Tim Tebow’s meteoric rise: Fate or Fluke

Does religion have a role in modern sports?


During this prior NFL season and to a lesser extent over the past few years Tim Tebow has been pulling off miracle after miracle. He pulled off dazzling fourth quarter comebacks and lead a team, many counted out, to a playoff berth and a gut-wrenching win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, before finally losing to the eventual runner ups. If it were any other player these feats would be celebrated and Tebow would be considered a hero but there is a problem with him: Tebow is deeply religious.

Tebow’s religiousness has led to mockery and jealousy and his actual talent have become periphery in any discussion concerning him. His blatant displays of faith on the field have even lead some to question religion’s role in a modern sports landscape. The debate centers on Tebow’s prayers during the game which have been mockingly dubbed ‘Tebowing.’ Tebowing has become an international phenomenon with people all over the world uploading pictures of themselves Tebowing. While some of these photos are respectful many of them are just a mockery. Some commentators even hint that Tebow shouldn’t display his faith so openly.

Others take issue with what he says in interviews or postgame talks. He thanks God for everything and talks a lot about Jesus and his religious values. When he is told about criticism he usually responds with a compliment about his critic and a smile.

This composure seems to threaten people used to the stereotypical aggressive and highly competitive athlete. People are uncomfortable with what he says because they see someone they would like to be. Therefore they are threatened and try to put down Tebow.

They also deny that Tebow is really so composed in real life and they believe it might all be a show. The notion that someone can’t just be simply good and that it must be a sham is just despicable and points to the lack of real role models in sports today.

Tebow is not the only religious athlete, though, even if he is the most controversial. Other religious athletes of note include the likes of Philip Rivers, Josh Hamilton, Dikembe Mutombo, Bill Goldberg and Amar’e Stoudemire. None of these athletes have garnered as much attention for their beliefs as Tebow though. Their beliefs are no less important and they are role models just as much as Tebow is. Their existence demonstrates the amount of religious people in sports and their influence. Many are involved in charity organizations, spreading their religion and some have even founded religious schools.

Religious athletes are not just confined to professional sports, though. Religious athletes can be found in our school as well as other schools in the DC area. Like Tebow they might ask for a little divine intervention or thank the man above but other than that they are just like any athlete. They are all exemplary students and people,

Nick Evangelista, a tenth grader at WIS, who plays basketball and baseball is a religious Methodist. He might pray during high pressure moments in a game or before an important match. When pressed about the benefits of his prayer he asserted that “it really helps.” “I’m serious” he added when he saw my look of disbelief. My look of disbelief is the reason why some people mock Nick for his beliefs. People don’t understand them and therefore are compelled to make fun.

This mockery is not universal. It seems to be contained to the male world. Mackenzie Moore, another tenth grader at WIS, says that she is religious and that in high pressure situations or before a championship game she may ask for divine help. In that way she is similar to Nick but instead of being mocked like him she is accepted and seldom bullied.

Noa Gelb, another tenth grade girl at WIS, who plays baseball with boys says that while she is not mocked for her beliefs many of the Jewish boys are made fun of. “For example, if they’re wearing yamakas or something” she said.

Nathan Guzman, a former WIS student and tenth grader at St. Albans, is mocked as well for his Mormon beliefs. “Of course people make fun of me but I try not to worry” he said when asked about bullying. He explained the harassment he receives by saying that “[the bullying] is a natural part of being different.” It shouldn’t be.

If people understand what their peers believe they will therefore be less likely to mock so asked Nathan to explain his beliefs and how they are relevant to him as an athlete. “I do ask God for strength before a match, but I’m not asking to win, I’m asking for the ability to do my best. I think religion is about the individual and making oneself better, sports is a way to do the same thing. The prayer is not about winning (as is popularly believed) but about doing the best you can do.”

Sikander Khare, a tenth grader at WIS, said “I think people have right to their beliefs but I honestly don’t think that God cares who wins the game. People thank Jesus for winning but I have never heard anybody blame him for losing. Nobody ever says they lost the game because they were outprayed.”

This comment shows that many people do not understand those that are religious like Nathan and show why Sikander might be driven to make fun of religious athletes: He does not understand them. If he, and others, understood there might be a lot less mockery and a lot more focus on actual sports.

Like Jonathan Travers, a tenth grader at WIS, said, “at the end of the day it’s the player not the prayer.”





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