I grew up about forty minutes north of Solid Rock church located just off of I-75 in Monroe, Ohio, made famous by a 62-foot-high Jesus Christ statue built with fiber glass and foam. As if the size of the statue alone didn’t get noticed, many dubbed it Touchdown Jesus because of the likeness to a football referee calling a touchdown. Struck by lightning in June of 2010 and burned to the ground, church officials vow to rebuild.
Controversial? Yes. Did it make people look? Of course. Everyone who has seen it seems to have an opinion about the statue. Did it get people talking? Absolutely.
Although it appears to be inactive now, Touchdown Jesus has its own Facebook page. It and the controversy and inferred humor around it inspired a popular song, maybe more than one. There might be a twitter account. Touchdown Jesus has earned many a working and non-working comedian more than a few laughs. You can learn more from Google.
What might this have to do with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow? You can say the same about him, and many are doing just that. Social media, mainstream media, football fans, people standing around the water cooler at work (do they still do that?) are talking. A lot. Sharing, debating, arguing, judging, praising, questioning – wondering. Using the term controversial in the same sentence as his name. Oh, and there a few touchdowns associated with him too.
At the core of the discussion is the fact Mr. Tebow appears to be confident and comfortable sharing that he is a man of strong Christian faith. Did he ask for this mega-wattage spotlight? That, too, is debatable. He is an NFL football player for the first time in his young adult life. Many look to the quarterback as the team leader. He garnered the highest honor in college football by earning the Heisman trophy. He is a son, grandson, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, friend to many. For better or worse, he may not have asked for the title of public figure, but by his actions, he has earned it.
His mother has been quoted as promising he’d be a preacher. During this week’s AFC playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers, I read this comment on a Facebook thread, ‘a preacher doesn’t have to be in a pulpit wearing robes. He (Tebow) reaches all walks of people through the NFL.’ And another, ‘Hoping Tebow and crew can take down the Steelers today! I know it’s going to be an uphill climb, but we all know who is on Tebow’s side!’
A friend’s entry post the Broncos thrilling victory in overtime, ‘Tim Tebow has convinced me there is a God, and he doesn’t like the Steelers.’ Another friend wrote, ‘I admire how he carries himself and supports what he believes with his actions.’ Another, ‘The state of Colorado just converted the time zone from Mountain Time to Tebow Time!’ Then there is this, ‘And God sent his prophet from the city a mile in the sky to smite the Beast from the land of three rivers and cast the Beast into the lake of fire and brimstone of playoff oblivion. And his name was TIM TEBOW!’
Tebow has 1.4 million plus subscribers on Facebook. At the time of this post, more than 27,000 have commented and nearly 234,000 have ‘liked’ this entry appearing on his page Sunday, January 8: Praise the Lord! Thanks to all my teammates, coaches and fans…This win was for Bronco Nation! We couldn’t have done it without all of us working together as one. And yeah, Demaryius Thomas is a beast! GB²
I was curious about the GB² listed on many of his social media posts. I presumed it meant God bless. Then with further investigation, I found this on his twitter account: God bless + Go Broncos = GB². Ah, okay. Clever. Nothing wrong with clever.
So far, more than seven thousand people have shared his clever post on Facebook – add one for me writing about it here. In addition, there are many pages and groups on Facebook dedicated to chatter about Tim Tebow. Not all of them favorable. The same goes for Twitter. His @TimTebow account (denoted with the official blue & white check mark) has more than 911,000 followers. An account is dedicated to the @TebowFoundation. There are pages of Twitter accounts using his name or a likeness of his name, not all fans and not all nice. Some list things like Savior of Denver, Mile High Messiah in the online bios. As of the writing of this post, there were six Broncos-related topics trending on Google.
That’s a lot of people talking. This simply scratches the surface. One headline reads, Tim Tebow Pass Lands in Twitter’s Record Book With 9,420 Tweets Per Second . I’ve read his team jersey has sold more than anyone else’s in history. I haven’t validated that claim, but it does give pause. Others are ordering the Bronco’s jersey with the #15 and replacing Tebow’s name on the back with Jesus. Controversial? We all have our opinions.
I asked a group of my friends – moms active in social media, most with their own blog – to give me their thoughts on what is being reported in the media about my home team’s quarterback.
Shana, of ShanaMama.com comments about him sharing his faith, “I personally see no problems with it. Many baseball players will do the sign of the cross before walking up to the plate or after a run. The only difference? They aren’t always caught on camera while doing it. The media are always looking for someone to scrutinize and unfortunately anything religion related will always blow up. I say let the man pray, if you don’t like it, don’t watch.” She adds, “People are hateful and jealous. That’s all there is too it. If every boy grew up to talk about their love of their mothers and his faith no one would turn a blind eye. It’s because society has deemed it unacceptable to be comfortable in their own skin and with everything involved in their life.”
