Tim Tebow is a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and two-time college football national champion from the University of Florida. After college, he played for the Denver Broncos, the New York Jets, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the New England Patriots in the NFL before pursuing a professional baseball career in which he played four seasons with the New York Mets’ minor league affiliates. In the midst of all this, he spent seven years as a college football analyst for ESPN and has run a charitable foundation that has a global reach.
And now, he’s trying to make a comeback to the NFL, joining the Jacksonville Jaguars as a tight end in an attempt to make their final roster.
What does all of this have to do with SPORT. FAITH. LIFE.?
We brought Tebowmania to the Second Global Congress on Sport and Christianity in 2019. No other American athlete so captivates Christians like Tebow, and we wanted his popularity to energize the conference and engage local communities. He is the poster child for Christian athletes who do things right and well. He is a winner. He is a leader. And he comes from a strong evangelical Christian background. Everyone knows that he’s a committed Christian.
Tebow’s football “resurrection attempt” brings to light a number of questions at the intersection of sport and Christianity.
First, does God root for Christian athletes? No other Christian athlete has won so much while maintaining an authentic and brazen Christian faith (and, to be fair, no other Christian athlete has also failed so publicly). So, in this comeback attempt, is God on Tim Tebow’s side? Is Tim Tebow somehow divinely inspired? It sure seems like there are plenty of evangelical Christians who would love to see him succeed, thus justifying their faith and the power of Jesus Christ. Oh, and it might also indicate that God cares about sports.
Second, does Tim Tebow’s disciplined, fervent faith lead to his success, public platform, and popularity? In other words, does Tim Tebow’s faith provide him with prosperity? One of the things that has made him such a great athlete is his incredible work ethic. He works hard and shows great discipline. The same is true for his faith—he works hard at it and stays disciplined. Many Christians find prosperity gospel ideologies to lack scriptural or theological bases, but many are drawn to them nonetheless, demonstrating a human inclination to want to prosper. Elements of Tim Tebow’s story thus inspire Christians. But does it edify our faith?
Third, how does Tim Tebow’s platform change if he makes the team? Tim Tebow Jacksonville Jaguar jerseys are already a top seller, so his popularity would grow if he becomes relevant in football again. What made him so inspiring in college and in his lone NFL playoff victory is his leadership, strength, and drive. Tight ends are rarely seen as team leaders. They certainly don’t have the natural command of a team that quarterbacks do. Can he have influence if he is only a bench player, relegated to the sidelines or to special gimmicks on the field? Can he continue to inspire in any variety of roles he could fulfill? He failed to stay relevant when relegated to the practice squads of the Eagles and Patriots in 2013 and 2015, with his platform waning. What will happen, and how will it affect his ability to impact others for Christ’s kingdom?
Fourth, and probably most timely, what does it mean that a 33-year-old Tim Tebow who has only won one playoff game in three years as an NFL quarterback and hasn’t played any organized football in six years can get a tryout with an NFL team while Colin Kaepernick, a six-year veteran NFL quarterback who took a team to the Super Bowl, hasn’t been able to get a tryout since he was cut from the active roster of the San Francisco 49ers in 2017? Tebow is white and Kaepernick is black. What does this reveal about privilege in America and American football? Beneath all of this is the fact that Tebow fits into a narrative that perpetuates exactly what the Religious Right in America stands for: according to historian Kristin Kobes DuMez, it’s white, patriarchal dominance, muscular Christian values, evangelicalism, and a warrior mentality. In what ways does this storyline perpetuate prevailing social practices that have recently come under such scrutiny?
Tebowmania isn’t over yet, that’s for sure. And, at SPORT. FAITH. LIFE. we’re pleased that this gives us plenty to discuss at the intersection of sport and faith!