[UPDATE, 12/13/2011: I can’t believe that I missed the fact that we had a commentary run this very weekend on the Tomorrow’s World website that discusses Tim Tebow, as well! I subscribe to our commentary updates (and I urge you to do so, as well!), but in the hustle and bustle of the weekend, I must have missed it. My thanks to my Beautiful Wife for pointing it out to me! I’d rather you read that than this or at least go read than and come back. Here it is: “Faith on the Football Field?” by Mr. Dexter Wakefield.]
Well, many hate him and many love him, but few football fans seem to feel one way or the other about Tim Tebow.
If you have no idea who that is, don’t worry, you’re fine. No need to adjust your TV set. He’s the current starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos who (1) happens to be enjoying a very good season so far in spite of a number of shortcomings in his technique, (2) happens to be very open (and sincere) about his nominally Christian faith, frequently kneeling (increasingly called “Tebowing”) and praying after successful moments on the field, and (3) happens to seem like a genuinely decent and caring fellow.
As for his religion, itself, I have no comment beyond my normal comments about mainstream Christianity: It is a far cry from “the faith once delivered” and I would suspect that Mr. Tebow’s preferred version of Christianity is no different.
But rather than pick at the details (e.g., are his public displays, however sincerely motivated, violations of Matthew 6:5-6?), I’d like to focus on the fact that his attitude is terribly refreshing in a world–that of professional sports–that seems so often to be one of glorifying the self above others. Football is just like any other professional sport in the sense that it is what you make of it — not inherently vile or righteous in and of itself, and commendable/condemnable based on the attitudes of its participants and fans. I’ve seen “no contact” sports like golf, tennis, and track produce and display individuals with incredibly satanic attitudes, and I’ve seen “full contact” sports like football and wrestling produce and display some pretty decent human beings and moments of real virtue. But all sports, especially at the professional level, seem to risk a glorifying of the self above others–definitely not the attitude of Philippians 2:3. And all the kneeling and “I thank the Lord Jesus” Tebow moments aside, those moments where he simply behaves like a clean decent fellow are, I think, wonderfully refreshing.
There are a few anecdotes related in the Wall Street Journal’s article this weekend “Tim Tebow: God’s Quarterback” (12/10/2011 — and no paywall!) that illustrate this refreshing quality. Here’s my favorite, I think: The moment after Tim Tebow had been sacked (that’s where the quarterback is tackled while still in possession of the ball, for the sports ignorant) in the Broncos’ came against the Detroit Lions, the “sacker,” Stephen Tulloch, took a knee to the ground in an obvious attempt to mock Tebow’s own kneeling prayers. But when asked later what he felt about Tulloch’s mean spirited jab, the WSJ reports that Tebow responded, “He was probably just having fun and was excited he made a good play and had a sack. And good for him.”
Now, on one hand, this sort of response should be non-news. On the other hand, the fact that it is news is what makes it news. (Those looking for an unending iterative loop in that statement are free to have at it.)
Actually, the article is a good one for a number of reasons — it’s discussion on why someone such as Tebow, who seems like a genuinely good fellow, stirs such reactions in the public, as well as on other matters, was interesting to me (one who is otherwise not a big sports fan). A comment made in the article (and highlighted in a sidebar in the print version) that caught my eye was this one: “A public figure’s seemingly admirable character throws us. We don’t know how to trust goodness.” I really do think it’s a worthwhile read, regardless of one’s opinion about sports — check it out here if you’d like.
Having grown up in the era of Tom Landry and Roger Staubach’s Cowboys, today’s sports and the attitudes that accompany them irritate me to no end. And if even mainstream Christians are irritated at Tebow’s displays, however sincere they may be, I can understand (for example, I can’t imagine Landry or Staubach wearing their faith on their sleeve so much — even though Landry, himself, taught “Sunday School” and adult Bible studies). But it is refreshing to me to see some positive attitude from a big name player who really does seem to recognize that football is, after all, only a game, and that there really are more important things out there.