Tim Tebow’s success comes not from a belief in God, but from belief in himself, writes Brandon Sneed.
This originally appeared at HeyGoodCall.com.
On Sunday, one of my Facebook friends posted a status that pretty well epitomized the problem with Tebowmania. I’m not going back to find it word-for-abbreviated-word, but it went something like this:
“Oh, SNAP! Tim Tebow versus Tom Brady! Broncos versus Patriots! Heaven versus hell! Good versus evil!”
Only it was with way worse grammar and way more exclamation points.
Look, I like Tim Tebow. I also love Jesus. And I’m a nice guy. I don’t like taking opinionated stances because I used to do that a lot when I was a kid—well, even more of a kid than I am now—and I offended lots of people, and I realized, you know, I don’t like offending people. I know, what kind of lousy sportswriter am I? I just like to get along and hang out and maybe play some Madden and just have a good ol’ time. That’s why I tell stories, not tell people what to think.
But Tebowmania is hitting close to something about which I actually feel pretty strongly: Christian extremism.
It’s like Christians—and many other followers of other religions, really—believe that the more in your face they are about what they believe, the more pure their faith.
I took a couple acting classes in college. One thing our instructor said one day comes to mind now. He told us: “Imagine this scene: You are the world’s strongest man. You walk into a room and are challenged by another man. In that moment, you have to convey to your whole audience that your character is undeniably the strongest. How do you do it?”
We all gave answers like “Puff out your chest” and “Swagger into the room” and “Flex your muscles” and things like that. You know, intimidate the guy, make this spectacle of it, drive the point home with a boom!
Wrong, the instructor said. Those things are big and dramatic and over-the-top, so they make the point, but they’re not effective. They’re cheesy. They’re offensive to your audience, because they don’t seem real.
He said the way to do it was this: you walk into the room calm, normal, no showing off. When the man challenges you, you smile and accept and reach to shake his hand. And then your challenger will crumble in agony: the strongman has crushed the challenger’s hand.
That is effective. “There is no need to exaggerate the strongman,” he said.
The thing about Tim Tebow is this: he’s not been the one that’s obnoxiously in people’s faces about his love for Jesus Christ. Oh, sure, he puts on his show. He flexes his muscles after a touchdown. He makes sure the cameras catch him kneeling, praying—Tebowing—on the sidelines. He makes a point to point heavenward when it is appropriate. But none of this is anything more than other Christians in the league. Heck, I’ve seen entire TEAMS gather and kneel on the field for prayer following a game.
What makes people hate him, really, are that his haters mostly hate his fans. Not his casual fans, like my mom or sister, who just want to watch him do well and maybe get his jersey for Christmas. They’re good. They’re your standard sports fan.
No, I’m talking about the knuckleheads like my Facebook ex-friend, or Tebow’s pastor, people who publicly say ridiculous things like God is helping him win these games, that he has God’s favor, like nobody else on the football field believes in God or is worthy of such a thing. People who turn a football player into just another pawn for proselytizing.
They are exaggerating the strongman.
Les Carpenter over at Yahoo! Sports broke down the Tebow Myth the other day. Some highlights (emphases mine):
“He has a passion about himself, he’s very confident,” Broncos general manager Brian Xanders said.
… Inside the Broncos’ complex, conversations about Tebow go on for half an hour without a mention of God or religion or their most famous player’s spirituality.
The phrase most often attributed to [Tebow] is not about God but rather, “Tell me how I can get better.”
The reason Tim Tebow wins is because he believes in himself. To an impossible degree. A degree the likes of which if we could all grab hold of the same faith—not in God, but in ourselves—then we’d find that all those things we wish we could have in life we could actually have. Of course, we couldn’t become NFL quarterbacks or movie stars or whatever. You have to have certain skill sets for those things, same as you couldn’t just become the next Steve Jobs, may the genius rest in peace.
Tebow’s faith in God does very much contribute to his faith in himself. But the key is that he doesn’t depend on God. What Tebow has done isn’t anything like what goes in in Angels in the Outfield, the way Tebowmaniacs and Christians make it sound.
The reason Tebow succeeds is because he works harder than possibly any other athlete alive. He knows the truth: that God isn’t some wish-granting genie. He knows that belief goes so far beyond prayer. It goes to the core of our being.
Do we believe in our vision, in what we want in life, so much that we will commit to it full-bore, to the point of ridicule? Do we give our all every chance we get?
Because Tim Tebow does. That’s why he’s 8-4 as a starter and 7-2 this season, and that’s why, impossibly, the Denver Broncos are a playoff contender.
It’s not all because of God, but it has everything to do with faith.