(Centennial Fellow) Once while working as an assistant city editor on a metropolitan newspaper, I made the discovery that while talent is a great blessing, it’s often character that counts most at the end of the day.
An important story would bounce into sight and I would assign it to a brilliant reporter while overlooking an arrogance handicap, sometimes regretting the decision. The next time I might hand the banner opportunity to a more humble, diligent, eager, helpful reporter perhaps lacking razzle–dazzle ability and rejoice in the outcome.
That paper was in Denver. I went there at a time when the Denver Broncos were headed for their first Super Bowl, and the city was flipped out over the team’s Orange Crush defense even to the point of painting houses orange. I myself had many orange moments that season, though I left paint alone.
I now live outside Denver, up the mountains a bit, and am naturally enough caught up in the saga of Tim Tebow, a man of character. He’s also a man of controversy, of faith and of miracle wins on the football field. It has been something to watch.
This rookie quarterback has led the Broncos to a series of last–minute, improbable, comeback victories, reversed a losing season and put his team at the head of its division. Inspiring other players to top–notch performances, he is a never–give–up, upbeat leader. Still, he has sometimes been awful in passing the ball and has infuriated not a few with his open praise of Jesus Christ and a kneeling prayer position imitated worldwide.
He’s not really very good, some people say. Yes, he runs the ball well, but that is not what quarterbacks are for, they tell us. They seem to think it little excuse for his sorry passing stats that fumble–thumb receivers should have caught some on–the–mark throws. They wonder where he hides out for the first three quarters of so many games and they tell you luck has been amazingly in his corner. Then they come to religion.
Some consider it very nearly an NFL disqualification that he openly prays at games. Sports really ought to get rid of all the God talk, it is said by many reflecting what seems to me the most anti–religious period in my life. Some wear it as a badge of superiority that they hate the church of their childhood. I repeatedly have encountered those whose boasted tolerance does not extend to Christians they think of as hypocritical, judgmental, mean–spirited, anti–science throwbacks to an age of superstitious malevolence.
The critics are not that smart. Most of these I’ve run into suppose all Christians subscribe to some straw–man version of a faith a world’s distance from the one I know that never ceases preaching love. They can recite faults of 500 and more years ago without grasping any of the immeasurable good.
But then listen to me sounding snappish. That is not what the faith is about. So now listen to the always–self–effacing Tebow on being sacked by someone who then knelt gleefully in the Tebow prayer posture.
“He was probably just having fun and was excited he made a good play and had a sack,” Tebow told an interviewer. “And good for him.”
I ran across the quote in a Wall Street Journal piece that also reminded us of how Tebow has dedicated himself to charitable activities that have included visiting with a young leukemia victim and saying his name on TV to boost his spirits.
I briefly met Tebow and will share my intuitive conviction that he is genuine.
Concerning his public piety, please note that while Tebow thinks believing produces positive results, he also says God does not fix ballgames. His prayers are part of a joy much like that of the early Christians. It just can’t help bubbling up.
He’s a matter of national debate now. That’s fine. The cynics are probably just having fun. As for his sports future, I make no predictions except to say I believe character will out.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow.