Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tim Tebow: God's Quarterback

Tim Tebow on sidelines
He has led the Denver Broncos to one improbable victory after another—defying his critics and revealing the deep-seated anxieties in American society about the intertwining of religion and sports.

On a brisk Thursday evening in mid-November, I sat high in the stands at a Denver Broncos home game, covering the ears of my 4-year-old son as the fans around us launched f-bombs at Tim Tebow, the Broncos' struggling second-year quarterback. Mr. Tebow was ineffective and off-target for most of the game, and one of his more voluble and obnoxious critics was standing right in front of us.

But the heckler's friend wasn't joining in. "Just wait until the end of the fourth quarter," he said. "That's Tebow time."

And so it was. In the waning moments against the New York Jets, Mr. Tebow manufactured a 95-yard game-winning drive, punctuated by his own 20-yard touchdown dash. He brought the Broncos back from imminent defeat, just as he had done in previous weeks against the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.

And when the shouting was over, Mr. Tebow did what he always does—he pointed skyward and took a knee in prayer. In postgame interviews, the young quarterback often starts by saying, "First, I'd like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" and ends with "God bless." He stresses that football is just a game and that God doesn't care who wins or loses.

This combination of candid piety and improbable success on the field has made Mr. Tebow the most-discussed phenomenon of the National Football League season. Most expert analysts still consider him poor material for a pro quarterback. An inexperienced passer with awkward throwing mechanics and the build of a fullback, he likes to run over defensive players, which is a no-no in the NFL, whose starting quarterbacks are expensive and hard to come by.

But onward he and the Broncos have marched, winning six of their last seven games and now tied for the lead in their division as they face the Chicago Bears this Sunday. Mr. Tebow continues to defy his critics—and to embody the anxieties over religion that are dividing today's sports world and embroiling players and fans alike.

Sports culture is among the most fervently religious sectors of American life. If you turn on ESPN's "SportsCenter" almost any night, you will see baseball players who point to heaven after a clutch hit and basketball players like the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, who once intimated that a playoff series victory against the Boston Celtics was proof of God's presence with his team.

These claims by athletes—"God helped me do that" or "I thank God that I was able to do that"—are so commonplace that they usually draw little notice. Most sports fans seem to think that such religious talk doesn't really affect how the games are played or credit it with a powerful placebo effect. So what if Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox has a Bible verse inscribed on his bat? Fine—whatever helps him to hit the long ball.

But Mr. Tebow has never been content to leave his evangelical faith on the field. Well before he became the starting quarterback for Denver, he was a lightning rod in America's intermittent culture war of believers vs. secularists.

Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal.

UPDATE by Reggie: Earlier today Tim Tebow led his team against Chicago to another overtime victory. Denver is 7-1 with Tebow as their starter and they are now the number one team in their division. The NFL Network will re-air today's game on Wednesday night at 8pm ET.


Tim Tebow rejoices!

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