What began with an apology ended with a national title.
Fourteen and a half weeks after Tim Tebow fought back the tears and promised that that day's loss to Ole Miss was only a beginning, he fought back the Sooners and made sure that promise came true.
And, unless you lived under a rock that has yet to undergo the digital transition, you already know this. It's been unwillingly drilled in to your head like multiplication tables or that darn Saved by Zero commercial.
Again. And again. And again.
He's a missionary. An icon for our generation. A man who can perform a circumcision during an out route and can turn Gatorade into wine.
Or maybe we're confusing him with someone else.
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But then again, it's hard to tell with more sugar poured on him than John Daly's breakfast cereal. You think you put on weight over the holidays? Chow down a couple high-calorie Tebow features and you'll be punching new holes in our belt for all those added pounds.
And you know what? It doesn't matter. None of it. Not in sports. Not the good deeds, not the misdeeds and not the endless mythologizing.
Tebow's good-guy rep is no more relevant than if your cabbie sings opera.
Because between the lines, the ball bounces the same way for sinners and saints.
Don't get caught up in the hype. He won't save us from cynicism. He won't change the paradigm of the athlete. And the odds are that are sooner rather than later he'll be standing next to Chris Leak, drinking Gatorade while the only champagne corks he'll be popping will be on New Year's.
No, Tim Tebow won't save the world.
But he can damn sure save the Gators.
Don't let the hype ruin the facts.
And the only relevant fact is that the kid can play. Not because he's the most competitive human being since Roger Staubach, as Lee Corso opined, probably scooping that molassess sweet tidbit off his morning pancakes. And not because his leadership and intangibles alone will make him an NFL star as some believe, perhaps recalling the greatest quarterback of them all, Winston Churchill.
At best, the Tebow legend is wallpaper, a story you tuned out to long ago, whose ins and outs you could repeat like your own biography. More likely, it's the sports equivalent of proselytizers at your door on a Saturday morning at worst, an unneeded intrusion into your day even if its with the best of intentions.
(A thought: what happens if famed will and desire North Carolina basketball star Tyler Hansbrough and Tebow both desired the same donut? Would the donut recognize the conundrum and magically divide?)
The legend should be what he can do on the field.
When Florida needs him, he can flat out play. He can throw well enough to make the passing game a serious threat. He can run through a middle linebacker like he's running through Saran Wrap. As much as the Tebow haters might not want to hear it, he may just be the greatest player of the modern college era, perhaps not the most gifted, but a synthesis of talent, coach and program that's unmatched. He's almost certainly the most unique.
And between the lines, when even ESPN has to just sit and watch and the most breathless commentary has to be kept to themselves, Tebow can change a game.
After containing Tebow throughout the first half Thursday night, the Gators put the hatch down on the tank and let their quarterback go to work. On Florida's second possession of the half, he rushed for 48 yards to put the Gators up 14-7. Clinging to a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter, he passed for 76 yards in a single drive as Florida marched down the field for the final points of the 2008 season. When the Gators needed to salt the game away, Tebow all but lit the victory cigar on the side of Sooner Schooner, before grinding out first down after first down until Oklahoma's timeouts were expired.
So too was their fight.
All told, he rushed for 85 of his 109 yards in the second half, knocking the Sooners down then waiting until they didn't get up.
When asked afterward if he intentionally put the team on his back after the game, he responded sheepishly, if only because he's as sure-footed around the press as he is barreling through the defensive line.
That tepid response, too, will undoubtedly become part of the Tebow legacy, get turned into some heretofore unseen character feature possessed only by Tebow, the sort of chivalry not seen since some player anyone under age of the Viagra crowd ever saw play.
But don't ignore Tebow.
Because what's underneath all the bluster, all the pretty portraits is awfully good too. Three hundred-fifty total yards. Two touchdowns. Two national titles.
For those numbers, he owes no one an apology. Not even for all the saccharine.
Not you, not me, not anybody.
Tim Tebow Won't Save World, But He Can Certainly Save the Florida Gators originally appeared on NCAA Football FanHouse on Fri, 09 Jan 2009 03:00:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.