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New York sure to test Tebow, on and off the field
Microscope » Will Tebowmania survive increased scrutiny in Big Apple?


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The New York fan base is notoriously fickle - Linsanity? That’s so two weeks ago — and one interception by Sanchez, heck, one glare from Santonio Holmes, and Jets fans will be calling for Tebow. The tabloids won’t even be that restrained; one paper Thursday featured the Statue of Liberty, Tebowing.

"We obviously know that Tim has a magnetic following," Tannenbaum said. "We understand the popularity of the backup quarterback, and this one is more unique than others."

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"Unique," that’s a good way of putting it.

Tebow has had a large and fervent following since his days at Florida, and as much as the two national titles he brought to the program, he drew people in because of his Christian faith. He is hardly the first player to name-drop God or kneel in prayer amid the chaos of a game; Jeremy Lin, New York’s most recent fad, makes no secret of his Christian faith, either.

But Tebow is seen as more outspoken, more passionate. As appealing as that is to some, it’s a turnoff for others, and there is very little middle ground to be found.

"I’m sure that there will be plenty of scoffing at Tim Tebow and his kind of earnest, evangelical spirituality," Dodd said.

That may have been part of the reason the Jets wanted him, however.

Now that the Oakland Raiders are on good behavior, the Jets have assumed the title of the NFL’s bad boys: brash, mouthy, itching to stir up trouble. Oh, it’s entertaining at first; at times, "Hard Knocks" felt like a football version of "Dance Moms."

But the act can wear thin fast — especially when a team and its coach aren’t winning.

Tebow "models this life of serving other people, of selflessness, these character traits that, at end of day, are conducive to winning," Dodd said. "Even though his status as an NFL quarterback is open to question and we don’t know what we’re getting from him as a quarterback, you definitely know what you’re getting from him as a person and that’s a person of character. Strong leadership ability, the capacity to rally people around him.


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"Maybe they’re hoping that will rub off on people."

Despite its reputation, New York is not the godless Gomorrah that outsiders envision. The city has experienced an evangelical revival of sorts, with young, goateed pastors establishing churches in storefronts, auditoriums and hotel ballrooms. According to nycreligion.info, about 40 percent of the 200 evangelical congregations in Manhattan below 125th Street started in the last decade. The Empire State Building is home to an evangelical school, The King’s College, where students are preparing to become Christian leaders.

"The city has changed. The city is much more religious," said Tony Carnes, editor of nycreligion.info. "As far as the number of religious groups, we’re at a 100-year high. There hasn’t been this type of effervescence in this city for a number of years."

That portion of the population is sure to embrace Tebow.

Others, however, won’t be nearly so welcoming, watching closely to see if Tebow really is as clean-cut as he appears.

Maybe even rooting for him to fail.

"What I think [being in New York] will show is the steadiness of his faith, and that’s what many have tried to question," said Joe Price, a professor in the religious studies department at Whittier College. "If he succeeds in New York, it’s not just because he’s north of Colorado Springs and within arm’s reach of Focus on the Family. He’s right there within arm’s reach of Manhattan, a very different culture. But if his faith is expressed in the same way, winning and losing, that really identifies the authenticity and the depth of his faith."

For his part, Tebow doesn’t plan to act as the Jets’ morals police. Or New York’s, for that matter.

Asked about Ryan’s salty language, Tebow brushed it off, saying, "You’re not going to have the cleanest language in an NFL locker room, so I’m not too worried about that."

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