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Bob Ryan

Tim Tebow fans are too sensitive to criticism

Tim Tebow was 9-for-26 for 136 yards with just 13 yards rushing against the Patriots on Saturday.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Tim Tebow was 9-for-26 for 136 yards with just 13 yards rushing against the Patriots on Saturday.

The Brother Love Travelin’ Salvation Show has left town. You can unpack the babies and release the old ladies now.

Oops. Can’t say that. Disrespectful. Tim’s fans might be offended.

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You and I thought what transpired at Gillette Stadium this past Saturday evening was just a football game, albeit a very important one. But you and I just didn’t get it, I guess.

Turns out it was more than just a football game. It was a Holy War in which the New England Patriots, their fans, and the media covering them were cast as the ultimate personification of all evil. Oh, yes, this was the Good Lord casting out Beelzebub. The problem is, Beelzebub won this one, and the other side is confused.

Now, I must say that in my many years as a professional sportswriter, I have come to understand the basic rules of the game, a primary one being that it is seldom possible to draw universal approval for something I have written. On some occasions there is universal disapproval.

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In normal circumstances, when people take an opposing viewpoint, they may express themselves by declaring you an idiot, a fool, or perhaps a totally ignorant “@*%&#*.’’ You always can laugh that off. And, depending on the subject matter, they may actually have a legitimate point.

But what’s going on in the aftermath of the Patriots’ 45-10 triumph over the Denver Broncos and their celebrity quarterback is a very different matter. I didn’t vilify Tim Tebow.

All I said was that he looked more like the guy who couldn’t complete a pass in the month of December than the guy who threw some very professional passes against the Steelers. I contrasted Tom Brady’s first-half performance (five touchdown passes) with Tebow’s (3 for 10, 28 yards). And, oh yes, I said that I wished I had the vocabulary to find a word to describe adequately the depths to which the Broncos were “exposed.’’

I thought it was all quite self-evident and reasonable, given what we had just seen on the Gillette Stadium turf. The opportunity was there to be far more incendiary.

Tebow fans didn’t quite see it that way. Some thought I had somehow mocked him by never mentioning his name, jokingly referencing the enormous buildup to the game by referring to him as either (a) “the lefthanded quarterback,’’ or (b) “the lefthanded celebrity quarterback.’’

I must confess I’ve done harsher things. And apparently they’ve never read Shaughnessy.

The religiously oriented vitriol that has come my way was amusing. I guess, in some eyes, humor and spirituality can’t mix. Unlike these people, I have encountered some very witty priests, ministers, and rabbis in my time. There was even an objection to my referencing the Almighty as “the Man Upstairs.’’ I never knew that to be sacrilegious.

It was all summed up in a communication I received from a woman in Boca Raton, Fla., who claims to be a PhD (she didn’t say in what field).

I quote it in its entirety: “Exposed? You are the one exposed. Wrath of God. May the Lord of all creation tear you apart.’’

(I mentioned that the Patriots had “torn into’’ the Broncos for 42 points in the first 33:14 of the game.)

There is always the chance, I suppose, that she was kidding, but I rather doubt it. Meanwhile, my soul and I are thinking about entering the Eternal Salvation Witness Protection Program, lest this woman show up at my door.

The complete silliness of all this speaks for itself.

Now then. May we talk a little football for a moment?

I, Bob Ryan, have been a card-carrying member of the Tim Tebow Fan Club since I first saw him as a freshman at Florida, and well before I learned of his unique personal background. I declared him to be my favorite college football player since Doug Flutie, with whom he shares some obvious traits. I honestly can say I would go out of my way to watch Florida games as long as he was there.

My interest had to do with football, with one exception. I was perfectly at peace with his religious devotion until he put the Bible verse references under his eyes. That, to me, was going way over the line.

There are many people who are not Christians who enjoy football, and who do not need his religion shoved in their face with “John 3:16,’’ or any other Bible reference, on display. I believed that then, and I believe that now.

Aside from that, no problem.

I was on his side at the time of the NFL draft, hoping someone would recognize his special on-field leadership gifts. Not being a football purist, I was not as personally offended as some experts by his lack of proper throwing mechanics. I just wanted him to succeed.

I still do.

What’s going on is not all his doing. I might suggest he think a bit more about these public meetings on the sidelines with young people, complete with 50 cameras. It does suggest that he is a bit taken by his celebrity. It gives people reason to doubt his sincerity, just a little, and he doesn’t need that.

I do think it’s time for him to disavow the loonies who have cast him as a St. George slaying the secular dragons. He has to inform them that what he happens to be engaged in is a career in professional football, not a modern-day Crusade.

Football.

Football.

Football.

Nothing else.

Football.

So on the subject of football, the debacle in Foxborough leaves open the question as to whether or not Tim Tebow is the man to take snaps for the Denver Broncos for the next 10 years. I mean, the man who will decide his fate only happens to be as good a quarterback as the game ever has known. John Elway knows what proper quarterbacking is. He must be agonizing.

I don’t envy John Elway, because if Tim Tebow doesn’t do something to calm down his overzealous fans, Elway will be in deep trouble if and when he replaces his lefthanded celebrity quarterback with a player who plays this most important position in a more conventional manner.

Someone might ask the Lord of all creation to tear him apart. In that case, perhaps John Elway and I can share a condo provided by the Eternal Salvation Witness Protection Program.

Bob Ryan can be reached at ryan@globe.com.
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