As an avid Denver Broncos fan all my life it has been fun for me to watch quarterback Tim Tebow this season. I was at the Chicago Bears game last week were Tebow and the Broncos pulled off yet another improbable comeback, their 6th win in a row. So why am I writing about Tebow here instead of on my sports blog?? I think the whole Tebow phenomenon touches on spiritual issues.
Tebow, an evangelical Christian, makes sure to thank Jesus after every game before starting his post game interviews. As a former evangelical Christian myself I can guess what many of fundamentalists are thinking: God is helping Tim Tebow win games so he can spread the word about Jesus, and bring more people to Christ.
This isn’t the first time a conservative Christian quarterback has had a miracle season for the Broncos. Back in 1977 Craig Morton was at the end of his career, traded to the Broncos before the season from New York as the Giants had given up on him. Morton found God that year in Denver (he attended the church I grew up in), and in his post game press conferences he’d say similar words to what Tebow is preaching this season – thanking Jesus after every game.
The 1977 season was indeed an amazing one for the Broncos. A team that had never made the playoffs pulled off surprise win after win, finishing with 12 wins and 2 losses and making the playoffs for the first time. As a conservative Christian in those days I thought “surely God is helping Craig Morton and the Broncos win!”. After seeing the Broncos beat the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders in the playoffs, I was confident the Broncos would triumph in the Super Bowl, led by their God fearing quarterback Morton.
It didn’t happen. The Dallas Cowboys easily defeated the Broncos in Super Bowl XII, and Craig Morton had one of the worst days ever for a Super Bowl quarterback. Morton threw four interceptions that day and was pulled from the game in the second half.
“God must have wanted to teach Craig Morton a lesson,” one of my evangelical friends said. “Maybe he let the success go to his head, and the Lord needed to humble him.”
I no longer believe God controls the outcome of football games to get His message out, or to discipline His flock. Yet I do believe Tebow’s faith does have something to do with his success on the football field:
1. Thanks to his relationship to God, Tebow is a very positive person, and an inspiration to his teammates. In last week’s Chicago game wide receiver Demaryius Thomas dropped a sure touchdown pass early in the game. “You are going to catch the winning touchdown pass,” Tebow said to the discouraged Thomas on the sidelines, lifting the spirit of his teammate. While Thomas didn’t catch a winning td pass, he did play an important part in the Broncos comeback win later that day, scoring the Broncos only touchdown on a Tebow pass, and making a key reception in overtime to setup the winning field goal. Tebow’s positive attitude is infectious, and it makes his teammates play better.
2. Tebow is a thankful person. Like the Pharisees quizzing Jesus, it seems that the Press is always trying to get Tim to slip up and say a bad word about an opponent or his bosses. Tebow never takes the bait. When asked about a critical comment his boss, former Bronco QB John Elway, made about him a few weeks ago, Tebow replied that he was thankful to the Broncos for giving him a chance to play in the NFL. After the Chicago game when Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said Tebow “was a good runner” (implying that Tebow wasn’t much of a quarterback), Tebow said that was a high complement from such a great player as Urlacher.
3. Tebow keeps things in perspective. Tim has on more than one occasion said football is just a game, and a vehicle for him to get his message out about his faith and social projects (his Foundation is building a hospital in the Phillipines). Should Tebow have a disappointing game and lose in the Super Bowl like Craig Morton did, I doubt it would affect his outlook on life.
No I do not think God magically caused Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber to fumble last Sunday, setting up Denver’s winning score. Instead I think Tim Tebow’s faith allows him to handle the stresses of fame and big time sports with ease, making him the best football player he can be. And that is miracle enough.