(Photo: Facebook/Tim Tebow)
E! television network's special on New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow highlighted his influence and the events that led to his superstardom as told through his friends, former teammates and reporters.
The half-hour long event, titled "Wild Rise," premiered Monday night and categorized the events in Tebow's life through captions that referred to the Bible, including titles like "in the beginning," "cross to bear," "forbidden fruit" and "second coming." The show paid particularly close attention to the fact that Tebow's Christian faith, which he does not separate from his life as a football player, is a major cause for both admiration and disgust among those who have followed his career.
"There was so much that so many people didn't like about him, and so much that other people loved about him, that it made him the most loved and despised figure, not just in sports, but in this country," ESPN's Skip Bayless said.
Tebow was born in the Philippines to American missionaries. His legend almost never began after his mother was advised to terminate her pregnancy due to a life-threatening infection. Both of them survived, and by the time he was 3 years old his family had moved onto a farm in Florida.
In 1996, Florida passed a law allowing homeschooled students to play sports within the school district they live in. Tebow's family took full advantage of this law, and his family moved so he could play quarterback for Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Fla., where it became obvious he would one day be a celebrity. Players on opposing teams would even ask for his autograph at times.
When he became a successful player at the University of Florida, where he won a Heisman Trophy and two national championships, fans became obsessed with him. Urban Meyer, who coached Tebow at Florida but now is the head coach at The Ohio State University, said Tebow couldn't move around campus without security, had to park in a special lot and had to leave practices by a back exit because fans would line up for his autograph wherever he went.
In the 2009 BCS National Championship game against the University of Oklahoma, Tebow had "John 3:16" written on his eyeblack, causing the Bible verse to trend on Google for several days after. Some people praised his outspoken faith, others criticized it, and still another group of people thought it was all for show.
"There was definitely the naysayers that thought he was fake, that thought...'This can't be the real Tim,'" Justin Giagrande, a college friend of Tebow's, said during the E! special.
Mark Kriegel, a sports reporter, suggested some football fans have behaved hypocritically by attacking Tebow's faith.
"I don't understand all the haters, I really don't," said Kriegel. "People say they want a righteous guy, then you give them a righteous guy and what do they do? They complain about it."
After being drafted into the NFL by the Denver Broncos in 2010, Tebow finally got a full-time starting quarterback job in the middle of the 2011-2012 season. His unorthodox throwing style and ability to pull off last-minute wins in the fourth quarter of games made him as impressive to some as he was despised by others.
Adding fuel to the fire was the media's inability to ignore Tebow's faith. Last season, the public finally took notice of Tebow's pre-game prayers on the field and the "Tebowing" trend began. Everyday fans and celebrities alike began taking photographs of themselves praying on one knee and posting them to the Internet, fueling the quarterback's pop-culture status. "Tebowing" eventually became an official word in the English language, and now has its own place on Dictionary.com.
While his career highlights are interesting, no Tebow special would be complete without discussing his dating life, especially on an entertainment network. The special included a clip of Tebow saying that he is a virgin and is saving himself until marriage during a press conference.
Many people hope he will break his promise and go against his beliefs.
"Tim Tebow has said that he's waiting for marriage and true love to lose his virginity, and I wish him good luck on that, but I kind of wish he'd reconsider because he's wasting an awful lot of opportunities," said Kriegel.
After being traded to the Jets this offseason, many have wondered how he will handle the pressure and the temptations of being in the Big Apple. Reporters who spoke during the special said they hope he slips up, to essentially show he's just as immoral as everyone else.
"I think a lot of people are wondering what will happen when Tim Tebow spends his nights in New York City, which is arguably [the] Sodom of the United States," said Gary Belsky, former editor-in-chief of ESPN The Magazine.
While some would likely say Tebow's biggest enemy is the media, and others might say it is his own play on the football field, others, like Bayless, have expressed their concern that his constant willingness to help churches, hospitals and other organizations could be to his detriment. In addition to working with his own Tim Tebow Foundation and its "Wish 15" program, he has also drawn tens of thousands of people to churches across the U.S. by speaking at them.
"Football will build his platform from which he can witness for God," said Bayless, "but I fear he'll get pulled in too many directions by too many groups."