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Worship of Tim Tebow more like hardship

After throwing for 316 yards against Steelers Tim Tebow (15) was held 136 Saturday against Patriots. | Al Bello~Getty Images

After throwing for 316 yards against the Steelers, Tim Tebow (15) was held to 136 on Saturday against the Patriots. | Al Bello~Getty Images

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Updated: February 17, 2012 8:17AM

One of the wonders of the Internet is that an acorn can grow into a forest fire in a matter of hours.

A certain sports columnist from Chicago — we’ll call him “Rick Morrissey” — writes that Tim Tebow isn’t a good quarterback and that God doesn’t care whether the Broncos win a football game. Three days later, after Tebow has the game of his life against the Steelers, a blogger on links to that column and mentions that the unfortunate columnist probably would like to take it all back.

The columnist then gets inundated with emails from Broncos fans, Tebow fans and, for some reason, what seems to be most of the white population of Oklahoma.

I’m not here to gloat. I don’t think Tebow is nearly as bad as he appeared to be in a 45-10 playoff loss to the Patriots on Saturday, just as I don’t think he’s nearly as good as he appeared to be in the playoff victory over the Steelers.

Many of the emailers wondered why I hadn’t written a public apology after the Broncos’ overtime upset of the Steelers. After all, I had chided Tebow’s supporters for their silence during the Broncos’ three-game losing streak to end the regular season. Where was I, they wanted to know.

Where? In the same place I had been before that game: In the real world, where Tebow has trouble completing passes. He had had a wonderful game, yes, but he’s not a wonderful quarterback. That distinction was lost on a lot of people.

What the Patriots proved Saturday was that if you get a pass rush on Tebow, he’s lost. If you play brain-dead defense the way the Steelers did and the way the Bears did at the end of their game in December, he can be successful.

I don’t think I’ve seen a bigger emotional investment in whether one player wins a football game. People see a Tebow victory as proof of all sorts of things, mostly that God is squarely on his side.

A poll that came out late last week said 43 percent of Americans believe divine intervention plays a role in Tebow’s success.

Was Saturday’s final score Patriots 45, Jesus 10? Not any more than it was Jesus 29, Steelers 23 six days earlier. But that’s the corner many Tebow supporters painted themselves into.

There was an assumption in many of the emails I received that if you’re not on board with the Tebow movement, you must be anti-religion, pro-abortion, anti-gun rights, Obama-loving and in all likelihood attracted to farm animals.

And you know this about me because I don’t think Tebow is a particularly good quarterback?

I also got the sense that being a practicing Catholic is not quite Christian enough for some of you. I’ll have to work on that.

I can’t tell you how many emails I received that included the terms “Michael Vick,’’ “thugs” and “end zone celebrations.’’ As in, would you rather have that than Tebow’s overt religious enthusiasm?

If I recall, Vick served prison time for his dog-fighting cruelty. And if I’m not mistaken, we’re called to forgive one another. Apparently, there’s something in the fine print about Vick that excludes forgiveness.

That sliver-sized space for absolution is what worries me about Tebow’s future. People have constructed a world for him in which there is no room for mistakes, only perfection. And if he should stumble? What then?

It’s frightening how much belief followers have put in a 24-year-old. I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for the woman who marries him. I can’t imagine the glare of the spotlight and the pressure to be sinless.

Tebow seems like a very nice guy with a very big heart. It’s the people who worship him, rather than just admire him, who make my skin crawl.

Sunday was blissfully quiet. I received just one Tebow email. It said the quarterback was, in essence, a rookie and should be cut some slack. Funny, I don’t remember anyone saying he was a virtual rookie after he threw for 316 yards against the Steelers. All I remember was hearing about the significance of 316 — John 3:16 is Tebow’s favorite bible verse.

He threw for 136 yards Saturday. No Tebow supporters are quoting John 1:36, which happened to be part of Sunday’s gospel reading in the Catholic Church: “When he saw Jesus passing, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ ”

If you replace “Jesus” with “Tom Brady’’ in that verse, it all makes sense.

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