One columnist in Denver called Tebow the worst quarterback in football. Another columnist in Canada labeled Tebow the “Kim Kardashian of sports,” for the intense reaction he elicited. Online, the torrent of mockery and criticism has been fierce. Blog posts included “God explains why he let Tim Tebow fail” and Twitter exploded in hateful vitriol, to which the Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski mused: “I believe Tim Tebow isn’t an N.F.L. starter and I want him to prove me wrong because I believe he’s a great guy. Is that allowed?”

In sheer volume and intensity, the comments section on an ESPN article best captured the storm known as Tebow mania. They ranged from critical to crude under the theme “X is > Tebow,” with X being “eating your kids” among the options, as moderators struggled to delete the escalating venom.

“This isn’t so much about Tim Tebow,” said Lincoln Blumell, an assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and a former college quarterback. “This is about people and about religion in sports.”