I make it exceedingly obvious that I’m from Colorado. Part of that is being very vocal and enthusiastic about something that most Americans can get around: American football. Most Americans have some allegiance to an NFL team, and that team for me is the Denver Broncos.
It’s been tough for Broncos fans since John Elway retired. Our quarterbacks have often failed to the point of being run out of town, we haven’t yet found our long-term coaching solution, and it’s been five whole years since we’ve been to the playoffs.
Enter Tim Tebow, who arrived at a perfect time for Broncos fans to regain hope.
Tebow, to Broncos fans, is a welcome change. We know we can’t re-live the Elway days and we’re getting used to the idea that there are new things defining the sports culture in Colorado – and Tebow defines this new era.
It’s tough not to form an opinion about the kid. He’s instantly controversial for both his gameplay and his faith. He famously supports the Colorado Springs-based Christian evangelical organization Focus on the Family, which, as a rather liberal individual, I abhor. But just months after the Super Bowl advertisement that drew national controversy, Tebow was drafted by the Broncos and landed his controversy smack dab in the middle of the Mile High City.
It’s true that Tebow lays it on heavy with his faith; he doesn’t reach a mic without praising Jesus Christ. But I haven’t found it as off-putting as many others seem to; I’ve learned to tune out the evangelicals, mostly because I realize that it’s their right to declare their faith just as much as it is my right to disagree with it. It isn’t a particularly odd belief that we should all be allowed to speak our minds without harming others. Plenty of other athletes go out of their way with thanking God, pointing towards the sky, praying during games, and so forth – but apparently it’s much more controversial when Tebow does it.
What really disappoints me is there’s just so much hate surrounding it. Just search “Teblow” on Twitter, for example. Plenty of other people have written about this; I’ve found some great pieces discussing what’s really hateful about the situation, that faith (in anything) can potentially make one look ridiculous, and the possibility that perhaps people really just don’t like the religion factor.
It doesn’t make sense to dislike him for his accomplishments on the field; in his first 8 starts, he actually did pretty well (others have even pointed out that his stats could compare to Elway’s), so it’s not like he isn’t living up to at least some of the hype. And yes, he’s been criticized as being a sub-par starting QB for his throwing style – but his mechanics are getting noticeably better and even the CBS announcers mentioned it on today’s coverage. Despite today’s loss against New England feeling pretty rough, wasn’t it widely anticipated that Tom Brady, a modern-day titan, would lead his Pats to a victory over the Broncos? Tebow still has a pretty solid record as a starter at 7-2. The reality is that Tebow has won more than he’s lost, even if it’s by the seat of his pants.
Tebow has also been served well by much more than his faith; he’s benefited greatly from his energy, determination, and will to believe in general. He chalks it up to God giving him the strength to win, but I chalk it up to his attitude – and maybe he isn’t the next John Elway, but he has to have some kind of an edge as a Heisman Trophy winner and national champion. When you tune out the religious chatter, the things that come out of his mouth seem slightly naïve but are also incredibly uplifting; he thanks his teammates more than he thanks Jesus, he puts the negatives behind him and strives to be better, and he doesn’t utter a single bitter or nasty word.
The bottom line is that Tim Tebow is a nice guy. On the field, he tells his opponents that he appreciates them and he supports his teammates with incredibly empowering words. Off the field, he’s building a hospital in the Philippines with funds from his foundation. He’s encouraging the kids who got suspended for Tebowing – you know, kneeling in prayer while everybody around you is doing something else – to follow the rules because it’s in the best interest of them and their classmates. He may extend his Christian sentiment a little far, but it’s not fair game to pick on his religion – especially since he has steered clear of explicitly involving the more controversial (read: bigoted) elements of the evangelical tenets that inflame and enrage many of us.
The hate will probably stick around for a while, but one thing is clear to me: regardless of all the hate that comes Timmy’s way, I highly doubt he could churn out even the smallest fraction of hate in return. In fact, the hate probably fuels him in some convoluted way; how satisfying is it to know that despite people counting on you to fail, you cleanly and humbly find success?
Win or lose, I’m enjoying every minute Tim Tebow spends in the spotlight and I’m glad Denver is where it’s happening. The Tebow hate? Well, guess it can’t hurt anyone else but the bitter souls who create it.