFTER TONIGHT'S 45-10 drubbing in Foxboro by Brady & Co, it's back to the drawing board for our "hero" and the Denver staff. Last month's 1st quarter 21-0 lead didn't do him much good either; the Pats ran away with the rest of the game, a humbling experience repeated today.
    Tebow will need another 2-3 seasons before he can rise (maybe) to the level of Brady, Brees, P. Manning, or several other great current qbacks.

    January 15, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  46. Bernie

    Sports is such a strange mix with religion as shown by the comments above. If there is a supreme being as many want there to be it makes so little sense that a football game matters at all given the billions of galaxies out there.... just think how egocentric that is to turn a supreme being into an NFL fan. Secondly if god is on his side when he is winning does he take the blame when he loses a game or blows a play..... I never hear.... well Jesus should have passed in 3rd and long. Just because everyone gets weary of the prayer jestures does not mean that they hate Tee Bow...... you can hate the stupidity of how this is being played out in the media and not hate the man. Bottom line people is get some perspective, be more rational/ less emotional and grow up

    January 15, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  47. normsw

    And he doesn't need to show off his religiosity, either. It's not part of the game, and offensive to fans of any other religion around the world. Sheesh. Settle for pointing your finger at the sky, dude, like the other players. Mohammed may be up there, too, and several other Gods. LOL.

    January 15, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  48. normsw

    Football is only a game (albeit a big money game) so let's not everyone get all hysterical either way over religion, or the lack of it, during the games.

    January 15, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  49. normsw

    Patriots win SB in Feb. 2012. You saw it here first.

    January 15, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  50. normsw

    Anyone, including all the idiot sports writers, who think Tebow is a superstar, is smoking too much loco weed.

    January 15, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  51. Rob

    Tom Brady > Tebow

    Tebow gets traded while he still has value this off season and then disappears from NFL relevance.

    January 15, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  52. Demonic1

    I know we have reached the ridiculous point of handing everyone a participation ribbon or trophy to take the sting of loss away from the children, but have we finally reached that level of PC in adults too. He is a mediocre QB who had more than average luck in some of his wins that's all.
    So give him his ribbon but to even utter the word superstar is an affront to all the truly talented players.

    January 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  53. Sharon

    Tebow May not be the top quarterback, he's a positive role model. We need more Tebows!

    January 16, 2012 at 4:06 am |
  54. sameh

    very sad situation See the elephant is dying and die


    January 26, 2012 at 4:37 am |

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