Lisa of Crazy Adventures in Parenting shares, “Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu signs the cross on his chest before and after every play. No one says a thing about him. I had a long talk with my mother, who is a die-hard Raiders fan, who obviously hates the Broncos, and she could not give me one concrete reason to dislike Tim Tebow that made any sense, other than the fact that he’s a Bronco.” She continues, “What the heck does it matter that he gets on his knee to pray after he plays? It’s who he is, and so, it’s different? Who cares? I think he’s adorable, and I think he’s EXACTLY what this league needs. I’ve watched him have a positive affect on other players, too, they see his successes and I’ve seen more quarterbacks, as a result, keep the ball and run with it themselves, more than any other season. Why? Because he succeeds doing it.”
Angela of The Renaissance Woman states, “I don’t think you can judge if someone else’s motivations are heartfelt, and in my opinion if he’s trying to remain strong in his personal faith he will be less likely to be running around making trouble. There’s definitely something refreshing about someone who realizes it’s not all about themselves in pro sports!”
Ratna of Get Clued In shares her thoughts, “While I agree that messages come in many ways, I do not think Tebow would be such a big hit if the messenger was from Islam or Hinduism or even perhaps Jewish — I do not want to start a debate on religion because that is not acceptable to me. I do believe in humility before the lord and shoving it down my throat in the name of football takes that message away NOT strengthens it for me. I like Tebow and I prefer athletes be like him, good-natured, service-oriented and spiritual and religious but a lot of fans are turning this into way too much than it is.” She continues, “I prefer goodness vs. evil in public light – all this Jesus hating/loving stuff is uncalled for, one is not synonymous with the other. I think you can love God and not like Tebow or the Broncos and vice versa. Let’s call this what it is – FOOTBALL! Sports HERO!”
Rachel of Rachel Ferrucci.com contributes, “As a true football fan, we don’t care about faith when it comes to the games, although there are a few people who crack jokes. You will hear most fans talk about if he’s a good QB or not. It seems it’s mostly being fueled by the media – I think they’re the ones with the problem or at least trying to get the fire started!” She continues, “Oh and the ones that crack jokes are the ones that talk crap about all the players, usually in good fun. I saw many say after the playoff game that he played awesome.”
Jenny, owner of Monkey-Toes states, “I love what he’s doing – making people talk about God. Good, bad, indifferent, he relies on Jesus to get through the game, it’s HIS personal choice. It has made me come out more with my faith and I’m sure it is helping others too.”
When making comparisons among other athletes grabbing headlines, Laura, who writes at Lala Girl says, “I’ll take the Jesus freak over the rapist any day!”
Theresa of Rock On Mommies thinks “those who cheat, steal, murder, run dog fights do get talked about negatively in the media. How long did we talk about Tiger (Woods)? I personally feel Tim Tebow is over the top. Though he has turned it down a little. His Superbowl ad a few years ago was a turn off for me. The whole thing just comes off contrived to me. I get tired of hearing it.”
Emily of Colorado Moms, who shares with friends her adoration of another NFL quarterback, New England Patriots Tom Brady, states, “I’m sorry, but I’d rather see Tebow’s faith in the papers and on TV and talks of his charity work, etc. than another story about a rapist, a druggie, thug, gang member, dog fighting football player.”
Along those lines, Chris of Mama Bird’s Blog says, ”It’s a sad comment on society today that thugs get a pass and are actually defended, but express your personal faith and you get demonized! Pun intended. It’s no wonder today’s youth are more likely to idolize degenerates than do-gooders. It’s exciting that Tim Tebow is changing that trend!”
Daria of Mom in Management feels ”religion does not make the man, nor does it make the football player or team. I equally know people who love Tebow because he praises God, and ones annoyed by it. What does any of it have to do with football?” She adds, “I have no issues with Tebow’s prayer, but it does irritate me that so much media attention has been given to it. Media is so geared toward sensationalism that I feel they create issues where there don’t need to be any just to get viewers. I sometimes feel the creation of controversy & riling up of the masses just for the sake of making money should be punished. This Tebow thing is causing division which I imagine has led to some fighting and property damage. Should the media be held accountable for these reactions?”
Why am I writing about the issue I’m calling faith on the field? I’m intrigued by dialogue, I love a good debate. But I’m struck by all the mean out there. We don’t know what the motivation is for people who make comments, most especially the anonymous comments. I question why we must place a target on those who strive for and achieve any measure of success?
One of my friends wonders why we lift athletes over people like teachers, volunteers, etc. – people she feels really do make a difference in our world. Good question.
While I don’t think the topic of religious expression should be controversial, it has been far longer than we’ve known anyone by the name of Tim Tebow. I am surprised the topic of one’s personal choice of religious expression, praise, has brought out such mean-spirited, hateful comments. Especially in the context of a football game. Can’t we simply respect that we’re different? Let us listen, learn and share without judgement? We are fortunate in America to have freedom of speech. I don’t believe that gives us carte blanche on being rude or replying with such insensitivity.
With the onslaught of new media, does it annoy you when issues like this and their messengers are given so much attention? Or do you feel it helps shed light on subjects like religious expression perhaps we should discuss more openly?
Here are just a few articles which prompted my post:
Next, I’ll write about athletes as role models and how Tim Tebow is doing in that role. Lots of people are, you guessed it, talking about that too.
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