Monday, January 09, 2012

In Defense of Tim Tebow

Whew, this is long. My apologies in advance.

I'm about as far from a football fan as you could imagine. I just barely understand the game. The finer details of the sport are lost on me - but I get the gist.

These season though, I've been a bit more interested. I give the credit to my interest to Bronco's quarterback Tim Tebow. I couldn't ignore it if I wanted to. There are articles upon articles about why people love him or hate him. About his fourth quarter comebacks, his wild throwing style (or something - I don't even know what that means!) And obviously about how he wears his faith on his sleeve.

But because I live in Denver, home of the Broncos, the topic of Tebow comes up a lot. The men I meet tell me what they think about him, and ask my opinion. Kind of like a religious litmus test.

One date told me, in the first 12 minutes of my meeting him, "I love Tim Tebow. He's great, heck I'd marry the guy! But I don't like all his religious posturing."

Another date was more blunt. "I hate Tim Tebow. I don't understand why he gets so much attention." he continued, pointing out more details of the Tebow effect.

It's obvious to me that those who dislike him are bothered by his outward signs of his faith in God.
At the start of any interview, he thanks his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This REALLY bothers people.

Some point out that they think it's silly to think that God cares about a football game.
MY DEFENSE: Well, God cares about what we care about. But no, I don't think God is pulling strings on the outcome of the game like the SNL skit suggests. I do think it's important to point out that no Christian or Catholic football player is reaching out to God for a win.... rather, they are thanking God for the talent and the ability to play well and avoid injury. 
Then Tebowing became a verb. The action of taking a knee, and striking a contemplative pose.

This action seems to have taken the place of his making the sign of the cross, for which he also took heat. The critics even nag about him pointing skyward (which really only looks like the "Number One" sign.)  

Another guy I met complained that Tebow is using these gestures to look pious and get attention.
MY DEFENSE: I imagine that when young Timmy played high school and college football, he made a habit of either crossing himself or pointing heavenward, to thank his heavenly father for his talent and concentration. Back then it was probably no big deal, since it's preferable to showboating. But then, when it was obvious he was going to be a highly ranked draft pick, and TV network cameras showed up to document the start of his career -- well, people started asking questions and forming opinions about his actions and about his intent.
Those opinions turned into criticisms. But what was he supposed to do? If he dropped these actions, he'd get criticism about changing himself to fit the mold that other people want. He continues, and gets criticism for constantly drawing attention to his faith. 
He can't win this battle. If he did these things before the media frenzy, if he quits, people will attack him for caving to pressure. 
I suspect that the stance we now know as "Tebowing" was an effort on his part to take a reflective moment in an inconspicuous way. Then some reporters asked what that was about and he's honest enough to tell them - so the media jumps all over that too. I give the man credit for being who he is, sticking to his convictions and not caving into the pressure to conform to what makes everyone else comfortable. 

A few years back there was a lot of discussion about NFL players showboating in the end zone after a touchdown. Silly, funky little dances, sometimes amounting to beating their chests like primitive man slaying a wooly mammoth for food. I've never liked excessive celebration in sports, although I think a little happy jig never hurt anybody. (I partake in the occasional happy dance myself, thanks.)

Excessive celebration, on the other hand, amounts to grabbing the glory. Making the touchdown should be enough. Punctuating it with a fist pump or a big smile is fine, but when a player beats his chest and points to himself in celebration, it is, to me all about the glory. I think it's ugly to focus the glory on oneself. By pointing heavenward, I see Tebow making a small gesture that gives the glory to God - which I think is much more appropriate.

So when people get all spun up and complain that Tim Tebow shouldn't be bringing God to the NFL  football field, I point out that everyone's okay with another player taking the glory for himself, but giving the glory to God is frowned upon?  That is messed up.

It shows what a religious-phobic society ours has become. (just look to the current presidential campaign for more proof.)

If Tim Tebow is held out as an example of a godly man (and I don't know that he is - I only know what I've read.)  and can show our phobic society that religion doesn't make one a freak - then I'm behind him.

He's a target. All of the attention is attributed to the media just waiting for him to mess up. Fifty cameras a day just waiting for him to drop the F-bomb, or get in a fight, or uncover a child out of wedlock...  God forbid someone sees him with a girl on a beach vacation!

