Only a few things in this world are impossible: eating one potato chip, crunching a Jawbreaker candy, and slamming a revolving door, for instance. Once upon a time, I thought that it was possible to move to a new state and avoid being caught up in its sports affiliations. I managed pretty well in our last state by switching my loyalties when the occasion demanded (shameful, I know), but here in Colorado, I have added one more thing to my list of impossibilities: it is impossible to live within 300 miles of Denver and not be a Broncos fan.
It’s kind of inevitable, actually. You are surrounded by it on all sides, and if you dare defy it, you’re promptly drowned in a furious sea of orange and navy. The only way to survive is to defect. So, in a way, I have. I smile and nod and applaud at the right moments when the Broncos are being discussed and I get along just fine. It’s on days like yesterday, however, that I cannot ignore my true loyalty to the black and gold: that’s right, I’m a Steelers fan. Born and raised, it’s in my genes, fear the Terrible Towel…I could talk smack all day, and yesterday I did, since the Steelers played the Broncos in Denver for a wild card spot in the playoffs. Sadly, my Steelers lost by a single touchdown in overtime…but I’m not here to write about that. In anticipation of the clash, The Daily electronic magazine posted an article in its Modern Faith column about Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow entitled, “The good (play)book.” Its premise states: “When a pious person like Tebow achieves the impossible, do we credit God?” Being the amateur football fan that I am, I just couldn’t resist.
Tim Tebow is a unique brand of quarterback. His last-minute victories and astounding early winning streak this season defied expectations for this first-time team leader. As a football player, he leaves sports analysts and fans alike dumbfounded. But it’s his identity as a Christian that really gets people talking. He writes verse references in his eye black, prays before every game, first credits God in post-game interviews, and Tebowing is now about as big a phenomenon as planking. Tebow’s religious devotion has been making waves, and it is no surprise why. In a culture that criticizes Christianity and believes faith doesn’t mix with anything else, Tebow’s boldness is surprising and controversial. He’s a hero for believers and a fall guy for critics. And when all the hype about his faith is compounded by unpredictable victories, people can’t help but ask if divine intervention is the cause.
The Daily’s article covers some of the comments made about this phenomenon, but instead of concluding with a solid decision for or against God’s hand in Tebow’s sports career, the article puttered to a stop with, “…whether it’s a gap in the fossil record or an unlikely string of football victories, we reduce God to a rather minor, if useful, role in the world.” Despite this disappointing ending to the article, its premise remains interesting: is God really intervening on Tebow’s behalf?
There’s not really an easy answer. People don’t like to think of an external power messing with life, much less with sports. Sports are supposed to be fair, and if something uncontrollable like God interferes, it immediately becomes unfair, and therefore unsavory. On the other hand, Tebow’s victories could be seen as rewards for his faith, which would be a rare warm fuzzy for believers. We display our faith and life goes swimmingly for us. So which is it?
Well, neither, actually. Here’s why: displays of faith don’t always result in reward, and God involving himself in life doesn’t always make it unsavory. Take one solid look at Christian history, and you’ll find that the most vocal believers often had the hardest lives. Tebow himself hasn’t had the easiest time with expressing his faith. The criticism and harsh words about him are undoubtedly difficult for him to hear. As for God’s interference as a negative force, I’d like to counter that God as a factor, at least in this instance, is a positive thing. It’s obvious that Tebow’s faith has drawn a lot of attention to him, or else I wouldn’t be writing this. Because Tebow so passionately shows his faith, people are noticing God’s influence on him. When people look at Tim Tebow, they see a dedicated, kind, devoted man, and it’s really hard to separate his admirable personality and conduct from his inexcusable faith. Tebow is one of the best possible examples of a strong Christian in a tough situation. If God is affecting Tebow’s performance on the football field, it is not to promote Tim Tebow; it’s to promote God in and through Tim Tebow.
It’s no new thing for God to affect circumstances in the world to display himself, his love, and his glory. The counter that says, “God doesn’t (or shouldn’t) care about football!” is unfounded considering how much attention we as a culture pay to football. Tebow is just one example. God does care about football, and he’s using it to grab our culture’s attention. He’s taking Tim Tebow and saying, “Look: this is one of my followers. You can see me in him, and I’m proud.”