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Gazette Premium Content Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad: That was it?

Staff reports Updated: February 7, 2010 at 12:00 am

Boy tackles mom. That was about it.

The ad that made Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam, the unintended stars of the Super Bowl was not a screed against abortion. Nor was it a heartwarming story about a mother ignoring doctors' advice and having her baby.

It was, instead, a lighthearted take on a mother-son relationship.

Pam Tebow holds a baby photo of Tim, now 22.

"I call him my miracle baby," she says. "He almost didn't make it into this world. ... you know, with all our family's been through, we have to be tough."

Suddenly, she flies off screen.

"Timmy!" she scolds, popping back up. "I'm trying to tell our story here!"

He apologizes. "You still worry about me, Mom?"

"Well, yeah," says Pam Tebow. "You're not nearly as tough as I am."

The tagline, "Celebrate Family. Celebrate Life." directs viewers to the Web site of the ad's sponsor, Focus on the Family, the Colorado-based evangelical Christian organization. The ad was posted on the group's Web site, www.focusonthefamily.com.

In the two weeks leading up to Sunday's game, the ad had been the subject of furious debate. Groups supporting legal abortion — including NOW and NARAL Pro-Choice America — condemned CBS for accepting the ad, the first political ad the network has accepted for a Super Bowl broadcast.

Some were still angry after the ad aired.

NOW president Terry O'Neill said the ad glorified violence against women. "I am blown away at the celebration of the violence against women in it," she said. "That's what comes across to me even more strongly than the anti-abortion message. I myself am a survivor of domestic violence, and I don't find it charming. I think CBS should be ashamed of itself."

Not all abortion supporters agreed. "It's absurd to claim that this is an endorsement of violence against women," said Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for Choice. "These people came across as affectionate, loving, funny and happy."

But, Kissling said, Focus on the Family was lucky that abortion-rights groups made a stink. "If there had not been all of that publicity over the last two weeks, this ad could have passed almost unnoticed. Who would have known what they're talking about? It's so subtle."

Abortion foes said they were delighted with the way the ad turned out.

"What you see is the increasing sophistication of the pro-life movement," said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life. "Focus on the Family has really been strategic. They went with the old adage 'Less is more,' and they put a positive message out there."

Likewise, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports candidates who oppose abortion, was pleased.

"Wow, this is so benign," she said. "It's a story of a mother's strength. That is the message that I saw. "

Tebow's parents were living in the Philippines as missionaries when Pam Tebow contracted amoebic dysentery, then learned she was pregnant with Tim, her fifth child. Doctors told her that her placenta had detached from her uterine wall — a condition known as placental abruption — and recommended that she abort her fetus. Complications from a placental abruption can include the death of the fetus, who is deprived of oxygen and nutrients, and the mother, who can bleed to death.

But Tebow spent the last two months of her pregnancy on bed rest and gave birth to a healthy son. In 2007, that child became the first sophomore ever to win the Heisman trophy.

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