DENVER – In Denver, where the Broncos are the closest thing to a universal religion, the faith for football is so fervent that it sometimes supersedes other beliefs -- especially since the arrival of Tim Tebow.
Tebow has defied his skeptics in ways that might make even the most secular of pigskin purists consider the possibility of divine intervention. On Sunday, he led the Broncos to yet another comeback victory, as they rallied from a 10-0 deficit with 2:08 remaining in the fourth quarter to beat the Chicago Bears 13-10 in overtime.
The win was the Broncos' sixth straight and moved the team to 8-5 atop the AFC West.
With the Broncos prospering under Tebow, different religious communities in Denver's metropolitan area have embraced the starting quarterback, even if their beliefs do not line up with his, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The devout evangelical Christian, who is not shy about praying on the football field, has catalyzed such a pervasive conversation about the role of faith in public that some religious figures in Colorado's Front Range even consider Tebow fodder for the pulpit.
On a recent evening, the rabbi at Denver's Temple Emanuel, Joe Black, was asked if he would ever sermonize about Tebow.
"Oh, absolutely," he said. "Here's the sermon I would deliver and probably will deliver: Tim Tebow is broadcasting the fact that he believes in God. God is actively involved in his life. We call ourselves people of faith. Is that how we perceive God? And if not, how do we perceive God?"
Another Denver rabbi, Temple Sinai's Rick Rheins, said he might feel "compelled" to preach about Tebow if the Broncos sneak into the playoffs. Then he reminded himself of this week's Torah portion. It is about Jacob wrestling with uncertainties of his own.
"He's not the most accurate thrower in the world, and he obviously has questionable NFL quarterback skills, and yet he doesn't doubt himself," said Rheins.
Tebow's appeal stretches beyond Denver's Jewish population. Khaled Hamideh, the board's chairman at the Colorado Muslim Society, counts himself as a Tebow fan mostly because of the quarterback's winning pedigree.
"I know I'm a Muslim and he's a Christian, but I admire somebody who thanks God for everything that he gave him," Hamideh said. "The team has rallied around him not because of his religious beliefs but because they believe this guy has something in him that pushes him the right way."
A prominent area atheist also declared Tebow's displays fine by him. Boulder Atheists co-founder Marvin Straus does not follow sports closely. Still, he estimated that he has seen Tebow kneel "4,823 times" without objecting.
"From my perspective, it's about as useful as an amulet during the Black Plague. But if I have the right to stand up in public and say there's no gods or devils or heaven or hell, he has the right to kneel in public, as long as he doesn't insist that other people join him," Straus said. "Somebody that's on a private team wants to express his religious belief? To me, that's called freedom of religion."