Tim Tebow has become a cultural icon in our society. You can’t go 24 hours without reading an article or watching a news story about his exploits. His accomplishments have become legendary. His is the quintessential American story; the underdog wins when all the experts predicted he would fail.
And then there is Tebow’s religion. He wears his religion on his sleeve. He sings hymns on the sideline, praises his god in interviews and thanks his god after every touchdown or win. Tebow is known as much for his religious practices as he is for his football accomplishments. Therein lays the controversy. “He’s fun to watch…I’m rooting for him…I just wish he’d knock off all the religious stuff.”
We applaud players who thump their chest after making the most routine play. We pump our fists when a guy celebrates a tackle by making a slashing motion across his throat. When a guy who has fathered six kids by six different women is injured; we mourn his loss to our team. How many athletes out there do we cheer even though we know they have a history of drugs and violence? Why then is this young man, who in days gone by we would want our daughters to marry, now the subject of such controversy and derision? What is it about his religion that makes us so uncomfortable?
Perhaps we think he is a phony. By all accounts that is not the case. Apparently Tebow’s faith has always played an important role in his life both on and off the field. The touchdown celebrations of faith that we see during NFL broadcasts are the same ones he was doing in high school. As a college kid at the University of Florida he printed bible verses on his eye black. (Bowing to complaints from viewers; the NCAA banned the display of any individual messages on a player’s person in what is now known as the “Tebow Rule”.) He celebrated his Heisman Trophy win by preaching in prisons and performing missionary work both at home and abroad. He continues these practices to this day. If Tim Tebow “knocks off the religious stuff” he is no longer Tim Tebow. This is who he is. He displays his religious convictions openly and without apology. It takes a lot of courage and strength of conviction to do that in today’s society.
And maybe that is what makes us uncomfortable. Maybe we wish we had that much courage, conviction and passion about anything to celebrate it openly for all the world to see. Or perhaps we are just envious that he is comfortable in his own skin.
Maybe someday Tebow will disappoint us. Maybe we will find out that away from the cameras he lives some horrible secret life of deviant behavior. We have certainly been disappointed before.
But until that day comes let Tebow be Tebow.