Wearng his Broncos T-shirt, Tim Tebow fan Geno Rancone kneels at Zion Bible College yesterday.

It has become America's top-rated reality show: Tim Tebow and Jesus.

The reviews have been mixed. Some can't get enough of it and some, well, aren't so keen on the dynamic duo. But everybody is watching, listening and talking about it, particularly those with close ties to Tebow's "Jesus" angle.

Geno Rancone, 19, and a freshman at Zion Bible College in Bradford is one of those people who couldn't be happier about Tebow-mania. First off, he wants to be a pastor some day. And secondly, he loves football and, in particulary, the Denver Broncos.

Rancone's family moved from San Francisco to Denver eight years ago. He eventually joined his new buddies in rooting for the Broncos. But, he said, he rooted for Tebow long before he wore a Broncos uniform.

"I always loved him as a player (at the University of Florida) and a person. He was the best," said Rancone. "When Tebow was in college he was outspoken and wore those eye black stickers under his eyes with different verses from the Bible. I was hoping the Broncos would draft him.

"Some people say it's been too much," said Rancone, about Tebow's willingness to bring up Jesus and his faith every interview he does. "Other athletes aren't as outspoken as he is as they may be afraid of losing fans. I love how outspoken he is about his faith. It inspires my friends and I as we're outspoken about our faith, no matter where we are."

Rancone has lots of company, particularly those in the Christianity "profession."

First Baptist Church of Haverhill pastor Rick Harrington said he feels that Tebow is reminding everyone that sports are entertainment first.

"I think it's great to see a Christian athlete that is vocal and active about his faith without being overbearing or compromising," said Harrington. "Tim Tebow keeps reminding us that there are more important things in life than football. Take, for example, his work in the Philippines or his love for his family. That's a great message."

Not everybody thinks that way, though. Many people have problems with his ability to throw the football and his ability to invoke Jesus in every interview.

The Rev. Bill Waters, who is part of the campus ministry team at Merrimack College, understands the dichotomy of Tebow-mania, including the people who don't appreciate the star quarterback when he speaks.

"I think Tim Tebow is a polarizing figure in all of this because people have looked at religion as a private thing, that we're not used to people talking about God and religion in society," said Rev. Waters. "This is not new, by any means. He was very comfortable talking about God and religion in college a few years ago. He took a lot of flak for his anti-abortion Super Bowl ad two years ago. He's willing to talk about things that make a lot of people uncomfortable."

Another religious leader, the Rev. David Yasenka of Triumphant Cross Lutheran Church in Salem, N.H., has some slight reservations about the Tebow movement.

Rev. Yasenka, who says he and his family are big sports fans — Cleveland teams — wonders if the references to Tebow and Jesus winning games together might be sending the wrong message.

"I have a little trouble when players believe that God is on the side of the winners in this world," said the Rev. Yasenka. "My study of scripture tells me that God is for the underdog. I am happy for Tim Tebow and his success but I hope he does not believe that God favors him over another quarterback because he thanks God for his wins and prays so publicly.

"Jesus talked about praying in secret and again caring for the least in society," said the Rev. Yasenka, who says he started rooting for the Cleveland Indians when he was a teenager because of their struggles.

"Following Jesus often leads to the opposite of success. We are not called to be successful, but faithful."

There is no debate that there are critics of Tebow's mentioning his faith in every public opportunity. It has created some anti-Tebow talk that might be stepping over the lines, according to some.

"WEEI (sports radio) is conducting a poll right now, asking if people think Tim Tebow is a virgin. It's crazy," Rev. Waters said. "People are mocking him. The guy has never said he's never sinned. He's not perfect. None of us are. I don't think it's fair with some of the criticism."

As for the game tomorrow — Oh yeah, the Patriots are playing Denver at 4:15 p.m. on Ch. 4 — all bets are off when it comes to religion.

"The Patriots are the toughest test the Broncos have had," said Rancone. "I think (Tom) Brady might be a better quarterback, but Tebow might be the best fourth-quarter quarterback right now."

Rancone admitted that last week even he didn't have faith the Broncos would beat the Bears.

"There was about three minutes to go in the game with the Bears (winning 10-0) and I was about to stop watching the game," recalled Rancone. "But then Tebow played great and began making some plays. I have to admit ... I lost a little faith in Tebow."

Trending Video

Recommended for you