So what’s the deal with Tim Tebow? Is the Denver quarterback a miracle worker, inspirational role-model or the most over-hyped NFL player since Brian Bosworth? Well, it depends on who you talk to. Most fans, even those east of the Rockies, love the guy and can’t wait to watch him work his magic each week. But if you read the sports pages, he is a lucky, muscle-bound dunce who is the tool of evil forces. Either way, the man is news.
Sunday’s 4th quarter comeback and improbable overtime win against the Bears is just the latest in the growing legacy of his winning ways. Yes, a combination of two critical mistakes by Chicago running back Marion Barber, a soft prevent defense and Mile High Stadium’s kicker-friendly clime had much to do with the victory, yet it almost defies logic that these and similar conditions seem to align themselves when Tebow takes the field late in games.
So what’s not to like? Plenty, it seems, according to American media, typified by this snarky piece at Esquire; a profanity-laced screed by Gary Andrew Poole titled, “How Can You Hate Tim Tebow?” The word most generally associated with him is “polarizing;” go ahead and Google it. Normally, a professional athlete is called polarizing because you either love or hate him and his team. But Tebow is fast becoming a fan favorite throughout the country, with his jersey leading the nation in sales and a best-selling autobiography on the market; so why the fuss?
One media criticism is that he is simply not a good quarterback, that he is a product of hype and good fortune and certainly not worthy of the adulation bestowed on him by the public. Yet there have been many supposedly subpar QBs that have graced NFL fields through the years—as a lifelong Bears fan, I can particularly attest to this—who have not been very popular with the fans but were lauded by the sporting press for their own reasons. The ‘controversy’ over Rush Limbaugh’s candid comments on Donavan McNabb is a great example of this.
So what’s Tebow’s crime? It is a symptom of our growing national distaste for those who believe that their faith shouldn’t stop at the church doorstep. It is one thing when football players gather for a prayer circle after a game, or baseball players to point to the sky; but to actually speak the name of Jesus and give him glory in interviews with the media—who take offense at any worship not directed by them—is far too much to take. After all, sports journalists are not too different from their brethren in the political realm, who have already met and worshipped their own messiah, Barack Obama.
Of course it all started with the “controversial” pro-life Super Bowl ad he made with his mother in 2010. Imagine: a Heisman Trophy winner and two-time NCAA champ having the nerve to use his celebrity to promote a higher cause than himself; worse yet, he even admitted in public that he is a ‘virgin’ who is saving himself for marriage. This is not the way an idol of millions of young men is supposed to comport himself in 21st Century America.
Make no mistake about it: the media are afraid of Tim Tebow and those like him. They are in fear that, when given a chance to promote his Christian message, people might actually sit up and take notice; as happened in the 2009 BCS Championship game when 94 million people Googled the Bible verse John 3:16 after viewing it on Tebow’s eye black. They cringe at each crazy win he engineers, fearful that, should his improbable journey lead to the Super Bowl, it won’t be merely a 60 second ad they’ll have to contend with.
Near the end of the classic movie, Chariots of Fire, after Scottish missionary Eric Liddell refuses to run a heat on a Sunday at the 1924 Olympics and instead is entered in a different race, he is handed a note by a member of the American team: "It says in the Good Book, 'He that honors me, I will honor.' Good luck."
Much to the chagrin of Tebow’s media detractors, maybe luck has nothing to do with it.