Pod people: Focus on the Tebow

Last night's Patriots-Broncos game set viewing records, which is amazing since the Broncos were completely out of it by half time. Even I, a die hard fan, couldn't stand watching our defense give up touchdown after touchdown and asked my husband to please turn the channel. And so Tebow Fever may take a rest for a few months until the 2012 preseason. On this week's Crossroads, host Todd Wilken and I discussed media coverage of Tim Tebow -- what the media gets and doesn't get about the phenomenon. And books could probably be written about that question. Even with the Broncos complete implosion last night, there was another development that may lead to more coverage. Focus on the Family, which is a Christian organization based out of Colorado Springs, ran an advertisement where a group of young children read John 3:16.

In a previous Tebow coverage thread, I'd criticized a CBS station's report that Tebow had made an "anti-abortion" ad during the Superbowl last year. The ad didn't mention abortion, although it did have Tebow's mother talking about how thankful she was for her son. The first comment on that post came from USA Today's Cathy Grossman, who wrote:

Correct. The Focus ad never mentions abortion. However, is sole (soul?) purpose is to steer people to a very serious web site packed with anti-abortion testimony of women who risked their lives against doctors orders to continue their pregnancy. I’d say the best way to describe the super bowl ad is that it was a teaser to an anti-abortion web site. That’s why Tebow did it, not because it would just be fun to be on TV with mom.

After last night's ad, I just rewatched the Superbowl ad, and the only web site mentioned is FocusOnTheFamily.com. Tag line: "For the full Tebow story go to FocusOnTheFamily.com Celebrate family. Celebrate life."

Focus on the Family is, of course, a pro-life organization but do you think it's fair to describe the organization -- which also, well, focuses on "marriage, parenting, life challenges, faith and social issues" as having a sole purpose related to abortion?

Last night our own Sarah Pulliam Bailey had the funniest tweet of the evening, in my opinion, when -- after the John 3:16 ad ran -- she wrote:

Focus on the Family airs John 3:16 ad during the Broncos game. Wondering how many reporters will remember it as an anti-abortion commercial

Well, it did end with the tag line "A message from: Focus on the Family FocusOnTheFamily.com" so is it best to describe the John 3:16 ad as a teaser to an anti-abortion web site, right? Just kidding. Or am I? We'll see as we begin to see reports on the commercial in the mainstream media this week.

Turns out, by the way, that Grossman is somewhat responsible for the ad. Over at her Faith & Reason blog, she delivers the scoop:

The idea played on the excitement last week after Tebow threw 316 yards to beat the Steelers and John 3:16 became the most searched term on the Internet.

Focus President Jim Daly said Saturday night, "Our chief development officer had just read the USA TODAY Tuesday cover story, and sort of tossed out, 'What if we did an ad in Saturday's game focused on John 3:16?' It was a tight deadline -- we conceived, cast, shot and delivered the ad in just over three days -- but then we were working with an excellent, inspired script."

Tebow made his off-gridiron ad debut two years ago with his mom, Pam, in a Super Bowl ad, also sponsored by Focus on the Family, to point viewers to their website.

Ah, the power of religion reporting.

Speaking of USA Today coverage of Tebowmania, I also rather liked this sports section piece on Tebow the man. The guy who visits with sick people before and after games. This story began with a look at the man Tebow met with this week before the loss to the Patriots. Also, many readers -- many, many, many readers -- sent along this Rick Reilly piece on the same topic. Even some cynical journalists sent it our way. It was a well written column, with passages such as this:

And it's not always kids. Tom Driscoll, a 55-year-old who is dying of brain cancer at a hospice in Denver, was Tebow's guest for the Cincinnati game. "The doctors took some of my brain," Driscoll says, "so my short-term memory is kind of shot. But that day I'll never forget. Tim is such a good man."

This whole thing makes no football sense, of course. Most NFL players hardly talk to teammates before a game, much less visit with the sick and dying.

Isn't that a huge distraction?

"Just the opposite," Tebow says. "It's by far the best thing I do to get myself ready. Here you are, about to play a game that the world says is the most important thing in the world. Win and they praise you. Lose and they crush you. And here I have a chance to talk to the coolest, most courageous people. It puts it all into perspective. The game doesn't really matter. I mean, I'll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it's to invest in people's lives, to make a difference."

Back to Crossroads, we also discussed some of the coverage regarding same-sex marriage, both the sloppy way in which presidential candidate Rick Santorum's dialogue on same-sex marriage was handled by one media outlet and Reuters' botching of Pope Benedict XVI's address to the diplomatic corps.

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