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This season, Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos electrified the National Football League (NFL) more than any other player in the sport, not because of his athletic prowess, but because of his spirituality. He is somewhat of an enigma to sports analysts. Despite the claims of his critics he lacks the proper skills to lead an NFL team to victory, he somehow found a way to win and propel the Broncos into the playoffs. "Whoda-thunk-it!"
Tebow is from Florida where interstate sports rivalries are legendary, particularly between Miami, FSU, and the University of Florida (UF) which is where he went to school. While at UF, he somehow managed to bedevil the other Florida teams and in the process earned a Heisman Trophy and help win a couple of National Championships. He didn't do it with swagger either but as a team leader who was known to be rather pious in his religious beliefs. His personage and track record resulted in the scorn and envy of his opponents. Frankly, he seemed "too good to be true" and became the man you loved to hate if you were not on his side. Such anger has carried forward with him to the NFL where he has more than his share of detractors, some even going so far as to call him an "Anti-Christ" for his praying on the sidelines.
I can think of a lot of reasons for hating an opponent, but praying shouldn't be one of them. Some resent him because he appears to be more spiritually connected to his Lord than others, a characteristic that seems to give him an edge. Others openly mock his spirituality. Frankly, I don't have a problem with it, nor do a lot of football fans who can relate to his beliefs. More than anything, I think Tebow's praying on the sidelines is considered a violation of political correctness. Christianity has been in retreat in this country over the last few decades. Thanks to a long line of litigation, we are now overtly conscious of the separation of church and state. The PC police, as embodied by the media and government, have worked overtime to shun religion, even going so far as to poke fun at anyone who openly proclaims their allegiance to Jesus Christ. Heck, we don't even say "Merry Christmas" anymore out of fear of antagonizing someone.
So, along comes Tim Tebow, a well recognized athlete who openly embraces his Christian faith. Such religious athletes who gain notoriety, not just for their athletic abilities but their spirituality, are few and far between. Tebow is a modern day Eric Liddell, the "Flying Scotsman," a devout Christian Olympian who in 1924 refused to run in a heat on a Sunday (the Christian Sabbath) and thereby withdrew from a 100-metres race, his best event (as depicted in the 1981 film "Chariots of Fire"). Although some were upset Liddell refused to run, many more applauded his adherance to his religious beliefs.
Unlike Liddell, Tebow plays on Sundays but he competes with the same religious ferver that the Flying Scotsman enjoyed. Some people are offended when Tebow quietly prays on the sidelines by himself, not out of resentment for Christianity but because political correctness tells us not to accept such behavior and demean the person instead. The media and football world has to be careful though, many Christian athletes and fans are rallying around Tebow and are beginning to emulate his style of praying, now called "Tebowing."
Tebow begs the question, where do we find our strength to compete? Some find it in conviction of character and experience, others find it in vicious competition where you must win at all costs, even if it means cheating. For people like Tebow and Liddell, it is in their Christian beliefs which promotes morality. Maybe therein rests the problem, that people are not willing to accept fair gamesmanship and honest competition anymore. Fortunately, there are some people who believe in such archaic concepts. If Tebow can find strength on the sidelines by quietly praying to the Lord, I will not fault him or hold him in contempt. I may actually admire him instead.
"Those who honor me I will honor." - 1 Samuel 2:30
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Tim's columns, see: http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm
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