Over the next week, thousands of people in Tampa Bay will celebrate Tim Tebow being in town to play minor-league baseball.
They will pack the stands in Tampa and Clearwater just to get a glimpse of one of the most famous athletes to ever live. They will cheer him for every little thing he does on the field because they love every little thing he does — and stands for.
But there will be thousands who cannot wait for Tebow to leave town. They're already sick of him. They don't want to hear about him. They don't want to talk about him. They don't want to read about him.
They hate him.
Surely you know someone who hates Tebow. You might be that someone.
"He's a very polarizing figure,'' says Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen, who coached Tebow at Florida. "There are haters in the world. I would say there are more Tim haters than doubters.''
The question is: why? Why do so many people hate Tim Tebow?
He is passionate about every aspect of his life, yet isn't arrogant. He's dedicated. Loyal. He's respectful of others, even those who don't respect him.
He's a leader. He's polite. He's humble even though he's better than most people at everything he has ever attempted.
Those who truly know him have nothing but praise for him. You never hear a bad thing about him from someone who has ever spent significant time around him.
He serves his fellow man, and most of that is done away from cameras and publicity.
He is one of the nicest, kindest, compassionate people on the planet.
Yet, he is hated by more than a few.
"There are more haters, who say if he doesn't do everything he says, he's not perfect,'' Mullen said. "Here's a young man with very strong values. I think a lot of people are jealous of that because they don't have as strong (a set of) values as he does. So, they try to find fault in him to make themselves look better.''
There it is. It's about God. That's the real reason.
It's not that he's a Gator. Or that he wanted to be an NFL quarterback. Or that he wants to play baseball. Or that he's disingenuous, because he's not.
It's his faith in God.
"People attack,'' Mullen said. "They attack his religion.''
Tebow isn't shy about sharing his beliefs or crediting God for his life. But it's not as if he is forcing people to listen to him. If you don't want to see it, turn off the TV, turn the page, move on to something else.
Yet, the haters say things like, "Why does he have to shove his religion in my face?"
"I respect his faith,'' Mullen said. "It was who he was on a daily basis. It doesn't mean you have to have the exact same faith, but you can sure respect someone who has those strong beliefs. That's a positive way to live your life. Whether you try to do that in religion, or in college football, or the classroom, or in a TV career, or in missionary life — or in trying to play pro baseball — that's a very hard thing to do."
Still, the haters can't wait to see him fail. They rejoice that he can't find an NFL job. They smile whenever they read about him striking out or making an error. Not only don't they want to see him do well, they want to seem him flounder and flop in embarrassing fashion.
It's not good enough that Tebow can't start in the NFL, the haters want to see him out of the league completely. Now those same people are upset that he's playing in a baseball league they don't even follow.
To despise someone like that just isn't normal.
Tebow isn't a criminal. He never did any harm to anyone. Yet the hate runs deep.
Maybe, just maybe, the target of their hate isn't Tebow, but something far more unsettling.
"Tim makes you look at yourself,'' Ohio State and former Gators coach Urban Meyer said. "And sometimes you don't exactly like what you see. I fell into that. I never met someone quite like that, someone who, from A to Z, what he's living is real.
"He makes you self-evaluate. Sometimes I look at his critics and, while I don't feel sorry for them, I wonder what's the issue here?''
Tebow believes in God. He believes in service. He believes in trying to impact people in a positive way, to make their lives better. He believes in doing whatever it takes, including playing baseball, to the best of his ability to reach people and share his story and make a difference in the world.
What's wrong with that, exactly?
Maybe if people spent the energy it takes to hate Tebow on living their lives more like Tebow, the world would be a much better place.
Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones