Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has had an ardent following since college, but in one particular case, he has quite a “tribe” behind him.
Meet the self-named, self-proclaimed chosen ones for the Jets backup quarterback, the “Jews for Tebow.” The group, started last November after Tebow led a fourth-quarter comeback against the Jets, boasts 4,000 members worldwide who all love and support Tebow, an Evangelical Christian.
Thousands regularly show up to hear him speak at churches across the country, including over 26,000 who turned out at Qualcomm Stadium for a Father’s Day service.
“Jews for Tebow” love this goyim just as much as the church faithful who adore him.
“Despite his collegiate success, Tebow seemed to represent the underdog to the American public. As I was glued to game after game, I continued to watch people doubt whether he will make it as an NFL quarterback. Frankly, after he helped the Broncos shock the Jets, it seemed clear to me that I needed to start the group as a show of support for Tebow even though we do not share the same religious views,” said Ike Thaler, a Florida alum who is a founder of the group. “With time, I have found that other Jews shared the same support for Tebow. More of our supporters and members seem to concentrate on the football aspect of his career more than the religious aspect. We do have our share of religiously conservative fans, but the majority simply love the fact that he is a positive role model and an exciting football player that tends to beat the odds and win.”
The support of Tebow is dripping with irony thicker than a good matzo ball soup.
The most outspoken Christian in the country, Tebow ends each and every interview with a “Thank you and God bless y’all” and his public comments are often sprinkled with references to his Evangelical faith. But the appeal of Tebow goes beyond the churchgoers on Sunday. There’s also the role model component, as the squeaky clean Tebow doesn’t curse, carouse or create drama.
When the Jets held an open session of training camp at their New Jersey facility this past August, there was a Hasidic Jew walking around the practice field wearing a black brimmed hat and the traditional tefillin wrapped around his arm. But surprisingly, he was wearing a T-shirt with Tebow’s face and superimposed long curls coming down off his head, making the clean-cut Tebow look Hasidic. The shirt read “Jews for Tebow.”
“Tebow’s faith is who he is. Faith is also important to many Jews, as well as believers in every other religion,” said Tamara Rosov, a member of “Jews for Tebow” and a site administrator for the club’s Facebook page. “He feels his faith deeply and we respect that. It is not artificial or an act, it is genuinely who he is.”
The group, of course, posts all things Tebow and follows his every move. Thaler estimates that of the 4,000 members, it is a fairly even split between Jewish and non-Jewish fans. While he won’t call himself an observant Jew, the big draw for many, including Thaler, is that Tebow is genuine about his faith and morality. Of course, there is general angst when Tebow isn’t being used quite as much as they feel he should be.
“I try not to pay attention to it,” Tebow said of the hype surrounding his image. “I’ve been very blessed to have a lot of support and that definitely means a lot to me, but I don’t pay much attention to it.”
Perhaps these fans are onto something with how Tebow, a former first-round pick, is currently not being utilized by his new team.
Tebow currently bides his time behind starting quarterback Mark Sanchez and continues in a limited role in the Wildcat and on special teams, but Thaler isn’t ready to begin calling head coach Rex Ryan on it — yet. The club’s slogan is “never underestimate the power of the underdog,” so they’re collectively willing to wait for Tebow to prove his detractors wrong.
“I believe that for many, the appeal was that there was a well-known and successful college player that everyone kept doubting and criticizing. Everyone said that there was no way this athlete could succeed, but he seemed to stay positive and kept working hard,” Thaler said. “People seemed to root for this underdog figure [who] stuck to his beliefs and kept fighting despite being told that he could not be a successful quarterback. As he started [in Denver] and kept winning in what seemed to be miraculous ways, it seemed to represent nice guys finishing first and the notion that faith and belief will prevail.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.