Tebow’s mission and his critics

tim-tebow-ncaa-coverI keep forgetting that this evening’s alleged national college football championship game is something in which sports fans are expected to be interested. The lack of a proper method for determining a national champion in college football really puts a downer in my interest in the game. Or maybe I’m still just sore about the Colts and the fact that Tony Dungy likely coached his last game in Indianapolis.

However, I am reminded that this evening’s football contest is not just a game. The nationally televised football game between Florida and Oklahoma is also a church-state event, and the ACLU may need to file a lawsuit to prevent Tim Tebow from doing an altar call at the end of the game.

Hear that critics of sports journalists’ forays into covering the spiritual lives of the athletes they cover?

ESPN.com’s Pat Forde felt compelled to write a nice article Tuesday focusing on how the haters should lay off Tebow and just focus on appreciating the “Tim Tebow experience.”

The article started with Forde quoting a snarky reporter who apparently doesn’t appreciate Tebow and his off the field behavior all that much:

“I don’t mean to sound cynical, but between winning the national championship and winning the Heisman, saving the world in the Philippines and all, did you ever, like, sneak a cigarette when you were in high school? Do you ever do anything wrong? Do you feel like everything off the field is sort of on cruise control for you?” . . .

His response, in part:

“You know, everybody, they can look and say how easy it is. But it’s definitely not that easy. The difference is ’cause not many people want to wake up at 5, go through workouts, go speak to young kids, go back, eat lunch, go to class, go to tutoring, go speak at a prison at night, come back. I mean, more people would do those things; they just don’t want to sacrifice.

Forde doesn’t directly address Tebow’s faith all that much, but he did not really need to because the evidence of Tebow’s faith is present in nearly everything he does. Tebow’s story is well-known among sports fans, and if I manage to tune the game on this evening, this angle will be exactly what I will be looking for from the announcers, side-line reporters and post-game interviews.

This blog has in the past noted that the media has ignored Tebow’s faith in the past. Fortunately, other news organizations are finding it difficult to ignore his faith now.

Amy Shipley of The Washington Post approached the Tebow story with a similar attitude towards Tebow’s faith and background. His Christian faith was certainly a theme, but his family’s decision to home-school him and his four siblings received more significant attention:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The first time Florida quarterback Tim Tebow faced a large crowd, he trembled with nervousness. Still months away from emerging as a high school star in northern Florida, Tebow, then 15, had never felt 10,000 sets of eyes upon him.

And most unsettling of all, he was nowhere near a football stadium. In fact, he stood some 9,300 miles away from his home at a village in South Cotabato, Philippines. On the first of now-annual missionary trips with his father, Tebow stood behind a microphone and told the assembled high school students about his Christian faith, putting to the test evangelistic skills honed through years of speech classes at home.

Neither of the articles focus much on the specifics of Tebow’s faith. One has to wonder if Tebow did not go on the mission trip to the Philippines whether the subject would even be coming up. Only the ESPN.com article mentions the previously-reported fact that Tebow outlines the word “Phil 4:13″ under the black marks under this eyes. (Apparently it’s a common practice among athletes. Who knew?)

For those non-sports fans out there that read GetReligion, or people like me disillusioned with football for one reason or another, tonight may be the one night you want to turn into a major football game because how the broadcasters handle reporting and portraying displays of Tebow’s faith will be quite interesting.

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  • http://buddhagadrafts.blogspot.com James

    Here in Gainesville where college football IS religion (and the *only* thing that sports fans care about), there’s been a lot of comparison of Tebow with our previous Heisman superstar, Danny Wuerffel. Wuerffel’s faith was every bit as vocal as Tebow’s, and after a short NFL career he went on into full time Christian ministry.

    Tebow speaks often of Wuerffel’s influence on him when he was a kid both athletically and spiritually. The way our current superstar handles himself is surely influenced by the example set by his predecessor. I’ve yet to see a good news story exploring this link (beyond the local college paper’s editorials complaining that all our good quarterbacks are Jesus freaks).

  • Justin Jagiella

    I watched an interview with Bears running back Matt Forte after a game early this season, and he was asked if he expected to do so well…he answered along the lines of, “first I’d like to thank my Savior Jesus Christ”…the next day I found no reference of that comment anywhere- it was what was MOST important for him to say, but it was shrugged off… I’m glad I saw it!!!

    God doesn’t pick sides during a football game. But He does reward faithfulness, whether it’s during the game or for eternity.

  • Roberto

    God doesn’t pick sides during a football game. But He does reward faithfulness, whether it’s during the game or for eternity.

