Friday, September 6, 2013

Tebow's Relentless Pursuit for Whom?

You might think I'm no expert on a lot of topics.

But when it comes to sports, I'm really.  No.  Expert.

I'll watch some Major League baseball, some National Football League games, and some college football.  Depending on who's getting hyped during March Madness, I might watch a little college basketball.  But all of the emphasis here is on the "watching."  Don't ask me about any of the players, and certainly don't ask me anything about stats.  In what division or conference are the teams?  I haven't a clue.  I know the redheaded guy who rarely smiles on the sidelines during Dallas Cowboys games is their head coach, Garrett somebody.  I know the tall skinny black guy in the Texas Rangers dugout, who chews sunflower seeds like they're hot enough to scald his mouth, is Ron Washington.  But other than that, I'm not what anybody would call a sports fan.

I'd never heard of Tim Tebow until some women who'd moved to Texas from the deep South were gushing over him at a Bible study I used to attend in north Dallas.  I finally had to Google him to see what all their fuss was about.  Hunky Heisman winner with a neck equal in size to his head, arms too massive to fit into any off-the-rack suit, and a faith in Christ that he unabashedly wears on those custom-tailored sleeves.  Advocate for life in the womb, after doctors recommended that his own mother abort him while she was pregnant.  His parents were Baptist missionaries to the Philippines, where he was born.  Wholesome, a virgin, and not bowing under any pressure to change that until he marries the right girl.

Good for him, I thought.  And still do.  He's a rare breed in this day and age.  When he signed with the Jets, I remember reading an article in one of the New York webzines about some women - and men - welcoming Tebow to Gotham with the promise that they could change that wholesome image of his, but apparently, he made it through to a trade with Boston with his personal integrity intact.  All things considered, that's probably a miracle right there.

As far as his athletic capabilities go, I have no idea.  I know he's had enough success on the gridiron to have become famous - or notorious - for "Tebowing" in a sort of prayerful stance whenever his team scored a touchdown.  And it's not like you can't have any talent and still make it into the NFL, or even win a Heisman while in college.  So as far as his bouncing from team to team during his relatively short professional career, I'll leave it up to the pundits to argue over whether the NFL's apparent nonchalance about his aptitude is justified.  It may be that his evangelical zeal both on and off the field may rub some hard-core owners and coaches the wrong way, but we all know professional football is all about money.  Just look at Jerry Jones and the drug-induced antics he famously tolerates among his players on the Dallas Cowboys.  As long as they can produce on the field, that's pretty much all he cares about.  And it's logical to assume most owners feel the same about their players.  If Tebow looks good on paper, but disappoints during crunch time, it's not the Tebowing that will knock him off a team.

So it's been curious to watch - even as a fairly disinterested bystander - the media this week as they process job rumors about Tebow, having recently been cut by the New England Patriots and searching for a new team with just days remaining before this new season begins.  Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King is saying that Tebow turned down an offer from an unnamed NFL team because the position was something other than quarterback.

After being dumped by New England on August 31, Tebow had tweeted that he was in "relentless pursuit" of another quarterback position.  Ostensibly as Biblical justification for doing so, Tebow included in his tweet a quote from 2 Corinthians 12:9; "and He has said to Me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'"

Of course, there's nothing wrong with tweeting Scripture, and there's nothing wrong with a Heisman Trophy winner thinking he can play quarterback in the NFL.  However, there have been three teams for which he's done that, and even though none of the three gigs were true tests of his capabilities, he's gotten three more chances than millions of wanna-be athletes have gotten.

I don't know what fame is like, or what Tebow's handlers are advising him to do, or what deals his agent still thinks he can find for him.  Nor am I any person to offer career advice of any kind, particularly to any professional athlete.

But if you want to play the game, what's so bad about not being quarterback?  Don't plenty of other positions offer good opportunities for teams to win games?  Which positions on a football team are not important?  What is there about a team effort that makes being anything less than a quarterback inferior?

Is there some sort of shame in not being a quarterback?  Will his die-hard fans give up on him if he's not a quarterback?  Dreaming of getting a particular job is one thing, but as plenty of hard-working Americans know, big business isn't necessarily about talent, or heart, or ambition.  Maybe Tebow really isn't the athlete he was in college.  Maybe the coaches he's had in the NFL have been correct:  he's no longer NFL quarterback material.

What kind of testimony is being broadcast by Tebow's holding out for a QB slot?  No, I'm no sports expert, remember, but I suspect the NFL itself is a pretty elite organization, and no matter what position you play in the league, that's a pretty prestigious job.  What industry commanding so much money, popularity, and media attention as the NFL has only 1,696 front-line employees?

A lot of us complain about our jobs, or the jobs we don't have, but wish we did.  Sometimes, we don't get jobs for reasons that aren't fair.  And sometimes, the school of hard knocks, which Tebow appears to be implying God is putting Him through right now, is a legitimate way for God to build our faith.

Then there are times when the testimony we think we're modeling, in context with the hardships we're facing, are telling the people watching us more about ourselves than about God.

Too many Americans are already either unemployed or under-employed.  I hope Tebow understands that one is better than the other.

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