Liking God is cool again, did you hear? Tim Tebow is bringing it back. He has quickly become the most popular NFL player, the most popular athlete and quite possibly, for a moment, the most popular person in America, all on the wings of Jesus. Bringing back values to professional sports, Tebow has brought to light the issue of religion in sports and set a standard for moral excellence in athletics.
Now let me back up a second. I have never been a huge fan of Tebow. The moment he arrived in Denver, “Focus on the Family” ads starring him and his mom started popping up on TV. I have never been one to like people telling me how to live my personal life, but it crossed a line when it was an athlete that hadn’t even set foot in Mile High Stadium. He hadn’t proved anything to me, hadn’t earned my respect. Winning a Heisman is cool, winning a Heisman as a sophomore is pretty impressive—but it means nothing carried over to the NFL. Terrell Suggs will hit you just as hard whether you’ve won that trophy or walked onto the team after skipping college.
But then….something happened in Denver—something hard to explain: Tebow Obama-ed. He won over the hearts and minds of Americans all while reaching a pretty high level of success. I still don’t know how he did it. To be honest, he’s got a weak arm with on-and-off accuracy, and his mobility causes almost as many problems as it solves. But he figured out a way to win, then he did it again, and again, and again—and all of a sudden he’s throwing 200 yards and looking like a real quarterback.
Meanwhile, Denver’s going wild. We hadn’t had a quarterback leading us to comeback wins since Elway. The Tebow press boom was immediate, he was suddenly on every episode of Sportscenter, being absurdly compared to Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. At once, t-shirt sellers started popping up on the fanwalk to Mile High Stadium, parodying every aspect of Tim’s life. Saturday Night Live even made a Tebow skit where Jesus walks into the locker room asking Tebow if he can step up his game so the Lord doesn’t have to keep producing fourth quarter miracle comebacks.
And all of a sudden, I’m feeling myself sucked into Tebow nation. I would watch the Broncos get demolished for three quarters but fully believed he would lead a comeback in the fourth. It’s that belief that kept Denver fans tuned in and I’m pretty sure that belief is what helps Tebow so much. He has the belief in his head that he can overcome the odds and lead the team to victory. He has the belief that he’s out on that field for a purpose. And most importantly, he has the belief that he’s playing for something higher than himself.
Falling to one knee in prayer, or pseudo-prayer, called “the Tebow,” is the new celebration, the new way of displaying success. It’s how everyone knows what Tim Tebow’s all about. It screams “I love God and since God has done this for me…I’m going to publicly display my faith.” This is a ridiculous notion in sports—the idea that the outcome of the game or your own play is predetermined and controlled by a higher power. I have no doubt that crossing oneself while stepping on the court or field provides some degree of fearlessness and will to succeed, but it ultimately has little outcome on performance. Look at Tebow’s games where he’s been held to 50 yards passing, either God wasn’t there or he works in very, very mysterious ways.
All of this, though, is the wrong part of Tebow to be emphasizing. Regardless of faith and play on the field, he really is an amazing person. He has a different disabled child on the sidelines with him every week and after the game. That’s his focus. He plays for that child knowing he’s already had amazing opportunities he or she will never experience. Through his religion he’s brought values back into sports, letting athletes everywhere know that it’s not all about you. It’s because of athletes like Tebow that sports is so much more than a game, it’s a vessel to change the society we live in. That, to me, is truly Tebow Nation: using the resources you have to do something positive for the world, all while building an incredible fan base.
Now the “Tebow” has become a universal sign for success regardless of faith. So while I fully support Tebow-ing when you turn in an exam next week or Tebow-ing when you successfully sink that ping-pong ball, also Tebow when you help a friend, Tebow when you know you’ve made a difference for someone and Tebow when you give back to the community.
Because that, my friends, is really what Tim Tebow is all about.