Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Confounding the Wise: "Viewing Ourselves through Tim Tebow"

 Everyone has a Tebow story, or their take on Tebow.  This one from a psychologists perspective.  The only complaint that we have is the argument that Tebow is "naive."  Does he seem to have an air of "naivete"? To a certain extent. But can a guy who has spent the better part of his life in a locker room - high school, college, and the pros- really be naive to what goes on in the world?  Can a guy who has spent time volunteering and helping orphans in the Philippines, and traveling to Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, having seen first hand extreme poverty and other life's injustices really be "naive" or does it give him perspective?

As a psychoanalyst -- and avid football fan -- I view this cultural phenomenon from a particular perspective. Just as I listen for the significance and deeper meaning behind what patients talk about in my office, so do I when it comes to Tebow-talk....

You see, Tebow has an air of genuine naiveté unlike other celebrated sports figures, including those with religious interests. On and off the field, he seems to be totally unaware that as a famous person, he is constantly being observed, emulated and judged. But watch him we do. We see him smile with uninhibited glee. He celebrates his teammates' successes and offers solace and consolation when they mess up. He has this, "oh-jeez-golly" attitude that has us believing -- from the moment he runs on to the field until the last minutes of each and every game -- that we should share in his joy, hope and optimism about life.

And this, I'm convinced, is the cause of the Tebow drama. So many of us -- Christian or not -- want to believe he's the real deal, representing all that is good with human nature and the world around us. Much like the legendary horse Seabiscuit served to lift a nation during the Great Depression, so Tebow lovers look toward him to help them during these challenging times. They root for his ability to produce miracles during the fourth quarter -- and find his religiosity just part of it all. To question his attitude is to question their own.

Then there are the cynics -- or realists, as they probably call themselves. They feel it's their moral duty to bring Tebow down to earth where the rest of us live -- dragging with him all others naïve enough to believe in the powers above where he points after scoring his touchdowns. These skeptics remember the fall from grace by the likes of Tiger Woods and Brett Favre and wonder: when will this one fall too? How can Tebow be that naïve? Is he truly unaware of the power and influence he wields as an American idol? And, if he isn't, is he a fool? Is he some huge joke? Is the joke on us?

This is about our own ambivalent feelings. We are a nation divided by optimism and cynicism, fractured by intense feelings of hope and despair. While many still believe the recession will turn around, unemployment will drop and global warming will be halted, others view these same events through a much bleaker lens. As Tebow plays and prays, he embodies our ambivalence, should we continue to have faith or not -- in ourselves, in others, in our future.

Fully story here.