Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Tebow Moment No. 3: John 3:16

Tim Tebow's college football career has mere days remaining. All this week, a look back at the Top 10 defining moments of his career.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Beginning with the second game of Tebow's junior year, he began displaying Bible verses on his eye-black. First was Phil 4:13, which he wore throughout the season.

But with the spotlight of the national championship game, Tebow came out wearing "John 3:16" -- the single-most defining passage for evangelical Christians. And the most interesting thing happened:

The internet blew up over it. More specifically, Google trembled: Quickly after the game was underway, "John 3:16" became the top "trending" search on the search engine. It finished the day as the top trending search.

(The number "94 million" has been thrown around a little bit too casually about the number of searches performed for the phrase. My understanding is that this number is miscalculated by an order of magnitude -- that said, the overall interest by casual viewers was huge.)

More importantly, Tim Tebow's ability to drive seemingly couch-bound fans to fire up their computers and see what the passage said was established, on college football's biggest stage. And it was a secular revelation to Tim and his family -- a uniquely 21st-century symbol of his power to influence.

Most interestingly, it was this Google detail that Tebow and his family brought up most prominently when he discussed coming back for his senior season. Winning a championship would be wonderful; strengthening his relationships with his coaches and teammates is wonderful; being able to impact people's lives through community service is wonderful.

But underlying all that was the realization that -- as the most prominent and popular athlete in the history of college sports -- Tebow would have a much MUCH more commanding platform by which to influence fans with The Word.

By the start of the 2009 season, Tebow's eye-black would become a weekly fascination (it even inspired a blog, called Tebow's Eye-Black). He would change the messages each week, and each week, the verses would be among the most-searched phrases on Google.

(If you check the topic box on the lower right of this page and click on "eye-black," you will see the weekly coverage of his use of eye-black. I regularly tried to find layered -- even secular -- meanings in the passages. This was most notable during the SEC title game.)

In the SEC Championship Game -- the most-watched college football game of the season -- Tebow's "John 16:33" was the No. 1 hottest search trend... right up until it was bumped to No. 2 by "Tim Tebow crying."

Tebow's experience in the 2008 national title game with "John 3:16" and Google was a defining one for him -- and his legacy.

The Complete Top 10
10. Commits to UF
9. I'm Coming Back!
8. Circumcisions
7. Crying
6. 20/20
5. The Virgin
4. Taunting Oklahoma
3. John 3:16
2. The Jump-Pass
1. The Promise


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