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Tebow quickly tames Gotham, but could he charm fierce Philadelphia?

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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Well, that went the only way it could have gone -- Tim Tebow brought New York to its puffy, creaky knees in one Tebownian press conference.

His sincerity crushed the vaunted Gothamite exoskeleton in 16 minutes. Sixteen minutes. Jeremy Lin needed two entire games for the town to go weak-legged, and that was considered a land speed record for going from grumpy to gelatinous.

But Tebow is something else, as history has shown. He is something other than else. He won Gainesville, Florida. He won Denver. He seems poised to win New York, and New York only needed a little blue-eyed mega-polite sincerity.

So let's ignore the football for a moment and suggest that what Tebow needs now is change of scenery.

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Not because or he can or cannot play quarterback; our position on this has been consistent in that we don't care whether he can or can't. Not because he can or cannot help the Jets; our position on that has been eerily similar to the one we just stated. And we hold no position whatsoever on his religiosity. That's his business, no matter how many times he seems to want to make it ours.

No, what we discovered Monday in that press conference is that Tebow's greatest gift is in making people roll over, embrace their warmer and softer sides, to believe where once there was only jagged-edged cynicism. But to prove the case, we need the Jets to trade him to the place that prides itself in charm resistance.

Philadelphia.

Tim Tebow needs to be an Eagle within the next two years, or his true talent for conversion will never be fully tested.

Now this is the part where Philly fans rise up in anger at being portrayed in such a way. But too bad. It's the rep you built, so own it.

Yes, Philadelphia fans want winners. Yes, they want honest effort. But the difference between Philly fans and others is that their athletes, with only a very few exceptions, do not start with the benefit of the doubt. They need to be convinced, and they will expend little love until that moment arrives.

Compare this to New York, which says it is the toughest sports town in America and yet is now the world leader in athlete worship through nicknamery. Hyphen-sanity is the city's latest contribution to culture, and frankly, it would be beneath the town if it didn't always go this way at the first provocation.

See Sanchez, Mark, for proof of this leap to love phenomenon.

Thus, Tebow did not have a difficult mountain to climb here. In fact, it took him more effort to beguile Gainesville, a place where football is king, queen, jack and ten, and where the players come and go at a far faster rate than the NFL. You have to be able to PLAY, damn it, and Tebow needed a bit of easing in before he could prove it.

But in Denver, a place that had John Elway, he got people to erect billboards and criticize Elway Himself for retarding the young man's growth, to the point where the Broncos threw Kyle Orton over the side to get him his snaps.

And New York didn't even need a game to fall for Tebow. What does this tell us?

One, that the saying really should be, "If you can make it here, you can make it in Lincoln, Nebraska. Just wear the correct colored jersey."

Two, that Tebow has a gift that is not to be dismissed, for it transcends and even defies the technocracy of the game.

And three, we cannot know how powerful the gift is until he has to unleash it on Philadelphia, and feel its inherent resistance.

So that's the one we need, and we need it while Tebow still has the veneer of quarterbacking/winning skill. Wait too long and the moment will have passed, and he will just one more guy to boo.

It is the perfect heavyweight fight. Tebow will have to be less polite and more "What are you lookin' at?" He will have to be a quarterback in a town that is brutal on quarterbacks. And now that Tebow is a New Yorker, even transplanted, he becomes all the more suspicious in the eyes of all right-thinking Philadelphians.

Maybe he can win them over by being more attitudinal and hard-working than earnest and hard-working -- more of a Flyer, really. Maybe he can win them over by being more defiantly Tebow, the way Allen Iverson was defiantly A.I. He'd certainly run into a center field wall and split his head open like Aaron Rowand.

But he's already done what he can do in New York City. It's time for a bigger stage, and the audience that he truly deserves.

Philadelphia. If you can make it there, there's no point in trying to make it anywhere else.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast Sports Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com)

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