In January 2012, Tim Tebow was the darling of the marketing world — he was marketing gold. Then quarterback of the Denver Broncos, Tebow had led the team to several come-from-behind wins and threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of an overtime game to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a first-round playoff game. The game drew a stunning 49% more viewers than the year-earlier match-up.
Ad Age reported at the time, “The game on CBS averaged a 25.9 household rating/43 share, according to Nielsen, the highest-rated first-round NFL playoff game in 24 years.”
They said that Tebow ranked among the top 85 celebrities in the world in the Trendsetter attribute, “on par with George Clooney, Rihanna, and Justin Timberlake.” According to Ad Age, “In terms of influence, Mr. Tebow is now in the top 40 of 3,000 celebs in the DBI, on par Tom Hanks, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Aniston and Steven Spielberg.”
Darin David, account director at The Marketing Arm, Dallas, said that Tebow was then likely at the $10 million a year level in marketing potential. “As a marketer, you want somebody like that.”
Now you’d think that any team with half a brain, or even a modicum of greed, would have seen the potential — a decade of Tebwomania with the accompanying marketing bonanza. Jerseys, posters, shoes, ticket sales, TV viewers — dollar signs. They would have immediately put a team of the best coaches, trainers, and former quarterbacks on Team Tebow to do whatever it takes to transform his Heisman Trophy college skills into NFL-worthy abilities. But the media had to have its say.
Despite Tebow’s tremendous marketing potential, even before he was cut loose from the Broncos, the whisper campaign began about how he was “polarizing” and he had “baggage” — that teams wouldn’t want the “distraction.” Ross Bentley at Bleacher Report called Tebow “ the most polarizing figure in sports.” A Business Insider headline blasted “How He Became the Most Polarizing Athlete in Sports,” citing Tebow’s homeschooling and Christian faith. (It should be noted that Michael Vick was also at one time considered “the Most Polarizing Man in Sports,” but you know, he killed and tortured innocent puppies and spent time in prison for illegal dog fighting.)
As Tebwomania grew, the supposed “polarization” also grew with liberal sports writers like The Nation’s Dave Zirin weighing in and, while blaming Tebow’s questionable quarterback skills, also opining that Tebow is “a religious figure in a country that is uncomfortable talking [about] religion.” On ESPN this past June, Zirin added, “When you do a Super Bowl ad for Focus on the Family before you’ve played one down in the NFL, you’re going to be polarizing.”
As news of his release from the New England Patriots was announced on Saturday, the internet exploded with stories about the “polarizing quarterback,” including one at Huffington Post that by Saturday night had accumulated more than 5000 comments.
Tebow, as always, was classy in his response, thanking the Patriots owners and coaches for the opportunity and quoting 2 Corinthians 12:9:
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
That was all the Tebow-haters at Huffington Post needed to pounce on Tebow. Some examples of comments:
“Awwwwwwwww. I bet this makes the Baby Jesus weep. Tim should have prayed more.”
“Hey Tim, are you getting the message now? Nothing fails like prayer.”
“If Tim Tebow spend as much time concentrating on playing football as he did worrying about promoting his religion, he might not be getting cut.”
“We’re all going to hell and we’re excited about it. Don’t be jealous.”
“It would have been different for him had he kept his religion home and just been a regular ball player.”
“Where’s your god now, Tebow?”
On and on it went for over 100 pages of comments.
The truth is, many of these Tebow-bashers really have a problem with God — Tebow is just a convenient conduit for their anger. When they see Tebow unashamedly discussing his faith, praying — Tebowing — on the sidelines of a football game, or hear about him preaching in a church, it makes them confront the fact that they are not right with God. John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” described it this way:
The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.(John 3:19-21, ESV).
When a certain segment of the American culture sees Tim Tebow, they get angry at him because they hate the light — they hate God, and more specifically, they hate Jesus Christ. It seems counterintuitive that vocal atheists would hate someone they believe does not exist, but spend time reading the comments thread of any blog post that mentions God or Jesus or Christianity and you’ll see the virulent hatred directed toward something they allegedly don’t believe exists.
Paul tells the Romans that men suppress God’s truth by their unrighteousness. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).
We are all born with a conscience and an innate ability to understand God at a basic level — to know that he exists and we are accountable to Him. Some, despising God (and his laws and requirements), ignore — and even suppress — that truth.
Aldous Huxley, the brother of the atheistic evolutionist Sir Julian Huxley, gave the reason for his anti-Christian stance:
I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning … the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.
For many, it’s easier to attack Tim Tebow than it is to confront the fact that they are living apart from God. They understand that turning to God would mean giving up their right to live however they please and instead submitting to God’s will and desires.
Fair enough. As long as they know that “they are without excuse” and that “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12, ESV).
The good news is something that Tebow has been bold to proclaim. The disciple John also said,“Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). For those who repent — ask forgiveness and turn from their sins — and trust Christ to save them, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, ESV). Hating Tim Tebow, or your Christian co-worker, or the church you grew up in will not solve your fundamental problem that you are separated from God by your sin. Christians believe that only in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can that separation be bridged.