After his team was routed by the New England Patriots this month, driving the Denver Broncos out of the N.F.L. playoffs, Tim Tebow jogged off the field. Camera crews and photographers surrounded him, waiting for Mr. Tebow, the quarterback, to drop to one knee and bow his head in prayer, his famous and controversial signature gesture.
This time, Mr. Tebow did not oblige the media and the game’s tens of millions of viewers. As he vanished into the stadium tunnel, he seemingly took the polarizing issue of public religiosity away with him. The clamorous national conversation, depicting Mr. Tebow either as role model or object of ridicule, rapidly subsided.
It was a mistake all along, though, to think that Mr. Tebow was the issue. It was a case of confusing the lightning rod with the lightning. With the Super Bowl game one week away, instead of asking ourselves, “What is it about Tim Tebow?” we might better ask, “What is it about football?”