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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Denver QB Tim Tebow a Polarizing Force, but Why?...

Last week, as I watched Tim Tebow pull out an improbable win in the last four minutes of the game against the hapless Miami Dolphins, I couldn't help but root for him.

I'll be honest, I wasn't watching the game until that point. I had just returned from a weekend spiritual retreat and just turned on the TV before taking a shower to check the score. 

I'm actually a Washington Redskins' fan and only watch the Dolphins when the game doesn't interfere with my family time on Sundays (or blogging time, as my wife would point out). I'll root for them, if only, because of my father and brother, who are both die hard fans (I'm keeping a suicide watch on both since, like me, they also like the NY Mets).

However, on that Sunday, I found myself rooting for the man, who by his mere presence brings inspiration and passion to his teammates and fans, and the scorn and antagonism of his many detractors.

As many of you know, the Dolphins were winning by 15 points and, until then, Tebow had had a mediocre game at best. But, in his first start as the Denver Broncos quarterback this season, the former University of Florida standout and 2010 First Round pick galvanized his team during the waning moments of the game, by scrambling, throwing pinpoint passes and inspiring them with his poise and headiness. 

Tebow ties game
The Broncos were able to tie the game by scoring two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion, which Tebow himself ran in for the score, to force the game into overtime.  It was unbelievable to watch.  The Dolphins were left dazed and confused (Not that rare after starting 0 and 7!). 

As Denver got ready to kick what would be a game winning field goal, Tebow and several of his teammates were shown by television cameras holding hands on their knees in prayer.

Then, as the kick went through the crossbars and his teammates went into uncontrolled and jubilant celebration, the camera caught Tebow by himself on one knee in prayer.

For his fans, the comeback and his prayerful reaction were Tim Tebow at his finest.  For his detractors, it was more reason to hate him.

The moment has now become known as "Tebowing" and has created a fan frenzy on the social media.  (Check out article)

But, the man that inspires his fans, is also one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL, if not all of professional sports. The question is why?

Why is he the butt of late night show jokes? Why has he been lambasted by critiques despite winning the Heisman Trophy and two NCAA National Championships, being arguably one of the greatest college players that ever played the game, a proven leader and winner at every level, beloved by his teammates and known for his dedication and hard work on and off the field?

There has never been a scandal associated to him.  He is humble and clean cut.  He is not foul mouthed or trash talking, or covered in tattoos.  Despite being single, he is not gallivanting around with women and he embraces his role as a role model for children.

Yet, he is vilified and despised.  Why?  What has he done to elicit such antagonism?

Maybe, it's the fact that he wears his faith on his sleeve and is not shy about proclaiming his Christian beliefs, was home-schooled and spent his summers on missions to help the poor, made a pro-life commercial that highlighted the fact that doctors told his mother to have an abortion because they thought he would be born with a birth defect and she decided to have him anyway (which ran during a Super Bowl) or the fact that he promotes chastity and proudly states that he is saving himself for marriage.

In a recent article, author and columnist George Weigel states that the reason for his unwarranted and  undeserved damnation may be all of the above.
Tim Tebow is a target of irrational hatred, not because he’s an iffy quarterback at the NFL level, or a creep personally, or an obnoxious, in-your-face, self-righteous proselytizer. He draws hatred because he is an unabashed Christian, whose calmness and decency in the face of his Christophobic detractors drives them crazy. Tim Tebow, in other words, is a prime example of why Christophobia—a neologism first coined by a world-class comparative constitutional law scholar, J.H.H. Weiler, himself an Orthodox Jew—is a serious cultural problem in these United States.

It is simply unimaginable that any prominent Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh quarterback, should such a fantasy of anthropology exist, would be subjected to the vileness that is publicly dumped on Tim Tebow. Tolerance, that supreme virtue of the culture of radical relativism, does not extend to evangelical Christians, it seems. And if it does not extend to evangelicals who unapologetically proclaim their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior and who live their commitment to the dignity of human life from conception and natural death, it will not extend to Catholics who make that same profession of faith and that same moral commitment. Whatever we think of Tim Tebow’s theology of salvation, Tim Tebow and serious Catholics are both fated to be targets of the Christophobes.

Wherever the Gospel is proclaimed with fervor, it draws opposition. The ultimate source of that opposition is the Evil One, but we know what his fate will be. What we don’t know is how democracy can survive widespread, radical Christophobia.
Whether last week's miraculous come from behind win against the Dolphins, this week's subpar showing against the Detroit Lions or somewhere in between is indicative of Tebow's future NFL career is irrelevant to me. 

As far as I'm concerned, as a father, whose kids may one day be influenced by public figures, and in my son's case, probably sports stars, it is comforting to know that there are men, such as Tim Tebow, who is unafraid to live his faith, regardless of popularity, and represent the moral values that I hope to instill in them...

[photo credit:]

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