Writing about Tim Tebow was so two weeks ago.
Even though the 2011 NFL season will soon be over (leaving me to distract myself with poorly edited YouTube videos of Lob City and the greatest Spanish import since paella), just like driving past a highway accident, I can’t help but stare at the wreckage, the phenomenon that is Tim Tebow.
I mean c’mon. He’s the guy with that hideous motion, the guy who completes less than 50% of his passes and still somehow made it to Tebow Time. He’s the guy who lost his last three regular season games, lead a team that didn’t even have a winning record, and still managed to make the playoffs… and to draw the injury-riddled Pittsburgh Steelers. With all that is it really surprising that I’m paying to Tebow during the Tebow Time-equivalent of the NFL season? Easy answer.
Now I am a college football guy. I watch some of the NFL playoffs once the college season is in the rearview mirror, and I generally cheer for any team that has more Notre Dame than USC grads. But I normally only let football consume my entire being for half of the weekend, leaving Sunday as a day to hang out with Jesus – a dude whom Tim Tebow has mentioned he likes as well – and to do the work that I didn’t touch on Saturday.
This year though I could not help but check ESPN each Sunday night to see how Tim Tebow had somehow, impossibly, ridiculously, willed his team to victory (or how Denver’s defense and running game had done just enough to overcome their quarterback’s shortcomings – although that gets increasingly difficult when you’re QB is going 6 for 22 for 60 yards…). But evidently I’m not alone, I mean this dude is popular.
After Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime against the Steelers to conclude his night of 3:16, umm, I mean 316 passing yards, there were 9,420 tweets about Tebow per second. It was a new Twitter record. This from the same guy man who, by wearing John 3:16 on his eye paint in the 2009 BCS championship game, generated over 90 million Google searches for that verse over the next 24 hours. It’s the guy who perfected the planking trend by offering us tebowing (noteworthy is that http://www.tebowing.com has recorded the greatest number of people doing stupid stuff in front of famous sites since 2008).
I’m still trying to justify… uhhh… explain why it is I can’t stop thinking about Tim Tebow, and why he makes me so uncomfortable. I mean all those Bears fans and even Marion Barber himself still don’t understand why on earth Barber ran out of bounds in that December 11 game against the Broncos – you remember the play, it’s the one where Barber inexplicably stopped the clock and gave Tebow the time to set up the most stunning Tebowing of a season full of teams getting Tebowed. The guy is inexplicable. But you know what’s not inexplicable? The reasons why I hate him. I’ve got six of them for you right here:
- It’s just not fair. Tim Tebow just had the lowest completion percentage of any quarterback in the last decade to start at least 10 regular season games, and yet he is America’s most popular athlete and is the person that chumps like me cannot stop writing about. While being a Notre Dame fan has taught me that life is not always fair, Tebow forces me to realize that life really isn’t fair.
- Bad things happen to good people – except Tim Tebow. Even though I’ll never understand why, I have accepted that some children get terminal cancer. Tim Tebow obviously the outlier that makes this truth (for those of us non-Tebows) even more painful to accept. Bad things will happen to you, Good Person, but even though the Russian judge would not give him a 10.0 for presentation for his throwing motion, Tim Tebow seems to always get the figurative gold medal – or the literal bronze statue (2007)… well, except when he didn’t (2008).
- I realize I live on another planet. I belong to the Society of Jesus. This has been my 20th year of Catholic education. I like to think that I’m pretty comfortable talking about Jesus. And then I listen to Tim Tebow talk about his personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And I find myself thinking less about whether or not he should “tone it down”, and more about the fact that Tebow’s interviews can sound like a foreign language even to me. It shows me how narrow my world is, and, to be honest, that unsettles me. My difficulty in understanding Tebow indicates that I am largely ignorant of the religious experience of millions of people – my fellow Christians – and it makes me wonder how ignorant I am of the experiences of my fellow humans at an even farther remove.
- What about the little guy? As an NFL quarterback, my boy Brady Quinn is not exactly a member of the 99%. He has been the gets-the-girl-and-rides-off-into-the-sunset guy for pretty much his entire life. Despite playing better than Tebow in the preseason, and being ranked ahead of him in the Denver rotation, Quinn doesn’t generate 90 million Google searches a day or have a rabid fan base that demanded that he play when Denver got off to a slow start this year. Just like Quinn, there are tons of really good to whom the world pays little attention. While non-football fans know all about the faith of Tim Tebow, few outside Notre Dame know that Brady Quinn would attend praise and worship services and feel the need to introduce himself (um, yeah, we know your name is Brady, bro). Tebow’s good deeds are written about frequently, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I remember Brady signing every single jersey and hat in the long line of young women outside his dorm room, all of whom were hoping to complete that perfect Christmas present for their fathers and brothers back home.
- He pushes me to face my own cowardice. Sure, nobody is a better Christian just because he mentions Jesus Christ a bunch. How we live our lives makes a difference. But I realize that Tebow makes me uncomfortable largely because he shows me how often I don’t have the courage to talk about my faith or religion. And yeah, some of my reticence is common sensitivity to others of different beliefs, and some of it is fear of rocking the boat and creating an uncomfortable situation. But that dude Tebow is as fearless in putting his faith and personal convictions out there as he is being down 15 points with three minutes to go. I’m just not.
- Tebow isn’t the fraud; I am the fraud. I’ve gotta confess: every Sunday night when I’d check ESPN to see what Our Lord And Tebow had done that day I didn’t just want Tebow to lose; I wanted him to be humiliated. Even though I would normally cheer against the Patriots (led as they are by that former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady – could it be more clear that it all goes back to Notre Dame for me?), I could not help but celebrate Brady’s six touchdowns at the Patriots 45-10 rout of the Broncos. This was exactly what I was hoping for, I thought. But then I started reading people’s reactions to the game and I started feeling kinda sick to my stomach (I’d had a similar feeling when watching people celebrate in the streets over the death of Osama Bin Laden). And I realized that I just could not shake that whole “love your enemies” thing. I myself, and millions of others, actually wanted someone, an undeniably good person who spends his summers with orphans and his football weekends with terminally ill cancer patients, to be humiliated. And why did I want this? Because he’s too good of a person.
Listen, the stat geek in me says that Tebow is not a good quarterback, that he shouldn’t be celebrated, or sent to the Pro Bowl. But on a deeper level it has dawned on me that it’s Tebow’s fans who are right. He actually is a tremendous person. And I want to bring him down to my level. And I call myself a Christian.
So, yeah, I’d turn to Tom Brady over Tebow if I wanted to learn to throw the ball better (hell, I’d turn to Daisy Duke), but I think I can actually learn a lot about life and faith from Tim Tebow.
So… Tebowmania. Nauseating? Yes. But even nauseated, Tebow is still pushing me to be a better person.