Monday, January 16, 2012

One More Bow to Tebow

Tim Tebow no longer poses a moral dilemma for me. My Patriots beat his Broncos Saturday night—slashed, gashed, and gored them, to be accurate. The score of 45–10 was satisfying to this New England fan. But I felt sorry for the born-again Denver quarterback and would have felt, if the Broncos had won, the way I felt when my father’s last pro football watching experience involved his Giants beating my Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl. Well, if anyone had to beat them…

I admire Tebow’s open expressions of faith. He lost, but the faith and the counter-talk persist, at least in this morning’s New York Times, where Harvey Araton’s article is headed, “Curtain Closes on Tebow’s Season, but His Sideshow Goes On.”

Araton takes up his story after Tebow’s postgame press conference, in which the QB said, to Araton’s puzzlement, “Over all, it wasn’t a bad day.” NFL stars are supposed to be angry and disconsolate after losing a big game; they must not have other priorities, like praying.

Tebow stopped outside the press room to pray with a young brain-injured man and his family in a genuflected circle that Araton likened to a rugby scrum. The visit was part of Tebow’s on-going ministry as founder of the Wish 15 program. Araton describes the scene:

“A protective cocoon of Tebow’s people formed around the pair, becoming huffy when a couple of reporters stopped to observe. ‘Private family time,’ one said, which was strange, because the scene was a hard-to-miss public spectacle, like so much of the Tebowing phenomenon, and it lasted considerably longer than any Denver drive.”

This is snide and inaccurate, I’m pretty sure, although I was not there to time the “scrum.” A couple of Denver drives lasted longer than most prayer meetings.

Araton next tells us that Tebow was the last player in the stadium, that his teammates were “nowhere in sight.” He did not report on what the other 51 Denver players did in the hours following the game, although that might have provided a sharp contrast.

The reporter describes John Elway passing the “scrum” and “paying it no mind. You had to wonder,” Araton continues, “if Elway, the Denver vice president and most famous Bronco of all, really believed—if he ever did—that Tebow could ever be the unquestioned quarterback of an NFL title contender.”

The middle of the article asks—fairly for a sports reporter—whether Tebow can ever compete in a league that has become pass-happy: “Professional football has more than ever become a study in life imitating video game art.” This is the only true football question at issue with Tebow, whether a massive, running, option-style quarterback can be successful as a drop-back passer.

A statistic shown during Saturday’s telecast should temper judgment. In his first sixteen games as a starting NFL quarterback, Tebow was shown to have a better won-loss record than a group of today’s stars, with one exception: NE QB Tom Brady. Tebow’s first 16 games were more successful than those of Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) or Drew Brees (began in San Diego). Neither of those present-day superstars in their first seasons made the playoffs, let alone won a playoff game, as Tebow did a week ago against the Steelers, dramatically.

That’s the kind of water-cooler argument that belongs on sports pages. What does not belong here is the kind of backhand swipe that Araton takes at Tebow to conclude his article. Here’s a judgment that I will deny:

“As he always does, [Tebow at the end of his press conference] thanked his teammates for their support and effort immediately after praising God. But one was left to surmise that he, the Broncos’ purported leader, should have been with them late Saturday night instead of in the corridor tending to his personal business, no matter how giving it was.

“There are times when duty to team has to come first. Surely one of them is in the wake of lop-sided and season-ending defeat.”

This criticism again raises the question of what “personal business” of their own Tebow’s teammates were attending to after the game. Moreover, to call God a man’s “personal business” and therefore of no public relevance, is exactly the argument we Catholics face on those rare occasions when we dare to be as open about our faith in the public arena as Tim Tebow.

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