Friday, February 24, 2012

Tim Tebow: Understanding the Spin and Seeing the Bigger Picture

On the morning of February 03, 2012, ESPN aired an interview that featured Tim Tebow. In it, ESPN's Skip Bayless did not focus on Tebow's highly criticized throwing motion or his ability as an NFL quarterback. Given the limited amount of air time the interview was allotted, he knew he needed to cut through these superficial topics and get right down to what has made Tebow the most polarizing athlete of 2011. Next to politics, there's nothing more that polarizes Americans than the topic of religion. Recognizing this fact, ESPN chose a snippet of the interview in its thirty one second teaser commercial that featured Skip Bayless asking Tebow, "How much of a role does God play in winning or losing a football game?"

In the interview, Tebow responded by saying, "That's a good question. I think for me . . . when I'm praying before games and during games, when I get on my knees in what's become Tebowing . . . I'm asking the Lord for strength whether I win or I lose, whether I'm the hero or the goat; I'm still gonna be the same person. I'm gonna treat others the way I want to be treated. I'm gonna do my best and I'm gonna do what's right and regardless, I'm gonna give Him the glory, and part of taking a knee is humbling yourself and it's a form of showing humility where you're putting someone else first and putting the Lord first, and that's why I do it. . . More than anything, more than asking for wins and losses - I'm asking that I have a platform to honor Him."

Bayless went on to say, "So bottom line, you don't think that God decides football games," and Tebow responded, "You know, I think God is involved in every aspect of our life." Bayless continued, "Or is it beyond you to know?"

"It's absolutely beyond me to know," replied Tebow. "I think God's in every aspect of our life, regardless, and I think the greatest thing is if we are honoring Him with what we do."

This was the best piece of media I've seen about Tim Tebow all year. Skip Bayless did a remarkable job, especially with the way he conducted the interview with a sense of fairness that hasn't been given to Tebow since entering the NFL. Rather than talk about all of his great attributes, mainstream society has preferred to surround him with controversy, which has been spearheaded by the media. Nobody understands controversy better than the media. Instead of taking an objective look at Tebow's admirable character traits and promote him as a great role model for people, the media chose to bask in the controversy surrounding "Tebowmania" and "Tebowing."

Wherever there is controversy, be sure that a trail of money follows it. For the media and profiteers to create a win-win scenario for themselves, they knew that it is as simple as igniting controversy by creating a love-him or hate-him attitude toward Tebow and fueling it with anything they can dig up on him. Knowing that there needs to always be a catalyst provoking both extreme feelings, the media remains relentless on spinning the public's mind. The more people they can spin to either extreme, the more money there is to be made.

Whether people realize it or not, they fuel the media's spin cycle by choosing either sides of the Tebow spectrum. Even I realize that by writing this article; I too am feeding the flames of controversy. In order for people to keep from fueling the media's spin, they would have to totally cut themselves off from the media or find the middle ground. Neither is something the media would like to see happen, especially the latter. When someone chooses the middle ground, they realize that there is neither hate nor love, but rather a sincere appreciation for the man and his character. This can be damaging for the media because they and their ulterior motives are exposed, and when this happens, their flaming profits begin to smolder; all the more reason why they continuously need to find good and bad things to spin.

Take for example, Tebowing, which is one of the biggest things fueling their spin. Just so you know, Tim Tebow isn't the first football player to kneel and pray in public or on a football field. During his February 01, 2012 appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show, he made this same statement to everyone watching. Interestingly enough, also released recent a video called "The Book of Tebow," which clearly points this out.

Personally speaking, I have seen players do this long before Tebow. My first recollection of this happening was sometime during the 1978 NFL season when I saw Roger Staubach kneel and pray on the sideline during one of their games. As an elementary school kid, I was captivated by the sight of number 12 praying. There was something about seeing one of the best quarterbacks of that time praying on the field that shed a positive light on the act of praying. I remember how my love for the Cowboys immediately shifted to my admiration for Roger Staubach because of it.

From that point on, I made it a point to always look for magazines that featured Staubach whenever I was at a grocery store with my parents or at the public library. One day, I scrounged up a dollar and some change to buy my first and most memorable magazine - the September 04, 1978 edition of Sports Illustrated that featured Staubach on its cover with the words "Roger Staubach, Straight Arrow of the Cowboys."

It was the first thing I had ever read that made an inspirational impact on my life. I read it over and over again. I admired the kind of man he was because of how he always went to church, performed good deeds for others, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, was a Heisman Trophy winner and one of the better quarterbacks at the time who kept winning games, often times coming from behind in the last quarter. Sound familiar? As a kid, I wanted to be like Staubach. When my friends and I played street football, I always pretended to be Staubach. Although football never became a vocational occupation for me, the image of Staubach and what he meant to me as a kid still resonates with me today.

When Tim Tebow was captured on film doing what Roger Staubach and many others before and after him did on their knee, such as Reggie White, Kurt Warner and Drew Brees (to name a few), Tebow was unfairly deemed as the creator of the popularized "Tebowing" act. I use the word unfairly because Tebowing, as most people understand it, is probably far from what Tebow would like it to be portrayed as. On the recent Jimmy Fallon show, he admitted that he is flattered by the sight of people imitating him on his knee, but I seriously doubt that it was his intent to make it into the novelty it is today. Kudos to those who actually pray when Tebowing in a picture, but I seriously doubt most people whose Tebowing pictures appear in the media and internet are actually praying. Also, I highly doubt that the people who coined the term and image of "Tebowing" were trying to encourage and promote prayer. There's a big difference between the conversations Tebow has with God on his knee and the superficial act of imitating him for any other reason than to pray.

The controversy surrounding Tebowing is unparalleled in the sporting world because it not only provokes controversy from non-believers, but it also rubs many Christians the wrong way. It's not unusual to see comments from Christians who attack and chastise Tebow with scriptures like Mathew 6:5-6, which speaks against public prayer. Such attacks are an added bonus for the media. After all, what could be better than having Christians and non-believers going at it? That's right, Christians fighting amongst themselves. Again, people tend to miss the bigger picture when they're caught up in the spin.

After the interview first aired on ESPN's First Take show, Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith and Jay Crawford had a discussion in where Smith, a huge critic of Tebow, came close to seeing the bigger picture, but managed to miss it in the end. After sincerely stating his appreciation for Tebow, Smith went on to say, "They're using him. When you talk about Tebowmania and the critics per say, what they're talking about is - you want us to be just like him. And a lot of people ain't. They could feel their love for God is sincere and it's deep, but they ain't him . . . When you look at a guy like Tim Tebow, you understand that he is legitimate with how he approaches it, but you fear that the public at large that supports him, support him not just because they like him, but because they want to use him as an example of what they want the rest of us to be. . . and so when Tim Tebow is out there and he's Tebowing and things of that nature, I'm not faulting him for it, but I don't want him to think that he has critics because of him. He has critics because of what his supporters want everyone else to be, and that's where the resistance comes because a lot of people on their best day cannot be that young man. They can't be him."

Then almost instantly, Skip Bayless brought Smith closer to the bigger picture by quickly responding, "But he is a pretty good role model." At which Smith replied, "Yeah great - fantastic - no doubt."

Only when one removes himself or herself from the spin of it all can one come to a middle ground, which is an understanding about Tebow that earns a true sense of appreciation, no matter how one feels about him as a football player. In order to come to this level of appreciation, all one has to do is learn more about him as a person, and people can do this by simply reading his book, "Through my Eyes." Those who have read it will see why people like Chuck Norris, Tony Dungy, Urban Meyer and Darius Rucker have rave reviews for it, but most importantly, they will come to know that there is much more about him than what the media portrays.

Times have drastically changed since Roger Staubach's days. Back then, families weren't as fragmented, role models were much more sought after, social Marxism and political correctness were at its infancy stages and a person's faith wasn't attacked in such a frequent and hostile manner as these days. If Tim Tebow were to have played in the NFL back then, he wouldn't have had the level of controversy surrounding him because of Staubach. The similarities that they share would not have diluted Tebow's uniqueness.

Both are known for their fourth quarter comebacks (Staubach was nicknamed "Captain Comeback" and the Broncos' fourth quarter is known as "Tebow time"); both ran headfirst into their opponents, both of their lives don't end at the goal line, both have a global perspective on life thanks to their experiences oversees (Vietnam for Staubach and Philippines for Tebow), both are incredible humanitarians and most importantly - they both are strong in their Christian faith and they aren't afraid to share it with others. These similarities would have likely resulted in the absence of Tebowing and what is now known as the Tebow phenomenon. Also, Tebow would have probably been surrounded with miniscule controversy compared to that which surrounds him today. At the most, he would have been placed alongside Staubach as another NFL quarterback that contrasted the womanizing and overly egotistical likes of Joe Namath.

Unfortunately for Tebow, he isn't afforded such luxury of playing football in the 1970's. Instead, he has to live in an era where Christian values are constantly threatened, and greed, vanity and selfishness are at an all time high.

If more people would step outside of the spin and remove their love-him or hate-him lens; they will realize how wrong the media is for trying to get people to think that they have to be just like Tebow to be a good person and how wrong they are for attacking him because he tries to honor God in whatever he does. They will also see that the scriptures used to persecute him actually share the same realm with the likes of Mathew 5:14-16, which tells us to be the light, and Mathew 7:1-5, which tells us not to judge. Without the tainted lenses, controversy can be replaced with clarity.

Clearly, not everyone is suppose to be just like Tebow by doing goodwill acts of grandeur, such as missionary work oversees or building hospitals, but it doesn't hurt to strive for such things. The bigger picture about Tebow has to do with heart and character - something the world needs more of. True appreciation for him comes when we realized that the world can become a better place when people, especially children, have someone to look up to as a role model who inspires them to choose good over bad and to use their own God given talents and gifts for the greater good.

In the end, everyone has their own platform; there are those who have much smaller and simpler platforms and there are those with bigger platforms than Tebow's. The most important thing about Tebow is that he is helping people discover their platform and then encourages them to use it to help others by living an exemplary life.