Tim Tebow, devout QB, picked by the right team in the right state

Nobody brought this up on ESPN last night, but…

It’s fitting that college superstar quarterback Tim Tebow was drafted last night by the Denver Broncos.

Tebow is a devout evangelical Christian (you remember his pro-life commercial with mom during the Super Bowl) and Colorado is a national center of evangelical megachurches and evangelical organizations.

The millions of football analysts who are “breaking down” the Broncos’ selection of Tebow this morning are probably unaware of this unusual fit. But you can bet that Tebow, his family and all those evangelicals in Colorado are smiling.

Many are thanking God for bringing a Christian QB to Colorado.

Tebow’s father, Bob, is a leading missionary/evangelist in the Philippines, where the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association has been aiming to preach the Gospel in every village since 1985. And it’s a family Affair. Bob’s wife, Pam, and their five children are all deeply involved in the work.

That includes the youngest, known as Timmy.

The family’s website includes this:

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Although football is important to Tim, his priorities that precede football are faith, family, and academics. A verse from the Bible that he often quotes is Philippians 4:13, which credits the true source of his strength, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Tim loves football but knows that his career will end someday. His relationship with Jesus Christ, however, will never end.

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Timmy doesn’t have a contract yet but he does have his own foundation. Its mission is this: “The Foundation will utilize the public platform that God has given to Tim Tebow–through media, publishing, speaking engagements, special events, and mission trips—to inspire friends and supporters to work with the Foundation as a team in helping to make a difference.”

He should be right at home in Colorado, which is home to some of the nation’s most influential megachurches, including New Life Church in Colorado Springs (yes, that’s where Ted Haggard used to be pastor).

Dozens of evangelical groups have also put down roots in Colorado Springs, including Focus on the Family.

How will all those crazy Bronco fans feel about Tebow’s regular professions of faith? Sports fandom being what it is, they’ll be fine with it if Tebow plays like John Elway and the Broncos win. They’ll run out of patience fast if Tebow can’t adapt to the pro game (as many analysts expect) and the Broncos lose.

It will also be mighty interesting to see how Tebow — praised in college for tremendous leadership skills — will be received in an NFL lockerroom.

Being a big football fan myself who has read many books by former players, I have no doubt that Tebow will be a fine leader for the many Christians who now populate NFL teams. But the question is how he will relate to the many more worldly players who we read about quite often these days.

Having seen Tebow run over linebackers in college, I wouldn’t be surprised by anything he does.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I am a rabid Oakland Raiders fan. The Raiders stink, but have a long, heated rivalry with the Denver Broncos.

Tim Tebow is easy to like. But I won’t be rooting for him.

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Was the Saints’ win God’s plan?

Well, that was quite a game.

You have to feel good for the city of New Orleans, no matter which team you root for.

Coming five years after Katrina, the Saints’ big win seems perfectly scripted.

By whom?

A bunch of Saints players are saying that it was “God’s plan” that they beat the Colts.

Super Bowl FootballI saw an interview with QB Drew Brees last night on ESPN, maybe an hour after the game. He was calm and collected, like he just came home from the beach with his kids.

Brees is well known to be a devout Christian. He said that it was God’s plan that he came to New Orleans as a free agent a few years back and that it was God’s plan that the Saints won the title.

I’ve been looking for some video on the Web, but can’t find any so far.

Saints running Back Reggie Bush also made God his MVP: “God had a bigger plan than all of us, a plan that we couldn’t see three or four years ago.”

Bush also credits God for bringing tight end Jeremy Shockey to the Saints: “I told him, ‘God had a different plan for you.’ He’s got to appreciate it. I know he does. Shockey’s brought so much to this team, an attitude that we definitely needed. … We needed a guy like Shockey to bring that aggressiveness to our offense, and he’s been nothing but special from Day 1.”

And New Orleans’ defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, who was in an alcohol treatment center before this season began, credited God with his dramatic turn-around: “It’s just totally divine, this is God’s plan.”

I don’t mean to be flip, but I’m waiting for one of the Colts to say that they lost because it was God’s plan — or at least to say that it was God’s plan for the Saints to win, and the Colts happened to be the opponent.

Haven’t heard anything to that effect so far.

But, I did see the Colts’ kicker, old-timer Matt Stover, point to the heavens after he MISSED a kick. I remember thinking “Huh?”

One of the announcers actually noted Stover’s “spirituality” and that the kicker points skyward whether he hits or misses.

I think that makes Stover somewhat unique in the world of sports, where athletes generally acknowledge God only after they score or win.

Finally, there was Tim Tebow’s commercial (really his mom’s commercial), which came early, went by fast and only acknowledged the abortion issue with the broadest of strokes.

I can’t imagine there will be much fuss about it today.

The Focus on the Family website has a longer and much more expansive interview with Tebow’s parents.

Well, you know they’ll be celebrating the Saints’ win — the SAINTS won the Super Bowl! — in the churches of New Orleans and at Mardi Gras in a few weeks.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Should faith be part of the sports pages?

