Sportswriters and cultural thinkers have developed a fascination with Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and his leadership qualities. They’ve put this fascination in print many times over, to the point that one (relatively) seamless essay can be produced paragraph-by-paragraph by borrowing from the Tebow-fascination oeuvre. See key at bottom of post.
I have accepted Tim Tebow as my personal quarterback and savior. If faith is belief in things unseen, with or without evidence, then I have faith in Tim Tebow’s ability as a passer, a leader and a winner. I have faith that he can, as Jimmy Johnson said on the Fox postgame show, “raise his teammates better than anyone I have ever seen.”
With their 13-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, the Broncos are 7-1 since Tebow became their starting quarterback.
[W]e may argue over whether his outspoken Christian piety — the home-schooled Heisman Trophy winner is known for eye-black evangelizing — makes him more likable to fans or more likely to induce eye-rolling for his wholesomeness. But one thing is for certain: He is winning games for his team.
Tebow, whose sincere faith cannot be questioned and should be respected, also has the good sense and good grace to make it clear that he does not believe God takes a hand in the outcome of games. Most of us are good with that. Otherwise, how to explain what happens when there are equal numbers of believers on either side? Or why so many of those same believers came up empty against Sandy Koufax. Or hit the deck against Muhammad Ali. Or why the Almighty wouldn’t have better things to do.
[Yet] with Tebow there’s no getting away from [religion]. He uses the microphones thrust in front of him to mention his personal savior, Jesus Christ, and has said that Heaven is reserved for devout Christians. He genuflects so publicly and frequently that to drop to one knee in the precise way he does has been given its own word, along with its own Web site, where you can see photographs of people Tebowing inside St. Peter’s, in front of the Taj Mahal, on sand, on ice and even underwater.
According to ESPN, Tebow is terrible. He can’t play this game. He ranks 30th out of 34 quarterbacks this season. He hasn’t had as good a year as, for example, Rex Grossman, according to ESPN’s metrics. The system uses a scale of 0 to 100, with 50 being the hypothetical average performance for a quarterback, and Tebow is well below average at 36.3.
So in absence of anything else making much football sense, it’s just easier to believe. To believe in Tebow. To believe in this Broncos team once going nowhere. To believe in an athlete who’s at once both divisive and irresistibly charismatic; an athlete who’s in the miracle business every week; an athlete who transcends everything around him.
Notice how he deflects praise from himself, heaps it entirely on his teammates and coaches, and reiterates the importance of believing in each other and embracing adverse moments. It’s not exactly charisma; it doesn’t hurt that Tebow gleams like a superhero, but the worst despots are charismatic too. It’s not exactly talent, either.
Tebow is stranger than truth and bigger than fiction. The belief Tebow will find a way to win is what has captured America’s imagination and allowed the Broncos to play better football than clear-eyed examination of the talent on their roster would logically predict.
Headline: New York Times
First and second paragraphs: Jeff Neuman, RealClearSports.com
Third paragraph: Jena McGregor, Washington Post
Fourth paragraph: Bob Costas, NBC
Fifth paragraph: Frank Bruni, New York Times
Sixth paragraph: Joel Achenbach, Washington Post
Seventh paragraph (first half): Les Carpenter, Yahoo! Sports
Seventh paragraph (second half): Ed Willes, PostMedia News
Eighth paragraph (first half): Jerod Morris, MidwestSportsFans.com
Eighth paragraph (second half): Sally Jenkins, Washington Post
Ninth paragraph: Mark Kiszla, Denver Post
Tenth paragraph: Cindy Boren, Washington Post