Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Tebow Matters

Tebowing is now officially recognized as an English language word. 
Austin, Texas December 12, 2011 – Tebowing, the act of ‘taking a knee’ in prayerful reflection in the mist of an athletic activity, has been acknowledged as an English language word according to the Global Language Monitor.

The rapid rise of use of the word  has seldom been equaled, mirroring, for example, the rate of  adoption of the word Obamamania in early 2008.  The first mention of the word can be traced to the dramatic overtime victory of the Denver Broncos football team over the Miami Dolphins on October 23, 2011.  During the victory celebration, Tim Tebow ‘took a knee’ and was photographed in a moment of prayerful reflection.  Tebow is the 2007 Heisman trophy winner who  led the University of Florida to the 2008 BCS National Championship.

But what does it really mean?  Is there anything new under the sun?  Has the image of a "hero" at prayer ever rallied a group, even a nation, in difficult times?

Who are our heroes today?  Military leaders?  Political figures?  Or sports figures?

In today's cultural climate our nation is divided over the war.  There is more support for today's soldiers than Vietnam, and even Korean, veterans.  But wide support for the war? No.

photo: @warkelly

At present, Congress has the lowest approval ratings in years, if not in known history at approximately 9%.  BP (16%)  and Paris Hilton (15%) have higher public approval ratings.

Then take into consideration the popularity of NFL football, and sports in general. 

NFL games account for 23 of the 25 this TV season's highest-rated shows, with the league's dominance only tweaked by Ashton Kutcher's Two and a Half Men's debut at No. 4 and the World Series game 7 at 23. In averaging 10.7% of U.S. households per game broadcast. Its average is down just 1% from last year's modern-era TV records, when the league had its highest-rated season since 1996 and most-watched since 1989.

Think about that.  24 of 25 of the most watched TV shows have been sporting events.  The single exception was Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen after his "winning" meltdown.

Would we like a more solid hero for our country right now?  A strong political leader who can steer our nation out of economic and political crisis?  Yes, we would.  But at the moment the guy on the American cultural landscape that makes people toss around words like "faith" and "hope" and "believe" and "miracles" and "persevere" is a football player.  And given that the largest audience is watching him play, we'll take it.

And it's not just us Tebow fans who think this or find inspiration from an unlikely source.  Check out what Mike Lupica wrote today in the New York Daily News:

They will talk about the air in Denver this time, because this time it took 110 yards worth of field goals in that air to get Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos to 8-5, get Tebow to a 7-1 record as a starter in one of the most wonderful and improbable seasons you will see in football. But really now the only air to talk about is the air around Tebow, who has made himself as much the story of the year in the NFL as the 13-0 Packers.

Think of all the bad stories in sports right now, some of them as bad as I have known in my time in newspapers. Think of Jerry Sandusky and the allegations at Syracuse and what we found out about Poly Prep from our paper’s I-Team. And the story about Bobby Dodd of the AAU and what he is alleged to have done with boys in his care a long time ago.
A few minutes later, Jimmy Johnson, one of the best coaches of his time in football, said this on the Fox postgame show: “(Tebow is) the best I've ever seen at bringing out the best in the people around him.”
And was again on Sunday. Eighteen of 24 passing in the fourth quarter and overtime. Another win for his team, now a first-place team in the AFC West.
So much bad news in sports. The good news continues to be Tim Tebow. The rarified air around him.

We'll say it again.  If you like Tim Tebow, then make being the man he is commonplace.

And if you don't like Tebow, think he's overrated, gets too much press, think it's preposterous that he is in anyway compared to George Washington, then knock him off the podium.  Replace him by being better than he is off the field;  Help orphans, volunteer, make a difference in the life of someone else to the extent that they won't notice some guy on TV.  Go be the hero in someone else's life.  Because, apparently, there is a shortage of real heroes today.  And getting down on one knee and saying a prayer certainly won't hurt.

We dare you.