Tim Tebow’s opening drive Thursday dripped with every criticism ever hurled in his vicinity.
Quick to run. Slow to set up, read, release. Lacking accuracy.
And because this was Tim Tebow rather than, say, Brady Quinn, we heard an "amen" from an angry congregation of sports fans reveling in his fail. If Schadenfreude needs a corporate sponsor, call Twitter. Fans and journalists alike unloaded on the Broncos quarterback and his faith 140 characters at a time early and often during Thursday’s preseason festivities.
Tebow in game. Let’s see if he can cure leprosy.
God has decided to wait until regular season to start assisting Tebow.
God flipping over from GOP debate to watch Tebow.
All were in stark contrast to Tebow’s "Joshua 1:9" pregame tweet that loosely translates to "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go," depending on your Bible of choice.
I am not a preacher. And this is not a sermon.
My message actually is just a question: Why? What about Tebow brings out such meanness in us?
Because this seems strangely personal, like some folks want him to fail, just to be able to ask, "Where’s your Messiah now?" — also seen on Twitter on Thursday. I have seen columns already calling him a failure, predicting his imminent demise, detailing why he fails, ripping his practice, his preparation, telling missionaries to save a seat for him because he’ll be joining them soon, questioning if maybe God wants him to be a backup. His Christianity and his performance linked together, both used as punch lines.
After the game, I asked him why he thought criticism of him was so fierce, so wildly personal, so often faith-based.
"Well gosh, I’m not sure. It’s hard to say," Tebow said. "My faith has been a big part of my life and it’s something that I feel like I show, but I don’t feel like I am ever too outward about it as far as putting other people down or preaching."
"Preachy" seems to be a favorite criticism, anyway. Overhyped, overexposed, preachy and not really good all get mentioned. I witnessed none of that Thursday. Admittedly, the sample size was small, but the sincerity of the kid almost knocked me over. He’s a Heisman Trophy winner, a two-time national champion and a good kid.
So we kill him. And by "we," I really mean y’all.
Full disclosure: I like this kid for all the reasons many seem to despise him. I like how he wears his faith proudly. I like how he seems to practice what he preaches. I like how he believes in himself despite waves of doubt coming from all corners. I like how he delivers punishing hits. I like what he stands for. I like his heart. And I am not so convinced Merril Hoge is right in giggly dismissing his chances of being an NFL quarterback. I believe Tebow may just turn into a quarterback despite his flaws. I have this thing about not betting against winners.
Or at least I am unwilling to rip him for believing he can.
If the worst thing that can be said about a kid is he believes he’ll be an NFL quarterback because he believes in God, he’s doing all right. He’s not saying God has guaranteed him a starting job, rather that his faith in himself comes from his belief in God. I read once where Pastor Rick Warren said, "God wants to turn your test into a testimony; your mess into a message." Tebow recognizes failure can be a testimony as well, depending how one wears it.
And let’s dispense with this idea that somehow Tebow already has established himself as a failure and does not belong in a Broncos QB discussion that includes Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn. All three look better equipped to step into a J Crew ad than John Elway’s shoes.
This is not simply about Tebow’s play, this is personal.
And even if he ends up being the worst quarterback in the history of quarterbacks, why are we OK with turning his Christianity into a punch line? If Tebow were a devout Muslim, would we snark about tenets of his religion? Or if he were Jewish? Or Buddhist? Or atheist? Or Espicopalian?
Maybe, but those cracks would be flagged by the PC crowd almost immediately. Christianity is fair game.
In a league fraught with all kinds — sinners and saints, good guys and great talent, dog killers, vehicular manslaughterers, adulterers and a whole bunch of other "—ers" we have chosen to ignore — we hate him.
All I can figure is we just want our athletes to say sound bites about "giving all the glory to God" and leave it at that. We do not want to hear about them actually living this, and we snark on them if they do.
But I am preaching now. And this is not a sermon.
This is about a young quarterback who, after a shaky first drive, finished 6 for 7 for 91 yards and generally acquitted himself decently, who believes he’ll be a starting NFL quarterback one day and who puts his faith in God.
So, by all means, go ahead and hate him. Just ask yourself why.
Because hating him seems to say more about the congregation than the Evangelical quarterback.