Jim Klobuchar - Broadway Meets Tim Tebow, and Gulps
With the NFL draft just passed, Ecumen blogger and former Minnesota Vikings beat writer Jim Klobuchar discusses Tim Tebow, whom many football fans will have their eye on in the upcoming season.
The first time I saw Tim Tebow on a football field, I took off my glasses, wiped them carefully, and said “Oh, my.”
He had just scored a touchdown for the University of Florida and was kneeling in prayer on the sideline. A quotation from the Bible, somewhere near his eyelashes, greeted the arrival of the television camera.
Public declarations of faith are not uncommon in the athletic battlegrounds. Some of them are intended to announce the grateful warrior as a pilgrim and a humble servant, for all of his touchdowns and his appearances on ESPN.
For other athletes and public figures, most of these scenes create scant controversy. We all express some of our emotions or commitments publicly. We pray quite publicly in church or at a political rally. We make sure we bow to the flag or salute when it passes. We don’t mind creating a mild spectacle by standing up and yelling BRAV-OH or, in the cornbelt version, ALL RIGHT when the piano soloist comes galloping down the keyboard of a Rachmaninoff concerto, finishes on time with the cellos and leaps up to hug the conductor.
So such public displays become part of the fabric of the event. But Tebow’s act, especially after he joined the professionals, helped galvanize millions of detractors—especially those who didn’t think he had the tools to play quarterback in the National Football League. Among those skeptics was the brain trust of the Denver Broncos, for whom Tebow played quarterback for all of one full season, and in that time brought them from behind a half dozen times and actually lifted them into the National Football League playoffs. So where he goes, he wins.
The other curious part of all of this is that even for his most exasperated critics, it almost impossible to get mad at the guy. He was always forthcoming answering questions. Almost all of his teammates liked and respected him, not only for his decency and courteous manner in the lockeroom and on the field, but for his growing skills as a professional football player. Eventually most of his off-the-field life got a fair airing. He did spend hours and thousands of dollars helping underprivileged kids. He played with them and hugged them. If this was acting his faith, it was also expressing a humanity he felt. So that was not your every day public relations. Players don’t usually like posturers. This one was not that, and he was a regular guy in the lockerroom, taking part in the jokes unless they they drifted into the crude.
His rap as a quarterback, was his style of launching the forward pass. To wind up and let go of the ball, they said, it took him forever. Which it does. But where he goes, he wins.
His new employers, the New York Jets, at least publicly are planning to use his gifts as a runner and occasional passer from the so-called wildcat formation that gives the player an option to do either. Tebow is a powerful and gutsy runner. He also has a brain livelier than most.
But it has been the almost overnight conversion of once crusty critics to this man’s reality as an earnest and thoughtful human being that has been upside of the Tim Tebow saga of the last few weeks.
He recently went before the most volatile jury in American athletics, 200 New York sports writers and broadcasters, who have rarely been charged with being romanticists. The baiting material was available to them. Is this guy actually for real? Apart from the Gospel, can he play quarterback in the NFL? And whether or not Tebow is used as a hammering runner (he weighs 240 pounds) in the wildcat, he wants eventually to play quarterback. And the current Jets quarterback, Mark Sanchez, is already in trouble with the fans, the writers and probably the coaches.
So Tebow and Sanchez have already talked by phone, respectfully. Tebow said it's in earnest and with mutual respect. Why argue. Even in New York, how are you going to create a feud out of that? And then there is Rex Ryan, the Jets head coach, whose workaday language and routine supply of four letter words could melt glaciers on Mt. Rainer.
None of which seemed to curb Tim Tebow’s excitement about playing pro football in front of the least forgiving fans on earth. “We’ll be friends,” you know he is telling himself today; as though Tim Tebow knows something about life that some of the rest of us may have missed.
He may be right.
About Jim Klobuchar:
In 45 years of daily journalism, Jim Klobuchar’s coverage ranged from presidential campaigns to a trash collector’s ball. He has written from the floor of a tent in the middle of Alaska, from helicopters, from the Alps and from the edge of a sand trap. He was invited to lunch by royalty and to a fist fight by the late Minnesota Viking football coach, Norm Van Brocklin. He wrote a popular column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 30 years and has authored 23 books. Retiring as a columnist in 1996, he contributes to Ecumen’s “Changing Aging” blog, MinnPost.com and the Christian Science Monitor. He also leads trips around the world and an annual bike trip across Northern Minnesota. He’s climbed the Matterhorn in the Alps 8 times and has ridden his bike around Lake Superior. He’s also the proud father of two daughters, including Minnesota's senior U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.