    It would be tough if He did: Sam Bradford of OU is also a Christian as is the the Heisman runner-up, Colt McCoy of Texas. (Apparently his extended family forms a well-known Gospel group.) I was tickled at the fact that the top three Heisman vote-getters were all Christians. I wasn’t tickled that this wasn’t noted, even though none of them is shy about their faith.

  • http://blanchardroad.blogspot.com John Pulliam

    That is really interesting. I did not know Tebow was a Christian. Does anyone agree that football seems to attract a lot of Christian athletes? Or maybe they are more vocal.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Young master Daniel got one of our previous Tebow posts.

    Here’s the spread:

    http://www.getreligion.org/?page_id=3202&query=Tebow&submit.x=0&submit.y=0

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com Joshua Lake

    I was going to write that I am thankful for Tebow’s forthright attitude toward his faith – because regardless of how little someone knows about him, they are typically aware of his belief in Christ – but then I read John Pulliam’s comment. And that’s why blogs exist, to spread messages that might not have been heard otherwise.

    Thanks, Daniel, for writing about Tebow’s faith. Although I’ll be rooting for the Big 12 team, I’ll be paying close attention to how the announcers talk about Tebow and his faith.

  • Jerry

    Normally I ignore sports, but one thing here caught my eye:

    ACLU may file a lawsuit

    Do you have a source for that allegation or is it unsubstantiated? I can find nothing in a google news search that indicates it’s a church state event or that indicates the ACLU has any issue in it. Or are you just being snarky?

  • KarenD

    I have problems with the way the media treats faith but I have to say this post is really, REALLY reaching. Every story I’ve ever read about Tebow as a person talks about his faith, in a positive light.

    And I totally agree with Jerry. You were engaging in hyperbole with the ACLU reference and it’s not necessary. The ACLU-bashing is a red herring – the real threat to faith in this country is the way it’s systematically belittled and degraded (when it’s portrayed at all) by popular culture. The Tebow story is a welcome exception, and something Christians should be celebrating.

  • dpulliam

    You mean you didn’t hear about the alter call protests?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Alter or altar?
    ;-)

  • KarenD

    I googled “Tim Tebow” ACLU Altar (and alter, just to be sure) and the only thing that turns up is this post.

    Nothing significant when leaving out the word “alter/ar” either.

    Do you have a link? Because it really doesn’t pass the smell test. There’s no government for Tebow’s religious expression to be separated from – even if this was an official UF event, which it’s not; the championship takes place under the aegis of the BCS.

  • Herb Brasher

    Where have you guys been? Colt McCoy is a regular speaker at Christian meetings, so is Graham Harrell, though somewhat less so; both are clean-living Church of Christ boys. But Tim Tebow’s personal leadership and striving for leadership is exemplary, even though even though the sport announcers do their best to avoid the subject.

    The only thing I worry about is when the media broadcasts that Tim’s parents are m…s in Bangladesh. The less attention to Christian work in Muslim countries, the better.

  • Herb Brasher

    “Striving for excellence” is what I meant to write . . . .

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2677 dpulliam

    Yeah, Google searches of either version won’t turn up much. Apologies for the spelling error. I’ll also confess that it was an attempt at humor that I hope no one took too seriously.

  • KarenD

    sooo…. it was just a baseless slap at the ACLU.

    OK.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2677 dpulliam

    You probably won’t believe me, but I wasn’t trying to slap anyone. I am actually writing a massive paper right now that is very much oriented towards a strong position on civil liberties so please don’t think I am against the Bill of Rights or anything.

    Maybe watching too much of the Daily Show makes one immune to what normal people think of regarding the limits of sarcasm.

  • Jerry

    Maybe watching too much of the Daily Show makes one immune to what normal people think of regarding the limits of sarcasm.

    When sarcasm is directed at an organization such as the ACLU, some of us suspect a political bias. And, for what it’s worth, I don’t watch the Daily Show :-)

  • Chris Bolinger

    The announcers did a decent job of discussing Tebow’s family and faith late in the fourth quarter.

  • Dan

    Did anyone notice how quickly they turned the camera off Tebow after the game when he said he said “…I made a promise to God and I wasn’t going to let him down”. Bam Percey Harvin camera time. Also I saw Matt Forte’s words after his first great game “Thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” …camera switched. Devil at work.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Christianity Today notes a subtle change that Tebow made to his eyeblack during last night’s game, changing the Scripture reference from Phil. 4:13 to John 3:16:
    http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2009/01/the_tebow_bump.html

    I didn’t watch most of the game. Did any of the announcers mention this?

