Gospel according to game changer Tim Tebow: To thine own self be true

College football great switches to baseball but his goal of helping disadvantaged stays firmly intact

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 October, 2016, 12:25pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 October, 2016, 10:05am

Yes, he is pious and openly so. For some that is a non-starter. Live and let live, you do your thing and I will do mine. Ironically, this is also the mantra of one of the most polarising figures in US sports. Tim Tebow is living his life on his own terms. He has a message of caring and empathy for one and all and if this is of no interest to you then you go your way and he will go his, no hard feelings.

Seemingly quite a simple and agreeable sort, the reaction to him is just the opposite. One of the most decorated college football quarterbacks of all time, the former Heisman trophy winner could never translate that success to the NFL. A hulking, physical presence, he is hardly the stereotypical professional quarterback and bounced between four teams before being released this past year. Coaches saw his tremendous athletic ability and tried to convert him to another position but he was not having it. Along the way, he had a few memorable NFL moments and quickly became a popular culture phenom renowned for “Tebowing”, taking a knee to give thanks to the Lord after scoring a touchdown. Everything he does attracts an outrageous amount of media attention and he knows it.

Born in Manila to American missionary parents, his stated modus operandi is to make the life of others less fortunate better. “I think the greatest form of love is choosing the best interest of another person and acting on their behalf,” he said.

Of course, choosing the best interest of another person might be construed as manipulative and this could all be empty rhetoric as well if Tebow was not actually living his words. He has devoted a great deal of his earnings and time towards his foundation to help the disadvantaged and built a modern hospital and shelter in a remote part of the Philippines that is reportedly home to over 2,000 needy orphans.

Despite an armada of cynics, at this stage at least Tebow appears to be exactly what he says he is and now that his football dream is over, he is pursuing another dream: professional baseball. A high school star, he gave up baseball to concentrate on football but claims his love for the sport is still there and after going through a series of drills for pro scouts recently, the New York Mets decided to take a flyer and sign him to a developmental contract. At 29 years of age, it’s a long shot at best but not surprisingly Tebow is far from daunted.

“It’s amazing when you do something for the love of it,” he said. “I am so passionate about the game and pursuing it and playing every day is just so much fun.”

Many, however, are not so passionate about his baseball foray. “He looks like an impostor pretending to have talent he does not possess,” ESPN baseball insider Keith Law wrote, before adding that, “Everyone involved in the decision should be embarrassed.”

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson was far from embarrassed. “This is entertainment,” he told The New Yorker. “It’s not the cold war.”

When early returns on Tebow’s baseball debut were less than favourable another ESPN analyst whose occupation is provocation, Stephen A Smith, told Tebow it’s natural some people are saying he should go back to football regardless of his position.

“It’s fine if people look at me and say that’s what I should be doing,” he told Smith. “But they’re not me. I might be able to go do pretty well [at another position]. But if it’s not in my heart, why I am going to do that?”

There, right there. Take a second to digest the simplicity of that logic. Smith certainly did and he had no retort. How could he? Baseball will decide if Tebow has a future in the game. No one else.

With his high public profile and positive nature, talk has inevitably turned to a career in politics and Tebow actually turned down an invitation to speak at this summer’s Republican convention.

One can only hope, for now at least, he resists the urge to become part of the open sewer that is politics today because the unfettered vitriol would only beat the empathy out of a man who has never spoken an ill word publicly about anyone.

That in itself is inspirational and while some of us watch sports to see wondrous achievements we are not physically capable of, others watch sports to see tales of perseverance and fortitude.

Inspiration and perspiration. Tim Tebow is more than a bit of both.