The Detroit Lions' 45-10 blowout of the Denver Broncos last Sunday remains a hot topic among football fans, but their focus has shifted from the score to questions of sportsmanship.
Denver Quarterback Tim Tebow took a beating during the lopsided game, going down for seven sacks and throwing one interception. One Lions lineman, Stephen Tulloch, celebrated tackling the Colorado quarterback by dropping to one knee and imitating Tebow's "Tebowing" prayer pose. Detroit tight end Tony Scheffler added salt to the wound by performing the move following his touchdown in the first quarter.
Their gestures mark the first time other players have turned Tebow's "Tebowing" against him. An outspoken Christian, Tebow celebrated his team's Oct. 23 18-15 upset against the Miami Dolphins by giving thanks to God on one knee. The pose has since become an internet phenomenon, with multiple websites showcasing their own versions of the move.
"I think 'Tebowing' and 'Tebowing' websites are awesome," said Jacquie Beckvermit, a Berthoud, Colo., native. "Some are very good spiritual pictures and others are funny and not meant to be fully spiritual. I am always for individuals showing their faith and acting on their beliefs. Since Tebow is a vocal Christian people are going to put more focus on him because the league isn't used to this."
Overall fan backlash against Tulloch and Scheffler’s versions was immediate, with many questioning if the pair mocked Tebow's faith with their performance. Angered by these accusations, Tulloch took to Twitter Monday and addressed fans' concerns.
"I have love and passion for the game of football," he wrote. "Football is a form of entertainment. Have a sense of humor – I wasn't mocking God."
Clarifying his thoughts further in an interview with the Detroit Lions website Tuesday, Tulloch said he meant no harm to Tebow or Christians with his actions. On the contrary, he was merely making the most of the "Tebowing" fad while it lasts.
"The fact that anyone could say I'm mocking God is outrageous," Tulloch said. "It wasn't out of disrespect, it was out of fun."
The Lions player added that he admired Tebow both on and off the field. The Denver quarterback's determination to succeed, Tulloch said, made him a person worth imitating.
"I spoke to him after the game and I told him to keep his head up," Tulloch said. "He's a good player, he just needs time to get better and grow, and he'll overcome it."
Latif Masud, a writer for the Lions fan site Pride of Detroit, said he expected "Tebowing" to turn on its creator as the 2011 NFL season wore on. The fact that Detroit dived into the trend first, he said, was mere coincidence. It also wasn't unexpected, he added, for long-time Lions fans like himself.
"As far as Scheffler's celebration goes, Tony Scheffler has a touchdown dance prepared each week to imitate the team he scores on," Masud said. "Stephen Tulloch was simply celebrating his sack, and it's a common phenomenon in the NFL to mock a quarterback's staple dance if you sack him."
Beckvermit said Tebow would probably take the jest in good spirit. Citing the fact "Tebowing" began as sincere prayer, she said the quarterback likely focuses on God rather than just football games.
"I, and I think many others, find it refreshing that Tebow has such a positive attitude on and off the field which I'm sure is rooted in his faith," Beckvermit stated. "It is really nice seeing a player who always believes his team has a chance to win and I think it's rubbing off on his teammates."