ESPN reports that Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow became the U.S.' favorite athlete in their monthly poll. And media coverage reflects this popularity. Many stories are simply about his amazing game last Sunday or his works among the community. But many others deal with religion. And some of them more successfully than others. If you need a refresher for why we're talking Tebow and religion this week, Cathy Lynn Grossman explains in her piece headlined "It's Tebow time: Denver quarterback inspires nation" for USA Today:
Both Tebow and his favorite Bible verse, John 3:16 (proclaiming Jesus' promise of salvation), were in the top three Google Trends throughout most of Monday. Many people noted he threw for exactly 316 yards, an unintentional allusion to the Bible verse he etched into his eye black while winning national championships at the University of Florida.
The other day I asked for examples of stories that hit or missed the mark. And you delivered. Thanks. One reader sent in this Huffington Post piece that purports to give the meaning of John 3:16 but then proceeds to not even try to explain it. Weird. Headline:
John 3:16: Meaning Of Tim Tebow's Touted Bible Verse And A Look Into Religion In Sports
And unless by "meaning" they mean "we'll now quote that verse," there's nothing close to an explanation contained in the story. I know that the Huffington Post's popularity is due in large part to gaming search engine optimization but come on. At the other end of the spectrum is this CNN report that also claims to "explain" John 3:16. I think reporter Eric Marrapodi did much, much better. After going through the 316 passing yards and other "3-1-6" statistics, he writes:
Those figures inspired plenty of conversation and debate about a connection some saw to one of the most famous verses in the Bible, John 3:16.
The New Testament verse is held up by Christians around the globe because it neatly summarizes some key points of Christianity: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life." (NIV)
In the third chapter in the Gospel of John, Jesus is having a late night discussion with a Pharisee, one of the Jewish teachers of the law, named Nicodemus. The chapter is also where the expression "born again" originates.
Jesus tells Nicodemus: "...no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." In his longer explanation of that idea, Jesus gets to the core of his message in verse 3:16.
The verse is popular with Christians looking to share their faith because it's short and information-packed: God loves humankind, man has sinned and is destined for eternal punishment, but eternal live (sic) awaits all who believe in God's son, Jesus.
I'm wondering how that typo got in there. But other than that, not bad, eh? I noticed that this story was getting major CNN.com treatment on the front page of the site, too.
Another reader sent in this CBS Denver 4 story headlined "Atheist Group Believes Tebow ‘Full Of Crap’ With Public Display Of Christianity." The story is just a mess, quoting competing heads of organizations -- yippee! -- about public displays of faith:
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has seemingly made himself the poster boy for Christianity, praying on the field after a win, putting Bible verses on his eye black during games and even starring in an anti-abortion ad during the Super Bowl, but one atheist group believes he’s doing it all for personal gain.
Didn't everyone else have the same editors I did? The ones who beat you senseless if you use the word "seemingly" in a story, much more the lede? Seriously, the loaded language and falsehoods in that first paragraph alone. And yes, I do know that people predicted an "anti-abortion" ad but it turned out not to use the words "abortion" or "pro-life" at all. Actual text of the ad:
PAM TEBOW: I call him my miracle baby. He almost didn’t make it into this world. I remember so many times when I almost lost him. It was so hard. Well he’s all grown up now, and I still worry about his health. Everybody treats him like he’s different, but to me, he’s just my baby. He’s my Timmy, and I love him. TIM TEBOW: Thanks mom. Love you too.
Anyway, not all stories were bad. I sort of loved (read: cried while watching) this Denver CBS 4 video report of Bailey Knaub, a young woman who has had 73 surgeries in 10 years for an auto-immune disorder. He brought her and her family to the game and gave her a shout-out after the game. The report doesn't go into as much on religion as it could, I guess, but it shows the Bible he gave her and mentions prayer and shared faith. This Loveland Reporter-Herald story was also good for the way it blended religious details into the larger story. It also made me cry.
I had high hopes that this Sun-Sentinel piece would take a more sober look at the "Christian numerology" some people seem to be getting into this week but it was mostly just an attempt to make fun of anyone who thought his passing yard number was interesting. This Religion News Service piece is a bit old, but for a more critical look at Tebowmania, I thought it was very nicely balanced.
(I wasn't sure whether to illustrate this post with "All he does is win," above, or "Tim Tebow's Fire" by John Parr.)