Tebow's mission and his critics

tim-tebow-ncaa-coverI keep forgetting that this evening's alleged national college football championship game is something in which sports fans are expected to be interested. The lack of a proper method for determining a national champion in college football really puts a downer in my interest in the game. Or maybe I'm still just sore about the Colts and the fact that Tony Dungy likely coached his last game in Indianapolis. However, I am reminded that this evening's football contest is not just a game. The nationally televised football game between Florida and Oklahoma is also a church-state event, and the ACLU may need to file a lawsuit to prevent Tim Tebow from doing an altar call at the end of the game.

Hear that critics of sports journalists' forays into covering the spiritual lives of the athletes they cover?

ESPN.com's Pat Forde felt compelled to write a nice article Tuesday focusing on how the haters should lay off Tebow and just focus on appreciating the "Tim Tebow experience."

The article started with Forde quoting a snarky reporter who apparently doesn't appreciate Tebow and his off the field behavior all that much:

"I don't mean to sound cynical, but between winning the national championship and winning the Heisman, saving the world in the Philippines and all, did you ever, like, sneak a cigarette when you were in high school? Do you ever do anything wrong? Do you feel like everything off the field is sort of on cruise control for you?" . . .

His response, in part:

"You know, everybody, they can look and say how easy it is. But it's definitely not that easy. The difference is 'cause not many people want to wake up at 5, go through workouts, go speak to young kids, go back, eat lunch, go to class, go to tutoring, go speak at a prison at night, come back. I mean, more people would do those things; they just don't want to sacrifice.

Forde doesn't directly address Tebow's faith all that much, but he did not really need to because the evidence of Tebow's faith is present in nearly everything he does. Tebow's story is well-known among sports fans, and if I manage to tune the game on this evening, this angle will be exactly what I will be looking for from the announcers, side-line reporters and post-game interviews.

This blog has in the past noted that the media has ignored Tebow's faith in the past. Fortunately, other news organizations are finding it difficult to ignore his faith now.

Amy Shipley of The Washington Post approached the Tebow story with a similar attitude towards Tebow's faith and background. His Christian faith was certainly a theme, but his family's decision to home-school him and his four siblings received more significant attention:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The first time Florida quarterback Tim Tebow faced a large crowd, he trembled with nervousness. Still months away from emerging as a high school star in northern Florida, Tebow, then 15, had never felt 10,000 sets of eyes upon him.

And most unsettling of all, he was nowhere near a football stadium. In fact, he stood some 9,300 miles away from his home at a village in South Cotabato, Philippines. On the first of now-annual missionary trips with his father, Tebow stood behind a microphone and told the assembled high school students about his Christian faith, putting to the test evangelistic skills honed through years of speech classes at home.

Neither of the articles focus much on the specifics of Tebow's faith. One has to wonder if Tebow did not go on the mission trip to the Philippines whether the subject would even be coming up. Only the ESPN.com article mentions the previously-reported fact that Tebow outlines the word "Phil 4:13" under the black marks under this eyes. (Apparently it's a common practice among athletes. Who knew?)

For those non-sports fans out there that read GetReligion, or people like me disillusioned with football for one reason or another, tonight may be the one night you want to turn into a major football game because how the broadcasters handle reporting and portraying displays of Tebow's faith will be quite interesting.

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