After all, this is a blog about nice guys finishing first. Yeah I know, the Broncos lost their last three games, and Tim Tebow looked less than miraculous in those contests. Okay, to be honest, he actually looked pretty bad by most standards of professional quarterbacking. But even that fizzling finish can’t diminish the seven-week long “Miracles on Turf” that Tebow kept delighting us with during the Denver Bronco’s 6-1 run, following their poor 1-4 start to the season prior to Tebow taking the helm.
You don’t have to be a religious zealot, or even a nice guy, to have appreciated Tebow’s spectacular mid-season run, which was highlighted by his numerous against-all-odds comeback victories. Heck, you don’t even have to be a football fan, for that matter. In fact, the beauty of the Tim Tebow story is that it attracted appreciation from a cross section of interested viewers; from fundamentalist Christians to atheists, from new-thinking nice guys to old-school nasty guys, from fervent football fans to casual viewers. The Tebow story captivated us all during the final months of 2011. That’s because the story had a little something for everyone to appreciate.
For some, Tebow’s successful run placed the issue of spiritual or religious faith under the spotlight. Dating back to his early college playing days at Florida, Tebow has been known for his strong and publicly displayed allegiance to his Christian faith. As the son of a Baptist pastor, Tebow was home-schooled by his mother and spent much of his youth doing ministry work in the Philippines (where he was born) alongside his parents. He has never been shy about mentioning or crediting his faith during television interviews and appearances, and frequently strikes meditative poses on the field during deep prayerful moments throughout his games. All of this became rich fodder for the media frenzy that engulfed Tebow and Denver these past weeks, sending cynics scoffing and comedians spoofing, while offering further ballast to the religious faithful who could point to Tebow and say, “See, we told you so!”
If you weren’t intrigued by the religious sub-plot, there was plenty of pure football-specific news to enthrall us all. The fourth quarter comeback performances alone were enough to fill a year’s worth of SportsCenter and Sports Illustrated cover stories. The drama of these comebacks was magnified by the incredible disparity between how slowly Tebow may have started each game versus how miraculously he performed at the end. Case in point: in the come-from-behind stunner against Miami, Tebow became the first quarterback ever to overcome a 15 point deficit with less than 3 minutes to go in the game. And he kept turning in these head-turning performances. And as he did, people across the nation started turning their channels to the Broncos games, if only to watch the fourth quarter in hopes of seeing another exciting Tebow miracle.
The Unlikely Underdog
But if you weren’t a fanatic – football, religious or otherwise – in search of miracles, there was still plenty of interest to be found in yet another Tebow story angle. The story of an underdog success. It may seem hard to cast Tebow in the classic underdog role, especially since he was a record-setting Heisman Trophy winner coming out of the University of Florida two years ago. But in fact, despite his college success, Tebow’s prospects for a successful professional career were questioned by many football pundits, who doubted that his running-centric game and poor throwing arm could translate to the NFL. Thanks to these doubting pundits, Tebow’s mid-season achievements became even more glorious and heralded.
No matter what attracted you to the Tim Tebow story this past year, there’s probably one thing we can all agree on: this kid is indeed something special. The Denver Broncos organization must have recognized it when they drafted him earlier than when the skeptics predicted he would go. The Denver fans must have recognized it last year when they would continuously chant Tebow’s name for him to enter the game, despite his status as a fourth-string rookie quarterback. When those chants were finally answered earlier this season, the skeptics were quieted, and the believers became even more spirited. And so far, even three losses in a row can’t seem to give this story a negative spin. What is it about this kid?
The bottom line is this: as with every year, 2011 was a year marked by so many disheartening stories which reflected poorly on the human spirit and the human condition. We highlighted each and every one of those, as we should, if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that we have much work to do as a human race. The Tebow story is at least a refreshing break from all that, and at best something positive and hopeful to point to.
You don’t have to be a religious fundamentalist to appreciate that having a strong faith or belief in something – even if it’s in each other – can translate into increased energy, confidence, motivation and focus. You don’t have to be a football expert to appreciate that hard work, dedication, humility and an incredible trust in one’s teammates can translate into victory against the odds. And you don’t have to be a nice guy to acknowledge that Tim Tebow has leveraged his seemingly irreproachable character and contagious positivity into a successful leadership role that has attracted admiration and appreciation across the country, and helped his team turn from losers into playoff contenders.
The Tebow story was by no means a perfect one. The three recent Broncos losses combined with some pretty dismal pass completion and turnover statistics offer plenty of proof of that. But ironically, that imperfection only adds to the luster of the Tim Tebow story of 2011. Because his story really isn’t about miracles or perfection. It’s about character and leadership. It’s about perseverance and overcoming personal weaknesses and failures. And it’s about winning with dignity and respect. It’s wonderful to know that we’re starting a new year with so many eyes and ears turned to such a story.