Tim Tebow: Not All Sports Heroes Have Four Legs
Today's cuppa: English breakfast tea
Surprisingly enough, this isn't the first time that former Florida Gators and current Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow has made an HCTV appearance -- click here for proof -- but I have to be truthful in saying that I'm a recent member of Team Tebow and will assuredly be watching him take on the New England Patriots and QB Tom Brady tonight on CBS.
I was vaguely aware of the pro- and anti-Tebow factions out there since he began starting for the Broncos, but it wasn't until my Twitter stream started exploding during his recent six-game win streak that I really started to pay attention.
How could I not love a big, good-looking, hard-working, well-mannered kid who pulled off crazy, upset, nail-biting underdog victories in the fourth quarter or overtime -- a k a "Tebow Time" -- and drove self-important, cynical egomaniacs like Bill Maher and Charles Barkley absolutely bonkers? His unabashed public faith and especially his charitable work -- outlined here and here -- are just the cherries on top. Even the New York Times kinda likes him.
Recently, I was on the set of "Justified" talking Tebow during a break with a couple of the writers, and one of them suggested that he was like Matt Saracen, QB2 of NBC's Texas high-school football drama "Friday Night Lights."
Kicked to the top spot when the Dillon Panthers' hotshot QB1 Jason Street, played by Scott Porter (currently of my beloved "Hart of Dixie," on The CW), was permanently sidelined, Saracen may have lacked Street's natural gifts, but he made up for it with hard work, determination, heart and leadership.
Every "FNL" fan I shared this theory with liked the analogy, along with "FNL" executive producer Jason Katims, whom I saw at the NBC party during the current Television Critics Association Press Tour.
(And by the way, wouldn't it be awesome if Tebow did a cameo on "Hart of Dixie"? Along with Porter, the show also features a former NFL linebacker, played by Cress Williams, as the mayor of Bluebell, Ala., so it seems like a natural to me that Tebow might drop by for a visit.)
But in the real sports world, human heroes are increasingly hard to find.
Back during the Great Depression, when the nation was at a psychological and emotional low, the underdog racehorse Seabiscuit came on the scene and helped lift the spirits of the country. The 2003 movie "Seabiscuit," based on Laura Hillenbrand's book, made that point strongly, weaving in documentary footage of bread lines and WPA projects.
Then, in the 1970s, during another economic downturn, we had a string of Triple Crown winners, beginning with the first in 25 years, the big chestnut Secretariat. In the 2010 movie "Secretariat," director Randall Wallace leaned on the themes of people -- and a horse -- accomplishing things that naysayers claimed they never could.
A Christian, Wallace also layered in a faith element. In an interview, he said of Secretariat, "It's as if God whispered in his ear, 'Go,' and he went." Over footage of Secretariat's stunning Belmont Stakes victory, he played Edwin Hawkins' rousing version of the gospel song "Oh, Happy Day."
It's one thing to allow a horse to become an icon of athletic achievement and hope. Not being a flawed human being, a horse can only do what he or she was built to do -- run. It can't get drunk, end up in a mugshot, have a marriage go on the rocks or say something stupid in the press.
A horse can only be honest and pure and clean in victory or noble and sympathetic in defeat.
It's quite another thing to dare -- especially in these days, when it seems inevitable that everyone, no matter how well they start out, will wind up being spattered with muck -- even for a moment, to allow a human athlete to inspire us.
And for that athlete to be all of 24 years old, hardly more than a rookie, standing in the vortex of a cultural firestorm ... well, who knows how today's game will turn out, let alone next season or the rest of Tim Tebow's career and life?
I just know that he made football fun for me again, that he seems determined to do well and to do good, and that I'm endlessly amused by the people he endlessly irritates.
Good luck, Tim, and God Bless.
Tebowing with pride ...
UPDATE: Alas, the Broncos' playoff dreams ended in a decisive loss to the mighty New England Patriots, with Tebow remaining as even-tempered and classy as ever. Can't wait until next season!
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)