Yesterday, Tim Tebow did what he's been doing the past two months for the Denver Broncos. He finished a lengthy teleconference with the New England media in a winning way.
"Thank you all so much," he said. "God bless."
Some people snickered as they walked away from the speaker phone. It made you wonder.
Why does this apparently genuine, God-fearing guy make so many people uncomfortable simply by not doing or saying anything designed to make them feel uncomfortable?
He's not shooting himself in the leg, running people off the road, making lewd videotapes or even, heaven help us, proselytizing all that much. He's just trying to play football and praising the Lord for giving him the strength and opportunity to do it. How has that led to becoming a polarizing figure people either desperately want to fall flat on his buzz cut or ascend to a level a notch above St. John the Elway?
Tuesday, Patriots' owner Robert Kraft spoke of this odd confluence of winning football, religious fervor and overwrought criticism, saying he thinks Tebow's unexpected success since replacing Kyle Orton as the Broncos' quarterback (7-1 as a starter) is, frankly, uplifting.
"I kind of like it that he's about spirituality, that the country is thinking about spirituality," Kraft said. "I think he's great for the NFL. The kind of young man (Tebow) is, the values he represents. I think it's terrific."
Yet it seems as many people wish Tebow would be struck by lightning as believe he's been touched by lightning. As for Tebow himself, shucks Ma'am, he's blessed and he knows it.
"I respect Mr. Kraft very much and had the opportunity to meet him. That was definitely a pleasure for me," Tebow said. "I feel if (Kraft's compliments) are true, I'd take that as a huge honor. I feel if I can be a good role model, if I could make faith something cool, having a relationship with Christ something cool, then I think that would be awesome.
"I think one of my biggest prayers, more so than scoring touchdowns or winning games, is to try to be a great role model for the next generation and someone that always puts my faith first, no matter what, and someone that is hopefully a player, an athlete that parents can look at their kids and say, 'You know what, that's someone who is trying to do it the right way. He doesn't always, he messes up, but he always tries to give credit to the Lord, he always works as hard as he can and he's trying to do the best that he possibly can.' I think that's something that I'm definitely working on."
Those comments will be radioactive to some. It will make them grind their teeth, believing Tebow is putting himself above others.
Actually, all he's saying is he's doing the best he can to be the best he can, whether as a football player or a person, but the latter is more important to him than the former. If you've got a problem with that, well, you've got a problem.
Three people in Foxboro know Tebow better than most. Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez played with him at the University of Florida and to a man insist there isn't a phony bone in his body. What more can you ask?
If Dennis Green, the former Arizona Cardinals head coach, was describing him he might say, "Tebow is what we thought he was! Now if you want to crown him, then crown his ass! But he is who we thought he was, and we let him off the hook!"
Team's have been doing that ever since Broncos coach John Fox reluctantly handed Tebow the ball on Oct. 9 in the second half of what would become the Broncos' fourth loss in the season's first five games. Tebow would lead Denver to an overtime win against the Miami Dolphins a week later and thus begin a national debate over not only his quarterbacking skills or lack thereof but also his life view.
As his critics grew louder, Tebow registered the most fourth-quarter comebacks by a quarterback through his first 11 starts in NFL history (six), is tied with Eli Manning for the most this season (five) and has the third-highest fourth-quarter passer rating in the NFL, having accounted for 56.7 percent of his total passing yardage and 54.5 percent of his passing touchdowns in the final period. But is he who we think he is?
Probably not, but one thing is sure. He's trying to be who he hopes he is.
"One way you definitely strengthen your faith is through obstacles, through adversity and there's definitely been some of that so that definitely strengthens your faith," Tebow said. "Also, something that strengths your faith is when you have praise or things go good, is how you handle it. I think for me, one of my biggest prayers is win or lose, good or bad, that I'm the same guy. I honor the Lord either way. I treat people the exact same and I'm not changing no matter what happens. That's one of my biggest prayers."
Shouldn't we all hope that prayer is answered? For him and for us?
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