Tim Tebow – the Messiah on Mile High
Tim Tebow has delivered exactly what the sports world needed in a time when the sports industry is experiencing a daily full frontal assault as a result of child sexual abuse scandals at Penn State to the heart of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
An athlete people can believe in for all the right reasons.
The Broncos began their season with Kyle Orton as quarterback. After the team started 1-4, Broncos coach Jim Fox named Tebow the starting quarterback against the Miami Dolphins.
Since then, Tebow has led the Broncos to a 7–1 record, including game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and/or overtime five times.
Faith has been the cornerstone of Tebow’s life. Religion and sports have always been intertwined with athletes thanking “God” in post-game speeches or accepting awards. Tim Tebow is taking his belief in a higher power to new levels.
“He gets attention the way Doug Flutie got attention,” Jep Streit, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul told The Boston Herald. “He’s an exciting player, and then you layer on his faith, and it makes an attractive and provocative story. It will be interesting to see what happens on Sunday. Around Boston, Brady is like a god, so we’ve got these two godlike figures. Someone’s got to lose.”
“People wonder, does God get involved in the minor details, the relatively minor details, or does God stick with the larger master plan?” said Grand Rabbi Y.A. Korff, the city of Boston’s chaplain.
God isn’t guiding the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow’s remarkable two-month run will end, possibly as soon as this Sunday.
The New England Patriots are one of the National Football League’s best teams. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, owner of three Super Bowls, two league MVPs and an eventual bust in the Hall of Fame.
Brady and Tebow share at least one essential quality. They inspire their teammates to greatness. Tebow doesn’t have Brady’s talent, in fact he doesn’t have the talent of most NFL starting quarterbacks, but Tim Tebow has the ability to inspire the men who play football with them.
“I don’t like to see it so visible and overwhelming, because then it becomes an act for the act’s sake, rather than for the underlying faith and belief,” Rabbi Korff said. “And that, then, becomes a concern, particularly for those that have faiths that are in the minority in this country. I don’t know if he’s crossed over that line.”
Has Tim Tebow crossed over the mythical line that does its best to separate sports and religion? Sandy Koufax didn’t pitch during the World Series on Yom Kippur, and Shawn Green didn’t play on Rosh Hashanah.
Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, two of the biggest athletes of the 20th century, changed their names from Cassius Clay and Lew Alcindor, and embraced their Muslim faith at the peak of their careers.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, was known as Chris Jackson when he played at LSU. He changed his name when he was a member of the Denver Nuggets. He will forever be remembered for refusing to acknowledge the American National Anthem during a 1996 game, effectively ending his NBA career.
Football players seem to embrace their faith in a higher power more than any other athletes. Football is a violent sport, often compared to war.
"I just tell God to watch over me from the toes on my feet to the head of my crown,'' Chicago Bears Devin Hester said in a Chicago Tribune report.
"My mom taught me, No. 1, to have respect for God,'' the Bears returner-receiver said, "and to know that you can do all things through Christ.''
Hester’s Chicago Bears were on the receiving end of Tebow Time last Sunday, losing 13-10 to the Broncos in overtime. God didn’t win the game for the Broncos, Marion Barber’s mistakes in the dying moments of regulation time and overtime were keys. Barber had a bad football game, that’s why the Bears lost to the Broncos.
"I don't have a problem with it," Hester said. "It's just like being a captain on a team: There are guys who are vocal; there are guys who aren't.''
"Tebow is taking a lot of criticism not just because of his faith. He's taking criticism because he's abnormal,'' Deion Sanders, now an analyst for the NFL Network told The Chicago Tribune. "The things he's doing and the success he's having is not normal, and people have a hard time buying into what they haven't seen. Then to top it all off, he exercises his faith.
"To me, a young, successful guy or woman, regardless of their ethnicity, who exercises what they believe in and what they truly stand for, no matter what it is, it shouldn't be a problem.''
"His play is evident of someone who follows God,'' said Bears quarterback Josh McCown, also an ardent Christian. "He plays wholeheartedly, with passion. That's a misnomer about Christian players; that they should be soft or they should be weak. That's not the case at all.''
Why, then, has Tim Tebow become one of the most polarizing figures in American society?
Appearing at a pre-season press conference, former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason offered this gem on how he felt about Tebow’s abilities as an NFL quarterback.
"[Tebow] can't play. He can't throw. I'm not here to insult him. The reality is he was a great college football player, maybe the greatest college football player of his time. But he's not an NFL quarterback right now. Just because he's God-fearing, and a great person off the field, and was a winner with the team that had the best athletes in college football, doesn't mean his game is going to translate to the NFL."
"What (former Broncos coach) Josh McDaniels saw in him God only knows. Maybe God does know — because the rest of us don't,"
NFL draft pundits projected Tebow as a third-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Then-Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels stunned the football world by selecting Tebow with the 23rd pick in the first round.
Boomer has had a change of heart when it comes to Tim Tebow and his NFL abilities.
"I bought in to Tim Tebow; that's all I can tell you. He's a great guy; he's a great player in the fourth quarter," Esiason said.
Quite the 180 from his assessment in August: "He can't play. He can't throw."
Merril Hoge maintained that Tebow had "massive flaws" on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown. "Why are they able to win? They hide those flaws."
What Hoge seems to be missing is the moment in time Tim Tebow has provided the sports world with, a player who manages to win despite his apparent shortcomings as a football player.
Tim Tebow has delivered at a time when the Denver Broncos needed him. Tim Tebow has delivered at a time when the National Football League needed him. Tim Tebow has delivered at a time when the sports world needed him.
Tim Tebow makes you want to watch more football. Tim Tebow makes you forget about Jerry Sandusky. Tim Tebow makes you remember the good times sports can provide, the time when sports produced heroes, athletes who rose above their “God given abilities” and delivered.
Tebow’s magical time may end this Sunday, but it’s been a wonderful ride.
For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom