It’s been a recent phenom – Bronco’s young quarterback Tim Tebow. People are enamored of several things. First, he makes public display of his faith, “Tebowing” after a touchdown, dropping to one knee in tribute to his maker. Second, off the field he is squeeky clean, spending most of his time with family and friends, supporting his charitable foundation, avoiding the limelight. The self-avowed virgin says he stays clear of leading the ladies on. Here’s a memorable Tebow quote:
“Athletic ability can be taken away like that. It can all end in a heartbeat.”
In other words he keeps it all in perspective. In the end his faith and humanitarian concern is what lasts. His athleticism is a gift and has a shelf life.
Ok, so I’m not penning a column on the virtues of Tebow, though I think there are many things to admire. He really does care what kind of example he sets for younger people. Every objective observer sees his humanitarian work as heart-felt and genuine. He’s humble when someone in his position could be anything but that.
The question is this: Why a frenzy about someone who is living the “good” life in as normal a way as a high figure sports figure could?
Answer: He stands out from the pack.
Answer: Because there have been so many bad boy sports heros as of late, living the fast life, the dangerous life, the rebelious-take-this-and-cram-it life. For many, their stardom, they believe, is a ticket to recklessness. The fame and money is a drug, a moral tranquilizer, a grandiosity pill. They hit the news now and we shrug. Oh, another one on suspension. Oh, another one headed to rehab.
And then there’s Tebow. We are jarred and shaken in the face of normal virtue. There can only be one explanation. It’s because of the context in which Mr. Tebow lives. That’s why he stands out, which is as much a commentary on everything that surrounds him as on himself.
Because he is young, and beceause he is mortal like everyone else, Tebow will pass through all the ups and downs and challenges and failings as other human beings. Like all of us he will integrate all the shadows that make up the strange human creature. But he has a leg up on it all. There is a foundation there that will ground all that humanity. Which may be why people are enamored. The secular city looks on in envy and some embarrassement and says under its breath, “How is that possible, this way of being in the world?”
When it’s not seen elsewhere the life of Tebow becomes a phenomonen. And that tells the story about everything that’s not Tebow.