Peter is a fan of this kid. I am always skeptical of sports figures claiming to be Christian and living a life that doesn't match up. Maybe I am too judgemental...but this kid appears to be the real deal. Plus I have a soft spot for homeschoolers!
Cultural rebel on the gridiron
Father Raymond J.De Souza, National Post Published: Thursday, January 08, 2009
Tonight in Miami, the Oklahoma Sooners and Florida Gators will play for the American college football championship. If Florida wins, it will be due to the play of quarterback Tim Tebow. He is arguably the best player in college football, and, more than that, an important cultural phenomenon.
In 2007, Tebow was the first sophomore ever to win the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the most valuable collegiate football player in the nation. He was a runner-up this year for the Heisman; the winner was Sam Bradford, the Oklahoma quarterback who will face Tebow tonight.
In only three years of college ball, Tebow has already won a national championship and just about every individual award he has been eligible for. Yet it his character, rather than his athletic accomplishments, that have earned him a wide following.
The joke in Gainesville, home of the Florida Gators, is that Superman wears Tim Tebow pyjamas. That's not just a reference to the fact that Tebow, big and muscular enough to be a running back, has the quickness, throwing ability and smarts to play quarterback in the NFL. It's a reference to the fact that he seems to have no flaws. A good student, Tebow spends his free time volunteering with the poor, preaching in prisons and working with his parents' missionary programs in the Philippines.
Those familiar with the university scene have noticed a new creature on campus in this generation -- the culturally conservative, clean-living, academically successful, well-rounded, socially savvy, religiously observant student. He has not displaced his debauched classmates as the new big man on campus, but he is a leader and accepted part of the campus scene -- a definite change in the 20 years since I started university. The clean-living
Christian is the true rebel on campus, there being nothing else to rebel against, save for licentious living.
Tebow is living embodiment -- literally -- of that cultural rebellion. While expecting Tim, her fifth child, Tebow's mother Pam was advised to have an abortion in light of having contracted amoebic dysentery. She refused. Tebow's generation knows in way that previous generations do not that they faced mortal danger before they even saw the light. That's partly why younger people are surprisingly more pro-life than their elders.
But Tebow's parents were cultural rebels of an even greater sort, electing to homeschool their five children. When they began in 1982, "homeschool" was not even a word. They did so, like most homeschooling parents, in order to pass on their faith and values to their children. All five got college scholarships. Like most homeschooled kids, the Tebows did better than average in terms of academics while being active in athletic and extracurricular activities.
Tebow has become something of a poster-child for homeschooling, as he explodes every stereotype against it. In Florida, where college football is more important than just about anything else, Tebow's gridiron success has drawn positive attention to the extraordinary growth of homeschooling, which now involves some two million American students. Next door in Alabama, where there is nothing more important than college football, there is a "Tim Tebow" bill before the state legislature guaranteeing homeschooled students access to high school football programs. Florida has had such a law since 1996; otherwise Tebow would have gone undiscovered.
Should Florida win the national championship tonight, the legend of Tim Tebow will grow even larger. His story is not merely a refreshing contrast to so much of what makes big time college football cringe-inducing if not outright corrupt. His is the story of an increasing part of campus culture, and the culture of education more broadly. That's why Tebow's victories on the field are considered to be important by many who have no interest in college football.
As for the man himself, by all accounts he is a humble, Christian disciple and witness who is also one of America's best football players. On his eye strips -- the black patches football players wear under their eyes to cut down on glare -- he writes "Phil 4:13," a biblical verse: "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me." It may well be that most of the important things Tebow does will be off the football field. But for now, I will be cheering for him and the Gators tonight -- after all, Notre Dame has not given us much to cheer about this year!