Years ago, I was at Madison Square Garden with a bunch of friends, watching the Big East tournament.
We had great seats, just a few rows behind the Georgetown bench, and we were clamoring to see the Hoyas' latest highly-touted big man, Dikembe Mutombo. Late in the game, as a Georgetown victory seemed assured, Mutombo was still on the bench.
My friends and I began a full-throated chant to see the new phenom: "We want Mutombo! We want Mutombo!"
Coach John Thompson, who was legendary for his willfulness, stood Mutombo up, turned him toward us, and made a sort of voila! gesture at Dikembe. Then Thompson sat his young center back down. The coach's implicit message was, "There. You've seen him. Now shut up."
With the Broncos down 23-10 at halftime, coach John Fox put second-year quarterback Tim Tebow under center to see if he could light a fire under the team. It nearly worked.
Tebow, one of the most polarizing players in recent memory, threw a touchdown pass and ran for another as he rallied the team to within a Hail Mary of beating the Chargers. Had he completed that desperation heave, millions of rapturous Tebow fans would have fainted with ecstasy.
As it stands, the fans are clamoring for the 1-4 Broncos to insert the Heisman winner into the starting lineup.
With Denver's season all but lost and a bye week coming up, Tebow's legions of fans will spend the next two weeks in full cry, exhorting Fox to give the young passer the chance they feel he deserves.
Public opinion may, in fact, force Fox to break a cardinal football rule—never give in to fan pressure.
The NFL may never have seen a player like Tebow. He belongs in the pantheon of college football's all-time greatest players—a Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion known for his humility, competitive nature and yeoman-like work ethic.
Tebow is that rarest of NFL players -- a supremely talented athlete and a good guy. He is a player you would love to have over for Thanksgiving dinner. If you found out he was dating your daughter, you wouldn't mind. In fact, you might even encourage it.
He is a devout Christian who is unafraid to state his beliefs, and an all-around likable kid. And he has one of the most rabidly-devoted fan bases in the sport.
For all this, nearly all of the sport's most knowledgeable analysts believe Tebow lacks the ability to be a successful NFL passer. Even in the San Diego game, he was woefully inaccurate, with several of his passes falling short or ending up behind the intended receiver.
John Fox and John Elway inherited Tebow from the only head coach who ever would have considered taking him in the first round (Josh McDaniels), and it is clear they don't think he is the long-term answer at quarterback.
Coach Fox has probably not given up on the Broncos' season yet, and he probably doesn't want to make a move that could cause a schism in his team's locker room.
But Tim Tebow's fans represent a pretty powerful lobby, and the coach may feel forced to put Tebow under center for a game or two, if only to say to the hordes of Tebow-philes:
"There. You've seen him. Now shut up."
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!