Tim Tebow, Player and Pray-er

In the Cathedral of the Gridiron, Denver's quarterback is the lightning rod for attention.

I’m not an avid football fan, but I do love me a good Super Bowl party! I get more jazzed over the commercials and cruising the buffet than watching the game itself, although the 2007 Giants vs. the Patriots match-up did catch and keep my attention. But regular season play isn’t a staple of my TV-viewing habits.

I’m also not a Christian, but I like to consider myself respectful of others who are fervent believers.

I am a news junkie though, and so it was hard miss hearing about a certain famous, religious football player currently making headlines.

Actually, you’d have to be pretty out of touch not to have heard of Tim Tebow. Even my mom, who probably thinks there’s a hoop at the end of a football field, recently said to me, “What do you think about this Tim Tebow?!”

Tebow, the Denver Broncos starting quarterback, is quite the story. An impressive high-school player, he made a name for himself early on as the quarterback for the University of Florida, and the first-ever sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. Since becoming the starting signal caller for Denver, he’s amassed a 7-2 win-loss record, with many wins coming as late-in-the-game ‘miracle’ reversals of earlier poor team performances.

But Tebow has garnered just as much attention for his self-avowed religious fervor as he has for his athletic performance on the field. It’s so much a part of who he is and what he does, there’s now an acknowledged word—tebowing—to describe his frequent habit for kneeling and praying on the field during a game. He points heavenward after touchdowns and is often quoted about his religious beliefs, even taking a playful turn about it on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Some people praise his show of faith, saying he leads by example and provides a good role model. They credit his uninhibited display of religious values as something that could encourage others not so comfortable about revealing their own religious convictions. They say his religious outlook strengthens his own resolve and dedication to working hard at improving his professional level of play.

The critics are loud, though. A few players have mocked Tebow by ‘tebowing’ in front of him after a failed pass. Others say Tebow giving credit to God for his team’s success on the field shortchanges the hard work of his fellow players and coaches, and that piety has no place in football. He’s been faulted for dropping to his knee in prayer to give thanks for every little thing, with skeptics calling the frequency of the move comical.

Either way, it’s safe to say that Tebow is getting attention as a player and as a pray-er.

Of course, because it’s the entertaining, big money-making world of sports, it’s important to acknowledge the financial and PR benefit from any behavior that gets attention. Players hawk products and teams earn revenues from players who become media darlings or targets. It’s been said that Tebow is putting his endorsement muscle behind Christianity.

But there is value in what Tebow is endorsing. He’s modeling long-standing dedication and commitment; he’s been an outspoken, devout believer his entire 24 years. He’s putting his actions where his beliefs are, as a devoted volunteer off the field as well. It’s not such a bad thing for that kind of role model in a sport that has definitely seen its share of screw-ups.

Tebow’s holy devotion is only highlighted by opposing players who mock him. While they are free to exercise their version of an athlete’s ‘trash talk,’ they should realize the potential for backlash—it certainly is an overt display of nasty character, if nothing else.

But critics of his behaviors and dedication to his faith are missing the point. There’s no codified separation of church and state when it comes to football, and what’s the point of hating or fearing someone else’s ardent belief when it’s something that motivates him and drives his success. He’s not proselytizing; rather he’s minding his own business, and it just so happens there are millions of pairs of eyes on him when he does it.

Would it be better if he thanked a corporate sponsor for providing off-the-game-field training gear, giving them credit for his touchdowns rather than his god? Would critics prefer the flashier behavior of a gambling addict or nightclub regular at the helm of the team?

The greater sin would be hypocrisy. If he were using his religious beliefs to incite hatred or bigotry, criticism might be more justified. It’s like the singer who thanks God in a Grammy acceptance speech and then sings about women as ‘bitches.’ I prefer the godly behavior I’ve seen in Tebow over that.

And while I personally disagree with a socio-political stance he took when he appeared in a Super Bowl commercial supporting a pro-life message, I have to acknowledge that who people are is more complex than just one rigid belief. It’s not so black and white.

So, while the ‘tebowing’ trend spreads like wildfire () the debate will continue as Denver’s quarterback is sure to keep his team in the national spotlight. Who knows for sure if that spotlight will cast a ring of light to halo around Tebow’s head.

Ross Revira December 21, 2011 at 03:02 PM
I was not questioning her use of grammar. It would seem today to be hip and cool one must write or speak as if they were from the "hood". Next time I will aks her to write better, you know what I'm saying?
EJ December 22, 2011 at 03:31 PM
I applaud Tebow for publicly expressing his freedom of religion in United States.....a place where freedom of religion is permitted. He is not asking anyone else on the team to pray nor is he asking the fans to pray for him........
Cadeyrn December 22, 2011 at 10:31 PM
"It’s all very confusing. As other posters said, don’t you think God has better things to do with His time? Isn’t it selfish of Tebow to take up God’s time by asking for a winning field goal?" Hmmm. Pretty bold of you to speak for the Lord. Got special connections? And ... Be sure to tell our Muslim brothers not to interrupt their work or school day to see to their prayers. Remind our Jewish friends to leave their yamulkes at home. And whisper to our Christian pals to leave the crucifix bling on the bureau. I think this kid's struck a chord because unlike me, well, he sort lives up to what we all fall short of. We don't much like our short-comings in the spotlight. So, he's an easy mock.
Paula December 23, 2011 at 06:02 PM
I find it real interesting to read how cruel and vicious some of you are on this topic and towards one another. As most of us know we all have the choice to believe in GOD or not. Players have been giving GOD the praise and asking for his strength forever. When they points up towards the sky, they are giving God the credit. At the end of games some of the players gather together in a circle on their knees and pray after the game, it is not for show boating that they are doing it. They are sharing their request and thanking GOD for a good game. Nothing is said about others the others pointing to the sky after they score or have a great play. Bible does speak of TAKING UP THE CROSS, it continues with AND FOLLOW ME. It refers to THOSE who have accepted GOD as their Savior. GOD is not saying we are all going to be Dr.s, Nurses, Teachers, NFL player or what. We are directed to follow HIM and His direction. It also says Christians that will be taunted and persecuted, made fun of for our stand. TEBOW This is exactly what is occuring and I am GLAD there is Somebody out there concerned about the impact GOD has had in their life. Deon Sanders was not someone I wanted my child to imitate until he Straightened out his life. I am not saying you are not a good Person if you do not believe in GOD, there are too FEW POSITIVE EXAMPLES FOR OUR CHILDREN TO FOLLOW. I would much rather my child look up to Tebow, than many of the other examples
Francis T McVetty December 23, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Isn't it nice for someone to thank God instead of the government. I do believe he is genuine in his beliefs. I do also think that is better to believe in a supreme being than not. If you follow at least the ten commandments, then you can't go wrong on your path through life. Merry Christmas and please remember it is his birthday that we celebrate.


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