It seems that religious issues come up in the world of sports more and more.

On Sunday, we’ll see Tim Tebow put faith before football when he appears in a pro-life commercial during the Super Bowl.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, online editor for Christianity Today, writes in the Wall Street Journal today about whether sports writers are comfortable taking on issues of faith.

She writes:

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Sports journalism often lends itself to lengthy profile-driven features. Sportswriters have some of the best opportunities to tell human-interest stories, and in some cases that means connecting the religious dots for people. But when you look closer into what it means to be religious, it usually involves divisive opinions on matters like heaven and hell, and, in some cases, abortion.

inside2-deanna-insideMillions of people will watch Mr. Tebow’s mother recount her story on Sunday. But fewer people may know that Brett Favre’s wife, Deanna (that’s her), faced a similar decision when she became pregnant after her second year of college, before the couple were married. Their Catholic faith was a key factor in their decision not to seek an abortion, Catholic News Service reports.

In 2006, Mr. (Kurt) Warner cited his faith as his reason for appearing in a political advertisement opposing a proposal that would have allowed embryonic stem cell research in Missouri.

If journalists are asking the right motivational questions (why did an athlete retire? why does he do prison ministry?) they might find religion in the answers. When appropriate, it’s the reporter’s responsibility to dig out the underlying story and present it to readers.

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Bailey quotes Sports Illustrated football guru Peter King (a favorite of mine), who is hesitant to take some athletes at their word when it comes to their professions of faith:

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Peter King, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, admits his own skepticism when players bring up their faith after a game. “I’ve seen enough examples of players who claim to be very religious and then they get divorced three times or get in trouble with the law,” Mr. King said earlier this week. “I’m not sure that the public is crying out for us to discover the religious beliefs of the athletes we’re writing about.”

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Photo: Anne Ryan, USA TODAY

Enjoy the Super Bowl…

ADDITION: Jim Daly, CEO of Focus on the Family, the group paying for The Tebow Commercial, said today he will attend the Super Bowl and answer questions about the commercial and the debate it has inspired.

We can only hope that all those sports writers will ask him better questions than they ask the players on Media Day.


Is Tim Tebow a preacher on the field?

I mentioned the other day that college football superstar Tim Tebow will appear with his mom in a pro-life commercial during the Super Bowl.

As you’ve probably heard, a few pro-choice groups have criticized CBS for agreeing to show the ad. But CBS is holding firm.

I came across a very revealing column about Tebow on Slate.com by Jason Fagone, a journalist who profiled the QB for GQ magazine. He makes a strong case that Tebow’s Christian faith is not some side story in relation to Tebow’s football career, but THE story.

3430df414bfbbd23de3748e1e001Tebow sees his football stardom as evangelism, a way to bring more people to Christ.

Fagone notes that Tebow is perfectly comfortable talking about his faith, maybe to a degree that most famous people are not, but that most writers don’t really want to go there. As if it’s too personal or too…wacky.

Fagone writes:

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Tebow has never really been asked about this stuff, which is a shame. I had a chance when I wrote a profile of him for GQ, but I blew it. I only got as far as a little riff on evolution, which Tim brought up himself, mentioning his admiration for creationist Ravi Zacharias. “Have you ever heard Ravi Zacharias speak before?” Tebow asked me. “He came here to speak and I talked to him for a little bit. … The way he can draw you in with his stories and his wording, and then at the same time make it so easy and simple for someone to understand—I was like, man, he’s great. I thought it was awesome.” But when I got to the heavier God stuff, I started to sweat, fumbling my questions like a blown snap from center. I kept thinking, This guy is a college football player. It’s not fair to ask him what he thinks of Mohammed.

But that was not only stupid; it was condescending. Today, I really regret not asking Tebow about Islam and gay marriage. I regret not asking him if a Jew can go to heaven, and whether he believes that Hurricane Katrina and the stock-market crash are manifestations of “God’s wrath”—as the new pastor at his church, Mac Brunson, has said. (Just last Sunday, Brunson name-checked Pat Robertson, who had been pilloried for calling the people of Haiti devil-worshippers: “You can’t help but just pray for him, you know?” Brunson told his congregation. “He may be right, but what a dumb time to say something like that.”) These are more than fair questions given Tebow’s decision to politicize the Super Bowl, and if reporters don’t ask them, they’re actually doing Tebow a disservice. At SEC Media Day last year, one brave reporter asked Tebow if he was saving himself for marriage. “Yes, I am,” Tebow said as the room burst into nervous giggles. He laughed and his eyes lit up: “I think y’all are stunned right now! You can’t even ask a question!” If anything, he was frustrated that nobody had asked him the question sooner. After all, it can’t be much fun to be a culture warrior if the opposing culture is constantly wimping out, denying you a chance to show your true mettle. Grind him, test him—he’s ready.

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Sure, most college football fans know that Tebow is a Christian. They’ve seen the Bible verses painted under his eyes during games.

