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January 13, 2012

Controversial Tebow Brings Faith to Light

Derek Shackelford

There is probably no other subject discussed that will bring various views of opinions such as religion. It can cause us as a society and world the propensity to defend it, practice it, or surmise no usefulness whatsoever.


Emotions can run high and sometimes get in the way of any intellectual discussion. Religion alone stirs the passion on both sides of the debate. Throw in the passion of sports along with this and you can have an explosive exchange of conversation.


This is precisely what we have when it comes to the discussion of one Tim Tebow. It can be argued that at this time no one is being discussed more within and outside of the sporting arena than Mr. Tebow.


Why? Is it because of his athletic relationship to football and being the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos or is it because of his openness in continually discussing his faith in the public arena. The two appear to be related and how they intertwine with each other more than likely ignites the discussion.


Before entering the National Football League, Mr. Tebow was the starting quarterback for the Florida Gators. The Gators won two national titles while he quarterbacked the team; he was named the Heisman trophy winner; and he publicly expressed his faith in Christ.


Being the Heisman trophy winner places one under the microscope; and, when you add the consistent reference to the Lord, it can cause even more scrutiny. After his decorated college career, Mr. Tebow was drafted as the 25th pick in the first round although he was not projected to be drafted until after the third round. Denver took a chance and traded up in that draft to take him. Then the criticism started for the Broncos.


The question surrounding the pick was whether Mr. Tebow was an NFL quarterback, or should he be resigned to playing another position. Those who analyzed his game cited his footwork, throwing mechanics and accuracy as reasons why being a starting quarterback would be difficult.


Due to the losing record of the Broncos, Mr. Tebow had an opportunity to play earlier in his career than many expected him to have.


Fast forward to the beginning of this season and Mr. Tebow was relegated to third string status behind Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn. Why third string? This question can only be answered by the coaches and front office personnel for the Broncos. Well, when your team starts the season at 1-4, player personnel will change.


The slow start granted him the chance to be the starter and the team went 7-3 with him at the helm. Many of the victories were of the comeback variety under what some would say was improbable circumstance. Everything seems to go right for his team and a new found enthusiasm was injected by Mr. Tebow. Especially late in the fourth quarter what could have gone right, went right; and what could have go wrong, went wrong for the opposing team. What is unexplainable is the fact that Denver is last in passing in the NFL, a recipe for losing in the league.


But Tim Tebow is an unorthodox quarterback with a unique skill set. He does not pass the ball well and his play at times has not been pretty, but he wins. He has won at every level and there is something to be said for the intangibles. After all, winning is the bottom line, right?


Not so fast because it is the polarization of Mr. Tebow that grasps much of our attention. It is his lackluster play in one instance and the heroic outcome in the next. It is his bold public reference to the Lord that has fans cheering while critics are assessing what this phenomenon is.


We should note that football analysts are paid to analyze football and not a person’s faith. Fans of Mr. Tebow should be careful to know the distinction between the two. Just because one does not give positive feedback in referring to his skill set does not mean they don’t like him. Also, his fans must also understand that while he seems to be a great guy and tremendous leader, this does not preclude him from the scrutiny that comes with being an NFL quarterback.


Some would look at the fact that there were previous quarterbacks with the same skill set who were not granted the opportunity that Mr. Tebow was given. And in all fairness, he should not be penalized for that. He has handled media interviews with humility, and he thanks God before talking about anything else.


Which leads to the polarization. Some would say it is a little over the top with the continual referencing to his faith. Apparently, Tim Tebow is comfortable with this and we are not.


Is it because we don’t have the same boldness in declaring what we believe and it does not necessarily have to make mention of “God?” Could it be our inability to stay courageous in expressing our convictions no matter what they may be? Is it because we believe that what we believe does not always have to be expressed because we are comfortable in what we believe? Is it because we live in a reality entertainment culture where we have come to believe that everyone puts on an act in front of the camera?


Whatever the reason, Tim Tebow has transcended our attention beyond just the sports world.


Sometimes living a life of faith leads some to believe that you are perfect and you don’t experience any failures or have any weaknesses. So, people wait for one to fall or be caught in an “I gotcha moment.”


I must acknowledge that as a person of faith, I applaud and celebrate his public witness. I also recognize that there are others who profess their faith in a different way and that is okay as well. What we must be careful of is the discussion of God’s favor and believing that God just favors him and no one else on the football field.


This is an important teaching moment for the faith community because most important to the public witness is expressing and showing that God loves everyone and that love is not just limited to one football player.


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