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Some 43 percent of Americans believe God helps Tebow win football games

Mark SappenfieldThe Christian Science Monitor

The question, it seems, had to be asked: Does God help Tim Tebow win football games?

According to a new poll by the website Poll Position, 43 percent of Americans say "yes."

But how would Tim Tebow himself answer the question?

The perception is that as Tebow is kneeling on the sidelines during a game, he is praying to win. One of Tebow's pastors has only added to that perception, telling the celebrity gossip website TMZ that a recent Broncos six-game winning streak was "God's favor."

Asked if a less-pious quarterback would be winning such games, Pastor Wayne Hanson of Summit Church in Castle Rock, Colo., said: "No, of course not."

To be sure, Tebow would – and does – credit God for all he accomplishes on the football field. But the idea that he prays for his team to win doesn't appear to be quite correct.

The National Football League mic'd Tebow during the Broncos' come-from-behind, 13-10 win over the Chicago Bears on Dec. 11, and besides offering indisputable proof that Tebow has no future whatsoever as a singer, the video also caught him making the following prayers.

Before the game, he prayed aloud:

"Lord put a wall of protection around me and my teammates today, and we go out there and we can honor you with everything we do and say. I love you in Jesus' name."

During the fourth quarter, he prayed:

"Dear Jesus, I need you. Please come through for me. No matter what happens, win or lose, give me the strength to honor you."

Two weeks earlier, his choice of scripture when asked by Broncos Head Coach John Fox to address the team again spoke more to a desire to express communal strength and courage than an overt desire to win. He quoted Proverbs 27:17, which states: "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

The poll by Poll Position is a window on the polarizing nature of Tebow. While 43 percent said Tebow's success is, at least in part, attributable to divine intervention, some 42 percent said it wasn't – and the margin of error was 3 percent.

Tebow's open faith has turned prayerful sideline genuflection into a national "Tebowing" craze as he has repeatedly led his team to victories that, by the measure of sports, seemed miraculous. In Denver, fans call Tebow the "Mile High Messiah," they have jerseys with Tim Tebow's No. 15 but the name "Jesus" on the back, they hold up signs asking "WWTD" (What Would Tebow Do)?

But his faith has also alienated viewers and players.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs recent mocked Tebow in an ESPN interview, saying, “Once again, God had to save Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos."

What is interesting from the NFL videos, though, is how positively many players seem to respond to him. At one point, he tells Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, "I've looked forward to playing you for a long time, man. I love watching you, brother."

Briggs responds: "Thank you, baby."

At another, after being mauled by Bears defensive end Julius Pepper, he says, "Hey, good play, man."

Peppers gives him an affectionate tap on the shoulder pads.

It is a glimpse, perhaps, into why the Broncos have rallied around Tebow to turn a dismal season that began 1-4 into an unforgettable playoff run.