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CBSSports.com National Columnist

Tebow can thank his self-righteous fans for heat he's taking

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Tim Tebow handles the hard knocks with grace and class; some of his fans, not so much. (AP)  
Tim Tebow handles the hard knocks with grace and class; some of his fans, not so much. (AP)  

Look what you've done, Tim Tebow fans. Look at what you've wrought. Look at it. Own it.

This is your fault, Tebow fans. All this media and opponent gloating about the Denver quarterback's struggles last week against Detroit? Your fault. Not Tebow's fault.

Yours.

See, people don't like being screamed at. We -- yes, we -- don't like being preached at either. Flooded with emails or message board posts or tweets, all saying the same thing, as if there aren't millions of Tebow fans but just one, some wacko using different online aliases? No, we don't like that.

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And now your boy is paying the price. After that 45-10 victory for Detroit, an anonymous Lions player blew up Tebow in a quote to Yahoo.com. CBS' Boomer Esiason gave a startling interview the other day where he said Tebow "[doesn't] know what he's doing on the football field" and added "players are out to get him." ESPN's Merril Hoge continues to pile on. It's everywhere.

Thing is, Tebow can handle it. He has always been able to handle it. He's as mentally strong as any athlete, any person, I've ever seen. Who could handle being anointed such a hero while still in high school, and not let it go to his head? Who? Just about nobody. The closest thing I've seen to it was LeBron James, who kept his wits about him while those around him were losing theirs, but even LeBron broke. He broke the day he held a primetime TV show to take his talents to South Beach, where he has reveled so much in the hero worship that he has invited worship in other markets, creating a line of evening parties built around the wonder of LeBron James.

Tebow is doing what LeBron once did, showing grace and class and humility where none would exist for most of us, me included, if we were lucky enough to have been born with that physique and skill.

Point being, Tebow can handle the bad that is coming now, just as surely as he handled the good that came for so many years. He can handle the media as it hammers him, some opponents who anonymously gut him and other opponents who publicly poke fun at him. Or at his phenomenon. With Tebow, it's hard to tell the difference.

Either way, Tebow can handle the "Tebowing" of Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch, after Tulloch sacked him Sunday. In fact, he already has handled it. Tebow and Tulloch shared kind words immediately after the play, then shared some more after the game. Tebow's like that -- he's a good sport. By and large, he gets it.

You might find a fan, a sportswriter or even a player who will profess to not liking Tebow. But mostly you'll find people, even his harshest critics -- even me, come to think of it -- who like the guy. We admire his football accomplishments in high school and college, his sincere beliefs off the field, his work as a missionary. Whatever any of us think of him as an NFL quarterback, we like the man behind the facemask.

But his fans? You people? We don't like you.

And you know who you are. If you're a Tebow fan who hasn't played the persecution card, I'm probably not talking to you. I'm not saying a Tebow fan is by definition an unlikeable person. And I'm positive that some of you -- the reasonable Tebow fans among you -- get the distinction I'm making here.

But everyone else? The unreasonables? You don't get it. You don't get anything. You roam the countryside looking for people to get mad at, and you lash out in ways that will only drive critics farther away from Tebow's side. You tell the critics their issues with Tebow aren't really issues with Tebow -- they're issues with God. You tell the critics that Tebow would be getting a fair shake if he were from another religion, or from another race, or both. Do you have any idea how many emails I've received from Tebow fans, taunting me, telling me that Tebow's critics wouldn't have the courage to write or say what we have if Tebow were Muslim?

I get emails like that, and I have to fight the urge to root against Tebow. I'm being serious. If Tebow's success means happiness for people like that, then I'm not sure I can handle his success. But I've fought that urge, and I'll continue to fight it, and I'll win that fight. You people can't beat me, even as you throw the online equivalent of rotten fruit at me and stupidly expect the smell to convince me you're right. The hell with you, but not with Tebow. I don't want him to fail. I want him to continue his journey, fascinating as it is, while I watch in amazement at the unseen plot twists.

The Super Bowl advertisement he did for Focus on the Family? The roadside billboard his fans purchased in Denver? The comeback at Miami?

Tebowing?

Are you kidding me?

This guy is fascinating, and whether he ultimately makes it or not, Tebow will leave behind an enormous legacy. But part of his legacy will be the most vocal, the most persistent, the most unrealistic and annoying and disconnected members of his fan base. To be clear, they aren't the only reason Tebow gets attacked by media, opponents and opposing fans.

But they're the reason those attacks are so joyous.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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