The controversy over Denver Bronco’s Quarterback, Tim Tebow, taking a knee and praying continues to grow exponentially every Sunday, especially after Tim Terrific leads the Broncos to one more dramatic last ditch victory. Tebow is often the main topic of discussion among the many “talking heads” programs before and after the games. The Internet debates about him have gone viral.
I’ve read Internet chat room quotes from Matthew 6 about how prayer is not supposed to be a public event, to Matthew 5 about letting your light shine before others, to Daniel praying three times a day in front of an open window.
Tebow’s outwardly profession of his Christian faith is no surprise. He is acting no differently than he did when he lead the Florida Gators to a national championship, or when he became the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. What is surprising is the way he has revitalized a moribund Denver team to a point where the Broncos may win their division. He has done this while supposedly not possessing the textbook skills it takes to be a winning NFL quarterback.
Tebow’s quarterbacking accomplishments would be an interesting story, but not one generating so much hoopla, if not for his taking a knee and praying. The act itself has changed his name, a proper noun, into the action verb of “Tebowing.” The praying seems to be offensive to many people. Offensive? What I find truly offensive is the way some NFL players stand in the end zone doing their version of a dirty boogie (moves they obviously rehearsed in front of mirror) after scoring a touchdown. Football may be the ultimate team sport. Not only are the dances offensive but that player is shamelessly calling attention to himself when the only reason he may have scored is because ten of his teammates have done their job as good as, or better, then he has.
Is there controversy about Tebow’s taking a knee because he is a Christian? Another difficult question to answer. In 1965 the opening game of the World Series between the LA Dodgers and the Minnesota Twins fell on the Jewish Holy Day, Yom Kippur. The Dodger’s Sandy Koufax, a Jew, refused to pitch. He was replaced by Don Drysdale who gave up seven runs in less than three innings. When Dodger manager, Walter Alston, went to the mound to pull him out of the game Drysdale said: “I’ll bet you wish I was Jewish, too.” Koufax was respected for his commitment to his faith.
In 1934 Detroit Tiger outfielder, Hank Greenberg, (called the Jewish Babe Ruth) agonized over playing in a crucial game against the New York Yankees on Rosh Hashanah. He didn’t know what to do. After skipping batting practice he decided to play and hit two home runs to beat the Yanks 2-1 and the Tigers went on to win the pennant.
Poet Edgar Guest wrote a poem that day in the Detroit Free Press which closed with this couplet:
We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat
But he’s true to his religion — and I honor him for that!
“ and I honor him for that.” Doesn’t Tebow deserve the same respect?
We can no longer count the number of professional athletes who have changed their names to reflect their Islamic religion. This is not an occasional outward manifestation of one’s faith. It is a 24/7 commitment to that faith. Does it equate to a prayer? I can’t answer that but it would seem it does to the person who changed his name.
I think much of the controversy over Tebow’s praying is simply the fact that he is a Christian, the one religion subject more often to tasteless satire on television and in other media. Look how tolerant and cautious we’ve become regarding Islam. I dare say that if Tim Tebow, rather than taking a knee, threw himself on the ground at the fifty yard line and bowed towards Mecca, there would be a moment of silence in the stadium and the next day you would be able to shop at NFL.com for prayer rugs with your team logo on them.
The key to Tebow is his sincerity. He is unaffected by his success in both college and professional football. He has the temerity to state that football is not the most important thing in his life. He talks the talk, but he also walks that walk. I don’t know if Denver can beat New England on Sunday. I do know, though, that it will one of the most watched games on television. So go get ‘em, Caped Crusader!