For a moment on Sunday afternoon they rose together; two men linked by winning and public obsession even if they are seen as moral opposites. Not long after Tim Tebow drove the Denver Broncos to another miraculous victory in Minnesota, Tiger Woods was storming from two back in Thousand Oaks, Calif., to win his first golf tournament in two years.
Perhaps a year ago, even a month ago, those two names would never have fit in the same sentence. Tiger's game had seemingly disappeared -- maybe forever -- and Tebow was still that quarterback who could run through tackles but appeared impossible to believe as a quarterback. But two hours on Sunday changed everything. Two hours was all it took for Tebow to fire sizzling spirals into the hands of his receivers, pushing the Broncos to score after score in a way that even John Elway, on the Denver sideline, had to applaud. And two hours was all Tiger needed to thunder through the last two holes of the Sherwood Country Club in a way that was very much the Tiger of old.
Suddenly the men who might be the two biggest names in sports had proven something that many thought wasn't possible.
Tebow had won without the Broncos defense and Tiger had won, period.
We are learning every week about Tebow. Something new. Something unique. Something to say that maybe he is indeed the quarterback to lead a team despite a mountain of physical evidence that disproves the theory. His comeback victories against the Dolphins and Jets could be explained away as fortunate byproducts of a great Broncos defense that had grown to fit with the teams’ new, deliberate offense. On Sunday however, with star linebacker Von Miller out and Denver doing nothing to stop the Vikings, it was Tebow who kept leading the Broncos back with throws that zipped through the Metrodome haze.
His throw to Demaryius Thomas for Denver's final touchdown looked as beautiful as anything heaved by Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers or whatever other quarterback Tebow is not supposed to be. And even more impressive was the pass that wasn't completed, tossed in desperation toward the end of the game that nearly landed in a receiver's hands in the end zone despite a ferocious Minnesota rush that knocked him to the ground.
Tiger had all but disappeared before Sunday. His injuries looked debilitating, his ability to hit the great shots at any moment seemed gone. He was an ordinary golfer with an extraordinary name. Then came Sunday, and Tiger rose to the lead at right about the same moment Tebow was delivering the victory in Minnesota.
There was the approach and the putt for a birdie on 17 that brought the old fist pump and the shadow he cast on 18 -- intimidating Zach Johnson the way he once stalked Mickelson and Norman. A putt later, Tiger held a trophy aloft for the first time in ages.
They are, of course, linked for something other than sports: Tebow for his abstinence and Tiger for his adultery. In many ways they might be as famous for their "No" and "Yes" as they are for all the awards and championships and the acclaim that has come their way. And it is this that has probably damaged them most as athletes. By admitting his virginity Tebow could no longer be looked upon for just his football. He had risen to something else, something too pure for sports.
Tiger, once always lauded for his control and seeming virtue, was torn apart by his sex scandals, stripped of his invincibility and turned into a regular punch line on late night monologues. Injuries might have had more to do with his fall as a golfer than anything away from the course, but it’s hard to imagine he would have tumbled as far as he did without that late-night car crash outside his Florida home.
But on Sunday afternoon, they made new legends for themselves. Tebow passed the Broncos to a win when many thought it all but impossible, and Tiger won an improbable golf tournament the way he used to win golf tournaments every week.
"Don't call it a comeback, been here for years," Tiger said after Sunday’s win, quoting an old L.L. Cool J lyric.
Maybe he was right. Then again, maybe it was a bright day in a rapidly approaching winter for Tiger Woods. Who knows? Just as we still don’t know about Tebow as a quarterback just yet.
For two hours on Sunday, however, there was every reason to think their sports will continue to be about them.
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