Between Tebowmania and Tebowphobia

Tim Tebow haters finally scored on Sunday, when the 23-year-old novice quarterback for the Denver Broncos succumbed to defeat at the hands of 34-year-old Super Bowl veteran and New England Patriots powerhouse Tom Brady. Prior to that 41-23 loss, Tebow had been on an improbable six-game winning streak, pulling off one miraculous fourth-quarter finish after another despite abysmal first-half performances and anemic passing stats. Even more improbable than Tebow's victories was the attention he attracted — positive and, especially, negative — as he marched from triumph to triumph with a grin on his face and a prayer on his lips.

That this former Heisman Trophy winner and famously devout evangelical Christian quarterback has become a Rorschach test for our attitudes on religion in public life was never more apparent than in the wake of Sunday's game, when Tebow's feverish detractors rushed to the airwaves and blogosphere to exult in his defeat. Tebow's unexpected success, and his habit of publicly thanking Jesus Christ for it at every opportunity, drove his critics crazy. His loss on Sunday restored their sense of cosmic justice — not that they believe in such nonsense.

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