Tim Tebow: he wins in mysterious ways

Why a Bible-thumping quarterback is this fall’s most interesting sports star

He wins in mysterious ways

Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images

The secret to the polite, positive, peppy Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow—an athlete-evangelist who concludes sideline interviews with “Thank you” and tells print reporters to “Have a good day”—is obvious if you study his alliterative name. With his incessant talk of Jesus and his grovelling humility in the face of success, he is clearly a character who escaped from the dusty pages of some old, didactic magazine for children. Somewhere out there in the fiction universe, a mischievous, unkempt Will Webow is giving hotfoots and skipping church and mopily wondering where his straitlaced doppelgänger can possibly have gone.

Double Heisman Trophy winner Tebow, drafted by Denver in 2009 amid jeers from experts, took over the offence from Kyle Orton at halftime on Oct. 9. The Broncos were 1-3 in the standings and trailing their AFC West rivals San Diego 23-10 on the scoreboard. Tebow completed just four of 10 passes, but kept it close, passing for a touchdown and running for another. The Chargers eked out a 29-24 win, and Denver fans, then still as divided as professional critics were about Tebow’s unorthodox throwing technique, chanted his name appreciatively. The desperate Broncos, figuring they might as well see what they really had in their wild-throwing, fast-scrambling, bull-bodied talent, named him the starter.

And the magic began. Two weeks later, after a Denver bye, Tebow mounted a clumsy, near-disgraceful performance against Miami for 57 minutes, falling behind 15-0. No NFL team had ever come back from such a deficit, but Tebow’s Broncos won, 18-15, in overtime. He trampled the Oakland Raiders 38-24 alongside running back Willis McGahee the next week. Then he beat the Kansas City Chiefs 17-10 at formidable Arrowhead Stadium with another late comeback; his final passing stats were a feeble 2-for-8. Same story four days later against the New York Jets, and then the week after, against Miami.

This was officially starting to get spooky. With Denver needing a two-point conversion to send the Miami game into overtime, everyone in the stadium knew that Tebow would try to run the ball into the end zone himself—but the Dolphins spread their defenders as if they were facing a conventional pocket passer, a merely human QB. Tebow’s unchallenged saunter across the goal line would have launched a thousand Jesus metaphors even if he weren’t particularly religious.

Tebow is now 6-1 this season as a starter, having added another absurd flourish to his legend on Dec. 11 at home against the Chicago Bears. As usual, Tebow’s team was behind late, with a 10-0 score on the board and a little more than two minutes remaining on the clock. As usual, Tebow had collaborated with his frankly stone-handed receivers to compile abominable passing stats. Worse yet, Denver had no timeouts left. Even when they scored to make it 10-7, the cause should have been hopeless.

But the clock stopped for the two-minute warning, and then Bears running back Marion Barber inexplicably headed for the sideline on a rushing play, stopping the clock again by going out of bounds. The ensuing punt gave Tebow the ball back with 56 seconds to go. Who needs timeouts? Tebow drove downfield to put kicker Matt Prater in field-goal range, and Prater sent it to overtime with a 59-yarder. The Bears won the toss, Barber lost a fumble, and it was all over but the chanting.

The whole idea of sport, the only reason it is worth an iota of anybody’s attention, is that it is unscripted but, at its finest, has the suspenseful, climactic, satisfying quality of a scripted narrative. Nobody in sport, or nobody within living memory anyway, has accomplished this the way Tebow has in the past few weeks, with repeated comebacks (often not having much to do with the quality of his own play) from impossibly unfavourable situations. There is irony in a devout Christian athlete playing this role, for Christians think that love and beauty and justice are proof that the world itself is scripted by an unseen author. By that standard, we might conclude that the NFL, like pro wrestling, has writers behind the scenes, scribbling the next outrageous chapter in the Tebow story. It’s special precisely because there is no author . . . probably.

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Tim Tebow: he wins in mysterious ways

  1. He won one Heisman FYI, just saying. Go Bronco’s!

  2. Minor geeky quibble – Tebow was drafted in 2010, not 2009.

  3. I guess now that Colby has read a number of the the hundreds of online articles regarding Tim Tebow, he feels adequately informed to tell Canadians about Tim Tebow.  However, I do not need to read McLeans to get a perspective on Tim Tebow, particularly when it the subject article is comprised of heavily recycled information.  Oh yeah, Tebow is 7and 1 as a starter…..gee I wonder why I feel I do not need to read McLeans.  

    • I’m also enjoying not reading MacLeans. I don’t read it several times a week. Why would I? Like we need ANOTHER Tim Tebow article juxtaposing an existential worldview with evangelical fatalism and the appearance of intentional narrative in sport.

      • Huh?

  4. If the Lord is for Tim Tebow, who one can stand against what the Lord has planned? Ultimately, this isn’t about Tim (and Tim knows this). Tim has been gifted with talent and a heart fille with genuijne gratitude for what he has been given. The Lord God will use (even) the NFL to draw attention to what is most important. Just watch and see!  Here’s an interesting irony for non believers as well as believers to observe:  Tom Brady (a god to many of you) vs Tim Tebow (a servant of God whom God is using even in what is typically a predatorial/sinful/violent environment to bring attention to the Creator of the universe). If Tim is the genuine article and it appears thus far that he is, the Broncos will win over the Pats in what has now becaome typical ‘Tebow’ fashion:  mysteriously!  And Tim will continue to take a knee and give thanks and praise where it rightfully belongs.  To his God. And yes, he will also continue to thank everyone interviewing him just as politely as before and to wish all ‘to have a nice day!’.  

    Because win or lose, Tim is doing what he is supposed to do whith the talent and gifts he has been given.  Tim will enjoy the ride and the servie while his God allows him to enjoy the privilege whilst blessing the world. 

    But when the Lord calls him to leave this environment (if he is the genuine article), he will ..
    Praise the Lord for Tim Tebow       

  5. I’d be surprised if God cares about the outcomes of football games or Tim Tebow’s professional career, but there is real good in catching the attention of sports fans, drawing their attention to their life’s purpose for a moment, and getting them to think about whether they are fulfilling it.  

    No one knows the mind of God, but it looks to me like Tebow’s successes are precisely for that purpose.  They are clearly not his doing, they are invariably surprising, and the fact that he is who and what he is forces people to make connections to the larger questions.

    If that is so, then his successes will end as soon as their purpose has been accomplished.  He seems to be a strong character, but I doubt any young man can sustain long term success in today’s NFL without eventually getting corrupted either by the adulation or the sexual temptations.  As long as Tebow stays true, I’m confident he’ll be pulled out of that battlezone (i.e. he’ll fail as a QB so that he can move on with his life) before he cracks.

  6. I am starting to have some serious doubts about the Lord.  He has time to involve help Tim Tebow win a football game; however, after all of these years still can’t seem to find any energy to assist the 30,000 people who die of starvation each year.  

    Hey, on a more positive note, do you suppose that if Tim Tebow started playing hockey for the Maple Leafs they might finally win the Stanley Cup? 

    • Can God make a rock so huge he can’t lift it?

  7. Praise Jesus all you want, whatever happened to Hail Mary passes?

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