Monday, 19 December 2011

Have you heard of Tim Tebow?

For those of you who don't live in America, you may be unaware of the American Football phenomenon that is Tim Tebow. Despite being widely regarded as not actually that good in a conventional sense (just read the NY Times!), Tebow has spearheaded an astonishing success story at Denver Broncos thus far this season. They were 1-4 at the start of the season (that's 1 win, 4 defeats) when the coach, apparently in desperation, gave Tebow a start. The result? He's 8-2 in starts this season and they look like making the playoffs - an achievement that is astonishing given where they were. 
But the thing that's really getting Denver going is not only the wins but also the manner of the victories. The Denver offense has been pretty ineffectual for the first 3 quarters before pulling some magic out of the bag in the final quarter to win some pretty exciting games. Not only that, but the manner in which Denver has been playing, with some devastating rushing (watch the opening quarter against the Patriots, wow), and Tebow himself choosing to run as much as pass, makes them a very entertaining team to watch, if only for watching the way they make the purists tear their hair out. Analysts are struggling to identify how they're actually doing it - but it seems to have a lot to do with the inspiration the rest of the team draws from Tebow himself, and that man's sheer determination to win.
Tebow runs it again. Credit: USA Today
But Tebow has been an extremely polarizing figure. And it's not mainly because Denver have redesigned pro-level offense to suit his strengths and weaknesses (although they have), but rather the much bigger issue is religion. In a sport where a few players have been convicted of various violent crimes, no one has attracted quite as much vitriol as Tim Tebow. Why? Does he kill people? No, the reason is he has been saved by Jesus, has a relationship with Him, and he wants everyone to know it.
The thing is that religion, especially the Christian Gospel, tends to be a provocative and polarizing topic, and it is something that many people would rather is left out of entertainment & sport (esp. in America where politics and religion are taboo subjects for polite conversation). But Tebow has recognised, quite correctly, that without Jesus he would not be where he is today. His abilities are given him by God, if His team does well, it is because God has made it so - and he is just making sure that everybody else knows that too. He mentions Jesus in every interview (sometimes in nearly every sentence), and a lot of people wish he wouldn't. But why shouldn't he?
Tebow here explains his thinking - listen to it for yourself, he explains it clearly, articulately, and with reasons that I can given a hearty 'amen' to:

As the quarterback of an NFL team, Tebow has what an amazing platform he has to tell others about the Saviour that He loves. On the sideline he can often be seen kneeling for a few moments in prayer - something that has been noticed by others and even has its own name: "Tebowing". Isn't that kinda awesome though? A guy in the NFL is so open about his faith that people have actually started imitating it - I know it's all for fun, but the message is clearly getting across. When he was at college level, the rules permitted writing messages in the makeup that players wear to reduce floodlight glare. The result? 160 million people Googled it. Man, what a megaphone to have.
Tebow flashing Bible verses. Credit:
The thing I love most about Tebow though, is that as well as being courageously open about his beliefs, and making sure that God is given the glory for his successes, he really seems to be genuinely living it out. He hasn't been caught in adultery, he doesn't assault gay people, he doesn't burn copies of the Qu'ran - the most controversial thing he's done is appear in a TV ad for a Christian group that opposes abortion - he seems like a genuinely nice guy and that really shouts in his favour. It is like Paul says in Romans 12:17-21 or Peter in 1 Peter 2:12: even when people are being critical, there is a strong sense that he doesn't deserve the stuff that's been thrown at him and that despite his technical deficiencies he really gives 100% - and it makes his critics look churlish in return.

So keep at it Tim Tebow. Stick by your guns. And keep winning, cos the Broncos are properly entertaining at the moment. And Christians? Pray for him, he is just a man in a very public position, pray that God would keep him strong as a good witness and powerful voice, and that he would not fall into temptation. Praise God that he can put His people even in such places.

It's gonna take some saving before I can afford the shirt though.

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