Still other critics complain that he's not that smart. That he says the same thing over and over in every interview. 
MY DEFENSE: Well, no kidding. First of all, he's young and yet to get in his groove for dealing with the media. But remember, if there's a microphone in front of his face there are millions of people just waiting for him to say the wrong thing. Waiting for any one thing that they can twist or spin to point to just so they can say, "See, it was all an act. No one can truly dedicate themselves to God and live a 'normal' life."
Tebow has set his own standard, because there are millions of people waiting to knock him off of some imaginary pedestal. It's hard to stand up for Christ when you're facing the scorn of the secular world.

Luke 6:22 - 23
22“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23“Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. 

The most divisive issue, is the complaint that he talks about God every chance he gets. And I will say, I understand the sentiments of overkill. This is the one area where I think he might be better served to choose his audience, choose his opportunities to spread the word of God, lest he become like a noisy gong or clanging symbol. I think we know from experience that if people think they can predict what you're going to say, they're going to tune it out. (refer to noisy gong here.)

But, if he feels it's part of his mission do so, he will deal with the criticism.  Maybe the secular world's idea of overkill is exactly what the secular world needs right now.

What irritates me about the hate directed at Tebow's faith-filled actions, is that everyone blames young Tim instead of realizing that it's the media circus that is making a show of it.  I really think Tebow is pretty subtle about it, if it weren't for all the cameras.

Recently, I learned that there is a prayer circle on the field after EVERY NFL game.
It's something they never show in sports coverage... the players from both teams who choose to participate, kneel on the field praising God with gratitude for their talent and sportsmanship. So hundreds of players have done this after every NFL game for years... and the media largely ignores it - but they aim all their cameras at one Tim Tebow, making an example, and sometimes mockery of him.

God bless him for holding his convictions amid all this pressure!

I say, "Tim, keep doing what you're doing. If you change mid-course they'll eat you alive!"

If more of us could stick with our beliefs and proudly stand by Christ when it gets uncomfortable, or embarrassing or even dangerous.... what a wonderful world this would be! I respect TT for putting it out there, and being an example. Somehow, it's making the game more exciting too!

credits: 1)  2) 3)


Anonymous said...

I admire his faith. I don't admire that it's bringing division.

Matthew 6:5-6: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men....when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret...."

Rachel said...

I will say this... 'Right on Sister! Preach it!' I completely agree with how you look at it. I also admire that he's staying humble through it all. He's becoming a role model for young men in a sport where it's easier to find bad role models instead of good ones, at least at a quick glance.

TRS said...

Knot, I respect your opinion... but how does it bring division? The fact that the secular world can't be "open-minded" enough to accept his actions of faith?

I find it to be a huge hypocrisy that the people demanding open-minded acceptance are never open-minded in return.

Regarding the bible verse --- I don't think he's praying publicly. He's quietly taking a knee. He's not using a microphone.... and it would be inconspicuous if there weren't 70 cameras on him!!!!

Kelley said...

As fellow Christians I feel we need to pray not only for Tebow but also other out-spoken Christians - pray for their protection. As you said, many people would love to see Tebow fall - and fall very far and very publicly. I was planning on reading his book this week, but my 14 year old son made off with it...but love that he's reading about a real person taking a stand for Christ.

Cathy Edwards said...

Jesus taught his followers to pray in private, not as the hypocritical Pharisees prayed in public, making a show of their piety. Frankly, I think this is exactly what Tebow is doing: making a show for his own glory and not Christ's. God hears the prayers of our hearts; there is no reason to make a show IF all you are interested in is communicating with God. If you have some other agenda, though, making a show might be of help to you in a worldly way, as it is to Tebow, who has gained many followers who mistakenly view his actions as following Christ rather than disobeying him.

TRS said...

I'm going to defer to the brilliant Marcus Barnes of Bad Catholic ---
who says it better than I can:

"Why was Christ angry at the hypocrites for praying in the streets? Was it because public prayer is inherently wrong? No, because there’s that whole “Let your light shine before all men” bit that needs taking into account. The key word here is hypocrites. The problem isn’t that they’re praying in the street, it’s that they’re ONLY praying in the street. The problem is that everyone liked them for praying in the streets, that everyone thought they were holy for doing so."

emphasis mine