2011 Top Story No. 7: Riverhead swept up in ‘Tebowmania’

12/26/2011 7:00 AM |

At its heart, it was really was just kids goofing off in the halls.

But when news broke Dec. 15 that a group of Riverhead High School students was suspended for ‘Tebowing’ — dropping to a knee in prayer à la Denver Broncos religious quarterback Tim Tebow — in the hallways, people everywhere couldn’t get enough of it.

From local and national TV news shows, including ESPN’s Sportscenter, to radio and newspapers, Riverhead High School was suddenly sharing the spotlight with national lighting rod Tim Tebow.

Were the kids mocking Tebow, a devout Christian who’s long been outspoken about his faith? Or were they actually blocking the hallways in tribute?

Should they have been suspended? Was the school administration stifling freedom of speech and religion? Are public schools anti-Christian?

The conversation seemed to know no bounds.

And people sure liked to talk about it, including ringleader Tyler Caroll, who wasn’t shy in telling news outlets the kids were just trying to be funny. But Tyler also often said he thought Tim Tebow was a good role model, so if the kids were going to mimic anyone, as a joke or not, it might as well have been a religious and family-oriented athlete who doesn’t have sex or do drugs.

Not everyone found the joke — or its consequences — to be a laughing matter, as school superintendent Nancy Carney received hate mail from across the country over the school’s course of action in punishing the boys. Ms. Carney told the News-Review they had repeatedly been told to stop.

Tebow himself eventually weighed in, telling an AP reporter that the kids “have to respect the position of authority and people that God’s put as authority over you, so that’s part of it, and just finding the right place and the right time to do things …”

NBC sports, NFL.com and other outlets all linked to the Riverhead News-Review and Suffolk Times websites that week, making it the most Times/Review Newsgroup web post of all time.

Never can we remember our town getting so much attention.

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