  • http://david-jaime-jason.blogspot.com Jason

    “Morning Edition” on NPR did a story on the game this morning that addressed Tebow’s faith straight on and with all respect.

    The interesting tag was something about how you might be surprised that someone with his faith and reputation was cited for “Unsportsmanlike Conduct.” They weren’t being snarky or baselessly slapping anyone; just using it as a segue.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99147693

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    Mike (20):

    No, that change was not mentioned, although it was visible; there was, however, rather vague talk about what a great guy Tebow is, all the great stuff he does off the field, in this country and overseas, without being at all specific, and the fact that “his faith” underlies it all. Vague, yes, but also, these announcers repeatedly mentioned how impressed they were with Tebow as a person after meeting him.

    Jason (21):

    That call, IMHO, was pretty shaky. In general, I thought the officiating deserved something around a C+/B- and possibly itself biased. For example, early in the game, on a Third-and-long, one of Florida WR’s caught a nice pass for a First Down-plus. He came out of the pile and signalled “First Down”. He was called for “Excessive Celebration”. OTOH, there were substantial violations, as seen on replay, by Oklahoma which were not called, such as a horsecollar tackle.

  • http://www.soilcatholics.blogspot.com Peggy

    Jason brought up the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that Tebow drew. The announcer said that’s probably the only wrong thing Tebow’s done in his life. We watched the last 10-15 mins. I remember hearing of this kid in the Heisman race last year when folks here were hoping Mizzou’s Chase Daniels might win.

  • Roberto

    Colt McCoy is a regular speaker at Christian meetings, so is Graham Harrell, though somewhat less so; both are clean-living Church of Christ boys.

    Harrell too? So the top four QBs are Christians. Is it a requirement?

  • http://buddhagadrafts.blogspot.com James

    Herb, the Tebows are missionaries in the Philippines, not Bangladesh.

  • Herb Brasher

    Yeah, sorry, that is Tebow’s sister and her husband who are in Bangladesh, I believe, but it was on national TV at some point, was it the SEC championship game? I can’t remember. And Chris is right, they did cover his faith at the end of the fourth quarter, but I thought that was rather late. Though they did keep on going on what a nice guy he was.

    With Tebow’s unsportsmanlike conduct, one has to wonder what was going on on the field. I got the idea that the OK guys were pouring on the “sarcasm,” for lack of a better term that can be used on this blog.

  • Herb Brasher

    Harrell is church of Christ, but I understand attends a Bible church in Lubbock (the church of Christ folks seem to have changed a lot since Max Lucado came on the scene. From what I can gather, he doesn’t push himself forward as as speaker, but at that stage, he doesn’t have to. We all know that athletes on national TV are authorities by virtue of their platform.

  • http://buddhagadrafts.blogspot.com James

    Yeah, Herb, the unsportsmanlike conduct Tebow was penalized for was one Gator chomp as he was backing away from several Sooners taunting him.

  • http://www.christianchronicle.org Bobby Ross

    For anybody interested, here’s a column I wrote for The Christian Chronicle on the Church of Christ roots of McCoy and Harrell. This was published back in November when they seemed to be the two leading Heisman candidates.

    I am a Sooners fan and read several stories before the BCS game that mentioned Sam Bradford reading the Bible — typically the story of David and Goliath — the night before each game. Unfortunately, Bradford had to play the modern-day Messiah (at least that’s the impression of Tebow that I got from the fawning Fox announcers) in the Big Game.

  • Herb Brasher

    Thanks, Mr. Ross. I had seen your column back then, but couldn’t find it again.

  • Bill2

    I was disappointed in the “Gator chomp” personal foul, mostly because I knew how nay-sayers would react. It’s like getting a parking ticket and having people suddenly label you as a law-breaker. Oh gee, he’s not perfect. What a hypocrite he is… You can write the script now.

    Any of us who are Christian know there’s a gap between who we are and who we want to be. I was my gap were as small as Tim Tebow’s appears to be.

  • http://thenarrowway.net Brett

    I think the unsportsmanlike call was correct and it seems that someone who is following Jesus wouldn’t be “chomping” at the opponents. Actually, it is doubtful that anyone who truly follows Jesus would be involved in football, especially if their involvement leads to that behavior.

  • Stacey

    #19 (Dan): I certainly did (in Tebow’s case), and I was upset. I wanted to hear what he had to say. They couldn’t pull that nonsense on Warner and Hasselbeck after the AFC/NFC championship games, though.

    Does anyone know where what Tebow said can be found??