On Tim Tebow and something refreshing in football

[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.]

Posting this graphic may be the closest I get to a real football in the foreseeable future...

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.

9 thoughts on “On Tim Tebow and something refreshing in football

  1. I like most of your writing except for your disdain of Tebow’s outward expressions (kneeling, praying, thanking God). In a country where prayer is outlawed in public school, it’s good to see it done in other public areas.

  2. Howdy, Scott, and thanks for your comment! I apologize if it came across as disdain, which wasn’t intended. And thankfully student-led prayer is not yet outlawed. As someone once said, as long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in public schools. 🙂

  3. art

    Howdy Mr. Smith, I really enjoyed reading you article about Mr. Tebow. I noticed you said in the title “something refreshing in football” Doesn”t sound like your were being disdain at all. Christianty has taken on many new customs and traditions in the past 2000 years; and even more so in the past few decades. Which are mostly all contrary to the teachings of what Christ and the apostles taught about how and when to pray; and to worship the Father and the Son; and taking to themselves how they think it should be done. While none should deny Christ; it would be far better to strive to do things the way He said, and walk as He walked (luke 6:46) lest we worship Him in vain (myself included)

  4. TeapotTempest

    One of the comments following the WSJ-online article on Tim Tebow (and after the Broncos had just come back from behind to win their sixth game in a row) was, “If this keeps up, I’m going to start reading my Bible”. So maybe in some ways he’s doing some good.

    I’ve also noticed that the sports media, after initially ridiculing Tebow for the open displays of his religious faith (along with what they considered inadequate or peculiar techniques on the field), have turned 180 degrees in their opinions of him after that sixth game against Chicago. Reminds me of what one famous coach (Lombardi?) used to say about football, “winning is everything!” In a spiritual sense, I think that is probably what Paul meant as well (1 Corinthian 9:24-25).

  5. Steve

    Is Tim Tebow deliberately trying to draw attention to himself, or is simply a guy who wears his heart on a sleeve? That would be my question.

  6. Pingback: God and Tim Tebow | breezespeaks « Ye Olde Soapbox

  7. Norbert

    Two points come to mind.

    Being thankful for living in a nation that generally allows prayer without being hauled away for it.

    Plus another passage of scripture sticks out, the one dealing with love your enemies. If Matt 5:47 is read along the lines of, “And if you salute your [teamates] only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so?” or even as “And if you [pray] for your [team] only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so?

    I wouldn’t dispute that it is possible to take exception to my customized and modern day translations of that verse, but in my view there can be something selfish about praying after your team scores a winning field goal. Whether a person understands the whole gospel or not, they need to seriously concider such a thing could only be nothing more than glorifying themself.

  8. Pingback: not a football fan but… « flyoverhere

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