The Jocks We Deserve

Athletes and Controversy

Squeaky-Clean. A proven winner. America should love this guy. Except he has one major flaw.

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Chuck  Colson

A few weeks ago, the college basketball game between Cincinnati and Xavier ended in a bench-clearing brawl. The fight got so bad that the referees decided not to play the last nine seconds. The media and fans were rightly appalled and demanded harsh measures.

This debacle came only a week after the NFL announced that eleven players had failed drug tests. Two of the players, from the Washington Redskins, were suspended for the rest of the season because this was their third offense. The media and Redskins fans were appalled and wondered how anyone could be so foolish and irresponsible.

These stories represent the tiniest tip of a huge iceberg. It seems that no news cycle is complete without a story about some athlete getting into trouble both on and off the field.

Yet, by many accounts, the most controversial athlete in America is a God-fearing man who grew up serving the poor overseas and whose teammates would walk through fire for.

I’m speaking of course of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. A recent piece in the Atlantic Monthly named him as one of the “15 Most Divisive Athletes in Recent History.” Others on the list included Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, Dennis Rodman, Pete Rose and O.J. Simpson.

So, let’s see . . . that’s one man convicted of animal cruelty, another of obstruction of justice, yet another of tax evasion and banned from baseball for betting on games, someone who probably killed his ex-wife, and a guy who appeared at a book signing wearing a dress.

What did Tebow do to make this august list? Essentially, he is upfront about his Christian faith and that he made an ad saying that he was glad that his mother didn’t abort him.

Even with this, the controversy over Tebow is hard to understand. After all, he’s hardly the only Christian football player or even quarterback. Players kneeling on the sidelines in prayer is almost as much a part of the NFL as cheerleaders.

Neither is he the first player to publicly take a pro-life stand: in 1989, members of the New York Giants and owner Wellington Mara made a pro-life video which was far more direct in its condemnation of abortion than anything that Tebow has done.

When you add the appalling, often-criminal, behavior of many athletes, calling Tebow “divisive” brings to mind the words of Jesus denunciation of the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. It also brings to mind the story He told about, “we played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.”

There is nothing that Tebow can do, it seems, that will really please people. And that’s ironic because there’s never been a time when people wanted more good role models for their children.

I guess they want the role models — especially religious ones — to be silent, however, about what motivates them.

Ultimately, what makes Tebow “divisive” and “controversial” has little, if anything, to do with what he does on the field. It’s all about our increasing intolerance of faith in public life. Tebow isn't trying to “impose” anything on anyone besides himself.

Yet, even that is too much for some people. I can’t help but suspect that our generation is getting the kind of athletes it deserves. So, maybe, Tebow should just wear a wedding dress . . .

Further Reading and Information

Tim Tebow and the 15 Most Divisive Athletes in Recent History
Justin Pedersen | The Atlantic Monthly | November 3, 2011

Faith, Football and Tebowing
John Stonestreet | The Point Radio | December 13, 2011

Tim Tebow: Putting Football in Perspective
Catherine Larson | BreakPoint Blog | January 9, 2009

The Gospel on Offense
Mark Earley | BreakPoint.org | October 1, 2009


Widening gap between right and wrong
Though it's only been 12 years since the New York Giants players and their owner created their pro-life video, the state of our society has deteriorated since 1989. That video may have had a more direct message than what Tim Tebow has voiced; however, the gap between what is perceived as "right" and what is perceived as "wrong" has widened significantly. The way Tim Tebow lives out his Christian faith contrasts more sharply with today's wishy-washy standard of ethics, so his message may seem more "blatant" to some who disagree with him.

It should. Morality is going downhill and picking up speed. May the contrast deepen so that unbelievers recognize their need for a Savior and believers fully grasp what it means to honor and serve a risen Savior. Carry on, Tim, carry on.
Not just athletes
In a culture where not just athletes, but politicians, business leaders and even law enforcement officials, as well as some religious leaders are joined by their own self-obsessed,undisciplined greed and indulgence. Mr. Tebow is a breath of fresh air. Here's someone who understands the concept of giving back when you've been given so much. And I suspect the people he touches with his time and compassion far outnumber the whiners who are never satisfied.