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“Tebowing” is the word of the moment. It’s a noun describing NFL Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s practice of bowing in prayer on single knee here, there, and just about everywhere on the football field. The word was likely first coined as a form of ridicule, but like a lot of other things in Tebow’s life, he’ll probably get the last laugh.

Tim Tebow’s story is by now well known to anyone paying attention to football. He’s the son of missionary parents in the Philippines and grew up home-schooled and groomed for service. Turns out Tebow is a physical specimen, 6 foot 3 inches, 235 pounds, athletic, tough, and gifted at running if not throwing a football.

At the University of Florida Tebow helped his team win the National Championship as a backup quarterback in 2006, won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore starter in 2007, and helped his team win a National Championship again in 2008. In college he won numerous other awards as the best college football player in the nation.

But Tebow is known for more than this, most notably unfailing optimism, terminal niceness, and super-sized leadership skills. Somehow, someway, Tebow always seems to get the job done on the football field and off, giving credit to others along the way. He’s also known for openly living and referencing his Christian faith and testimony, wearing “John 3:16” and other Bible verses on his eye tape in college until the NCAA outlawed it, speaking constantly of Jesus, praising the Lord for his accomplishments, saving himself he says for marriage, and of course Tebowing, which is only one part of his testimony.

For a number of reasons, the suitability of Tebow’s football skills for the NFL, his faith, his openness about his faith, and his Tebowing all create controversy. In particular the latter, how he practices his faith, drives people to polarizing frenzy. His critics accuse him of “pushing his faith on others,” something he has never really done. They accuse him of “telling others what they should believe,” again something he’s never done. They go berserk at Tebow’s expressions of faith ignoring the fact that many other NFL and other professional sports athletes openly express their varying faiths.

Meanwhile, Tebow keeps doing his job, trying to make it as a quarterback in the NFL. He refuses to criticize others who criticize him, including especially players who’ve mocked him with their own Tebowing stance. So far, he appears to be everything he claims that he is, a young Christian trying to live a good and exemplary life, even if a highly visible one in the public eye. In this regard it’s hard not to defend him and a lot of sports journalists and current and retired football professionals are increasingly speaking up for him. Others of course may never be won no matter how consistently he lives his faith.

One has to be concerned for him too. When you live as publicly as Tebow lives, when you put your faith out there and say, “This is me,” you’re a target and you’re vulnerable (as are we all). One misstep, one unwise comment, one human moment of angry emotion, one wrong girlfriend in the wrong place at the wrong time, one ugly reaction, and you’re toast. Ask Mel Gibson, who never lived like Tebow but who did build an image of himself as a religious person that was later shattered by his own anti-Semitic comments, ugly divorces, and romps with supermodels.

For Tebow, despite the doubters, so far so good. He just keeps on. Actually, so far, he keeps winning. At this point, he is 4-1 as the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos, turning a team from 1-4 to 5-5 with a chance to yet salvage the season.

I don’t have any problem with Tebow’s Tebowing, as long as it’s sincere and not a show. On the other hand, I can see why some people question its appropriateness. Put the practice in another professional setting. Do you think it would be helpful if attorneys, doctors, salespersons, bus drivers, or politicians dropped to a knee with each accomplishment? I don’t. But then again, maybe politicians indeed need to spend more time on both knees.

I root for this guy. In an age when sports heroes are more often anti-heroes whose lives are one long story of self-indulgence, Tebow is different. He’s about others. He works hard. He tries to do his best, share credit, live honestly, be nice, and take responsibility for his actions and failings. He’s a leader who’s thus far leading in the right directions. So I’ll cut him some slack. Tebow can “tebow” all he wants.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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