With the AFC playoff game this weekend, Tebowmania promises to hit new heights. Straight men around the country are openly acknowledging their man crush on the Broncos’ quarterback, while Christian parents from coast to coast dream of such a match for their daughters. I’m definitely not one to idolize athletes, but in this case even I have to admit that Tebow is the real thing. I only have one regret: He’s not a Mormon. Or a Jew.
What’s not to like about a polite young man who has taken a vow of chastity amid tremendous temptation, who takes time off to perform missionary work in the Philippines, and who tapes a pro-life commercial for the Super Bowl? If sports fans can find much to like in the semi-literate, tattooed thugs who populate many NFL rosters, then they should be positively ecstatic that a clean-cut kid like Tebow is setting an example for their kids by succeeding without compromising his moral principles. If I were a Mormon youth leader or a Jewish day school principal in Denver, I’d be begging him to come and speak to my charges.
There are a few famous Mormon athletes (e.g., Steve Young, Jimmer Fredette), but I can’t think of one who has ever dropped to one knee in prayer on the field or started a press conference by thanking his Lord and Savior. I know that some people are put off by these actions, but I find them inspiring. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear an LDS football player publicly thank his Lord on a regular basis?
As things now stand, a professional Jewish athlete’s perceived religiosity is measured by his willingness not to play on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews. How inspiring it would be to have the observance bar raised by a Jewish baseball star who not only stays home on Yom Kippur but also mentions Hashem by name in every interview. I have long been an advocate for Jewish proselytizing efforts, which would be enhanced by having prominent Jews regularly proclaim their love for the God of Israel.
Of course, these pious proclamations would have to be sincere in order to have the desired effect. If a Mormon or Jewish athlete doesn’t feel like letting the world know of his love for his Creator, then he shouldn’t. However, I remain grateful to Tim Tebow for reminding us every week of the depth of his faith and for encouraging religious people around the country to be proud of theirs. Yasher koach, Tim.