I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here before, but my dog is perfect. Her perfection isn’t always obvious to the uninitiated. Those who don’t know what’s really important might think that, because she’s a mutt, she’s a little goofy looking. They may feel that her habit of slipping on the kitchen floor and crashing into kitchen cabinets bespeaks a lack of that grace and elegance that the best dogs should have. And maybe, just maybe, there are some who think that, because she doesn’t do tricks (no rolling, no shaking hands) she’s not too bright. As I’ve said, the people who see only those traits — traits I find endearing — are missing her essence.
My dog is perfect because she is quite possibly the nicest dog in the world, which is exactly what one wants in a family pet. She adores people, but in a diffident way that precludes aggressive friendliness. She stands there, face smiling, tail wagging gently, signalling to people that she would be very happy to engage with them, but allowing them to make the first move. No wonder the little girls in the neighborhood are her biggest fans. She’s tidy, obedient, cuddly, playful, etc., etc. Where it matters, she’s the best.
What does this have to do with Tim Tebow?
Well, Tim Tebow didn’t win his last football game. It was a biggie, and his team had a fairly ignominious defeat. That allowed the usual crowd to talk about the fact that, as a quarterback, he’s still immature (which, given his age and short career falls into the “well, duh” category), that he’s got a bizarre playing technique, that he’s too slow to react, etc. He is imperfect and, the naysayers imply, unworthy of the attention lavished upon him.
These naysayers, of course, are missing the point. Well, I agree that Tim Tebow is not perfect, because no human being is, he is an exemplary young man in all the areas that matter. He is deeply kind, humble, generous and, as we learned today, truly stalwart. Despite sustaining very painful injuries after this weekend’s game was already good and lost, Tebow did not give up and, instead, played through the pain:
“I just wanted to show character. You just continue to fight and it doesn’t change who you are, how you play, how you go out there, you should be the same at all times,” Tebow said. “That’s what I wanted to show, it didn’t matter if it was the first play or the last play or you were down by 42. I was going to be the same player and I was still going to give everything I have. Because that’s all I have to give.”
There is a fundamental decency in that statement that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whether Tebow ever wins another football game. It is enough that this season placed Tebow in the public eye so that as many people as possible can hear his message. Certainly, his message his about his faith, and I don’t want to belittle that core component of his personality. To limit what he offers to faith, however, is to do him disservice. His approach to his faith means that, in his conduct, he sends a larger message about the human spirit, and this is a message that should reach all young people, whether they share his faith or not.
Certainly, I want my children to know that you can be famous, good-looking, talented . . . and courageous, kind, generous, moral, chaste, and all the other good stuff he is. In a world saturated with Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Gansta Rappers, and all the other foul people polluting pop culture, what a tremendous gift Tebow is to our young people. He uses his bully pulpit, not to tell people to use one sheet of toilet paper, buy $100,000 electric cars, or have sex, but, instead, to lead by example in the purest sense. His is a doctrine of love, not just for God, but for human-kind.
It is this last point that makes a mockery of those anti-Tebowists who claim that they fear criticizing him lest his fans become violent. No, I’m not kidding. Max Lindenman, who feels as I do that Tebow has become an important symbol in the culture wars, caught a liberal columnist make precisely this point:
Yesterday in the Atlantic, I read a blog post that really turned my head. Robert Wright warns non-religious people, especially those he calls “liberals,” that “dissing” Tebow is a bad idea…because it might make the other guys really mad. Extreme “religious conservatives,” who “consider themselves to be at war with the prevailing culture,” will take cracks against Tebow as cues to “reject the entire liberal agenda, ranging from gay rights to uncensored science education in the public schools.” Liberals, he advises, should be as discreet regarding the Broncos QB as the Jyllands-Posten wasn’t regarding Muhammad, prophet of Islam.
Unlike the Islamists, Tebow is the Abou ben Adam of faith, one who manifestly loves his fellow man as part of his faith in God. No one who respects Tebow is going to use violence as a means of expressing that support.
There are others like Tebow — Marine Lance Corporal Donald Hogan, for example, who
earned was awarded a posthumous Navy Cross — who have this abiding love for mankind. What they lack, however, is Tebow’s prominence. There are too many heroes whose work is done in the quiet and the dark. Tebow brings their ethos into the light.
I don’t care that Tebow is a somewhat ungainly quarterback. As a parent, and as someone who has watched our pop culture decay for too many years, I care deeply that Tebow is almost perfect in the areas that matter. He is a gift to our culture, and I hope that as many people as possible appreciate this gift.