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Chris Gay: Tebowmania is alive and well

Posted: April 19, 2017 - 12:05am

I missed Tebowmania recently in Augusta, but I'm glad it happened.

I'll admit it: I'm a Tim Tebow fan. I liked him when he played for the Florida Gators, and I hate the Gators. I rooted for him when he played for the Denver Broncos. In a 2012 playoff game against Pittsburgh, Tebow tossed a game-winning, 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime to finish with 316 passing yards. His yards per pass in the contest - 31.6. Maybe it was just a coincidence that Tebow, a devout Christian who sported the Bible verse John 3:16 on his eye black in several football contests, finished with that number.

While Tebow's NFL career only lasted a few seasons, he began a new career in sports broadcasting. Yet, he still wasn't done with athletics. At 29, he's now trying to do the impossible and work his way up to Major League Baseball. If he doesn't succeed, it doesn't matter. He's already a success in many ways.

I don't know about you, but I don't care about Tim Tebow the Athlete. Whatever he's achieved on the gridiron or does on the baseball diamond is irrelevant. I'm more interested to see what Tim Tebow the Person is doing, and many of you are as well.

He is the most popular Class A baseball player in a long time, maybe ever. The Columbia Fireflies outfielder helped filled Lake Olmstead Stadium during the team's four-game set, which began Thursday. The Augusta GreenJackets averaged 2,606 fans per game in 2016. The first three attendance figures with Tebow in the visitor's dugout: 5,830 (Thursday), 5,330 (Friday) and 5,469 (Saturday).

How many people are attending these games to see if Tebow can hit a home run or go 4 for 4 from the plate? How many people are going to see him because he's a good guy? And how many people are going to see him because - according to several women I know - he's not terrible-looking?

It's one thing for Tebow to just show up and play, but I've read and heard he's been awesome. He's signed autographs after games and taken pictures with fans. Not a lot of guys of his stature would do that, but Tebow is not your average athlete.

Fans are flocking to see him in Columbia and around the South Atlantic League. The Fireflies have seen a major uptick in attendance with the addition of Tebow. Through seven home games, Columbia is averaging 2,002 more fans this season than in 2016.

On Monday night, Columbia played at Rome. The attendance? 5,105. The Rome Braves averaged 2,405 fans a game last year.

As the numbers show, Tebow is Making Minor League Baseball Great Again (#MMLBGA). And it doesn't matter if he's hitting below the Mendoza Line (below .200 batting average). Men, women, boys and girls all want to see this larger-than-life personality who espouses traditional values, things like waiting to make whoopee until you're married.

I like Tim Tebow because he reminds me of my favorite athlete, Dale Murphy. When I grew up in the 1980s, I kept up with the Atlanta Braves outfielder who was just as great off the field as he was on it. The Murph never got arrested for any domestic disputes. He never took steroids or any other drugs. He didn't have any illegitimate children. Dale Murphy was, and still is, a role model. And if The Murph ever gets inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, my buddy, Kevin Faigle, and I are headed to Cooperstown for the ceremony.

Like Murphy, Tebow is a great role model. Charles Barkley was correct when he said in the early 1990s he wasn't paid to be a role model, that parents should be role models for children. Somewhere along the way, some folks have forgotten about that. Parents should be role models for their children. But it certainly doesn't hurt to have a guy like Tebow to look up to.

Earlier this year, the third annual Night to Shine was held by the Tim Tebow Foundation at 375 churches in all 50 states and 11 countries. The prom, for special-needs males and females ages 14 and older, was attended by 75,000 participants. Another 150,000 people volunteered to help provide a night of joy for all the attendees, all crowned king or queen. Tebow attended several of the proms.

The Night to Shine is a wonderful event put on by a guy who will never be a professional baseball or football superstar - at least not according to statistics. Then again, maybe we make the mistake of thinking it takes superstars to do super things in this world. It doesn't.

If you missed Tim Tebow in Augusta, Columbia returns again several more times this summer. The next time? July 4. Tebow. Fireworks. And a baseball game, too. Looks like it'll be another sellout. #MMLBGA

^

YEAR OF THE ROOSTER: All the recent success in Columbia, S.C., is starting to make sense.

First, the S.C. men's basketball team made an improbable run to the Final Four. Then, the women's team won the national championship. Then, former Gamecock golfer Wesley Bryan of Augusta won the RBC Heritage Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory, which qualified him for the 2018 Masters Tournament.

Why all the good fortune? Look at the Chinese zodiac calendar. This is the Year of the Rooster. A gamecock, according to dictionary.com, is a rooster of a fighting breed.

Georgia fans, you'll be interested to know that 2018 is the Year of the Dog. Sadly, it fits in with the ongoing Georgia motto: "Wait 'til next year."

 

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