But Fagone spends some time on the super-conservative Christian tradition that Tebow comes from. His dad runs the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association, which has been working to save souls in the Philippines since 1985. Their website explains: “Since 1985, there has been an increasing movement of the Holy Spirit in the Philippines. BTEA feels an intense sense of urgency to get the gospel to every Filipino before this great door of opportunity closes.”

As Fagone notes, the group’s website includes a detailed description of the “rapture” to come.

In other words, Tim Tebow is not your average star QB with a church background. His story, as it unfolds, may be far more interesting.

Photo: Phil Sandlin, AP

College star Tebow already making Super Bowl news

Another football item (hey, the Super Bowl is almost upon us):

Tim Tebow, perhaps the biggest college football star ever, is preparing for the NFL draft in April. There are questions about his readiness to play quarterback in the NFL, and the whole affair will become one of the most covered sports stories of the next few months.

But that’s a subject for a different blog.

Tebow Super Bowl Ad  FootballTebow is making news now, though, because he and his mother plan to star in a pro-life commercial to air during the Super Bowl. The Tebows are devout Christians and young Tim — smart, earnest, charismatic — is not shy about sharing his faith.

When playing games at Florida, he wrote Bible verses on the “eye black” under his eyes. He even talked at a pre-season press conference about saving himself for marriage.

The Super Bowl ad is being paid for by Focus on the Family, the evangelical group.

Now a coalition of pro-choice groups is asking CBS not to show the commercial, arguing that it would be divisive. The Women’s Media Center has an online petition aimed at CBS.

Jehmu Greene, president of the WMC, says: “An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year – an event designed to bring Americans together.”

No one’s a bigger football fan than me, but the Super Bowl an event designed to bring us together? I don’t think so. It’s an event designed to make money (and bringing us together around the TV helps the $$$ cause).

The focus of the commercial is that when Tebow’s mom, Pam, was pregnant with him in 1987, she became ill during a mission trip to the Philippines and was advised by doctors to have an abortion.

For his part, Tim Tebow says: “I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe. I’ve always been very convicted of it (his views on abortion) because that’s the reason I’m here, because my mom was a very courageous woman. So any way that I could help, I would do it.”

Thirty second ads during the SB, by the way, cost $2.5 to $2.8 million.

If CBS stays with the ad, it will give new reason to pay attention to the Super Bowl commercials — other than the usual talking babies, stupid animal tricks and lots of pitches for beer and cars.

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

College football’s biggest star already a professional at preaching

The most passionate evangelist in the land just might be the quarterback of college football’s national champions.

That’s what I was left thinking after reading Sports Illustrated’s cover story about Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy winner who is heading into his highly anticipated senior senior for the Florida Gators.

The article deals almost entirely with Tebow’s aggressive, unambiguous Christian faith, which he takes into prisons in an effort to save souls.

“It’s one of my favorite things to do,” Tebow says. “You’re talking to guys who have no hope, no support, who have been totally written off by the world.”

Keep in mind that this guy is 21 years old.

He is the son of Bob Tebow, who has been doing missionary work in the Philippines since 1985. Pastor Bob tells SI that he was preaching about abortion back in 1986, when he prayed, “God, if you give me a son, if you give me Timmy, I’ll raise him to be a preacher.”

His wife’s pregnancy was very difficult and he says that doctors advised an abortion, which they refused.

Tim was born, a “miracle baby,” Bob says.

And: “I asked God for a preacher, and he gave me a quarterback.”

Well, Bob got both.

Tim is so devout that in the hours before his team won the National Championship last January, he called about 15 teammates to his room to read the Bible with him. No one knew where they all were.

The QB says he told his teammates: “We’re going to win because we’re going to handle it the right way, we’re going to be humble with it, with God leading us.”

The SI story even adds some real religious stuff about Bob Tebow’s beliefs and ministry:

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Under the heading What We Believe, the BTEA’s website details the conservative brand of Christianity it is spreading. The ministry espouses a literal interpretation of the Bible (“This is to say the written Word of God is totally without error of any kind”), supports the teaching of Creationism (“We believe God created the heavens and the earth … out of nothing in six 24-hour days”) and is convinced of the inevitability of the Rapture followed by a seven-year tribulation period. “During this time the antichrist will appear,” says the BTEA. Some will be saved, but “many will be martyred.”

Asked if there is any wiggle room for people nagged by doubts about, say, the creation of the world in six days or the imminence of the Rapture, Bob strikes a warm, inclusive note. “You don’t have to believe everything I believe to be saved,” he says. “You just need to believe in the Lord Jesus and trust him to give you the free gift of eternal life, and you can figure out Genesis and all that other stuff later.”

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The article by Austin Murphy describes how at a Florida prison, Tebow is greeted like a hero.

“If you were to die right now, where would you be?” the football star asks the inmates. “For me, I have an answer to that question. I am one hundred percent certain I’m going to go to heaven because I have Jesus Christ in my life.”

Being that Tim Tebow may this season become the biggest college football star ever — a guy who lowers his shoulder and runs over linebackers — we may be hearing much more about his faith in the months to come.

(AP Photo/ Butch Dill)