I just cannot seem to understand why so much anger is aimed at the Denver Broncos' Tim Tebow. Sure, we will likely never mistake his quarterback play for that of Peyton Manning, Joe Montana or Dan Marino's, but he wins. He is not your typical pocket passer nor is he a speedy Michael Vick type of QB. If anything, he is a throwback player.
So many people complain about how the QB in today’s NFL is in a bubble. There are so many rules protecting them and while, to a degree, they are needed, there is a point where one has to wonder if a QB is still a true football player.
Unlike his QB brethren, Tebow does not avoid contact and at times, seems to seek it out. His leadership has been impressive. The Denver Broncos were a team that finished with only four wins last year. He took over a team that was off to a 1-4 start this year and heading nowhere. He went on a 7-1 streak and eventually helped the team clinch a playoff berth.
Unless you have been living in a cave, by now you have heard of his success in the first round of the playoffs.
Still, the issue with Tebow has little to do with his play. I find the amount of mocking, ridicule and often just plain hatred aimed at Tim Tebow to be alarming. Now don’t be confused, as much as people want to make it such, it is not simply a matter of religion or Christianity.
Much has been made of Tebow and his faith, but why? He is not the first athlete to proclaim their faith in God. Many have thanked God after a game. For years, players have knelt in prayer after a big play. After an NFL game, there are always groups of players that pray together. Many baseball players have done the sign of the cross before taking their at-bat. So his prayer is not some radical concept.
He does not admonish or chastise people for not believing as he does. He does not stand in a press conference preaching fire and brimstone. He makes simple statements of his faith, often in response to a question about it from reporters. Players of other faiths have fasted during the season out of obedience to their particular faith; they were not ridiculed or belittled in the same manner as Tebow.
If people are honest with themselves, it seems the true issue is that he seems genuine, and that bothers people.
We are used to seeing players profess their love for their wives, their faith or their goodness. We then see them tweeting naked pictures of themselves, treating others rudely or showing up on the police blotter.
Regardless of if we are Christian, atheist, religious or any other option, we all have some type of moral code that we live by. Regardless of what our own personal code may be, we always seem to fall short. If we made a list of how we want to live, then compare it to what our actions truly are, we would tend to have a lot of misses. Weather it is flipping the bird to another motorist, telling that little white lie or cheating on our taxes or spouses, there is always some hole in our personal resume.
Now, Tebow is not perfect, but not only does he hold himself to a higher standard than most of us do, he does so in the public eye. By making his faith and moral standards known, he is also being held accountable, as so many who seem to be waiting for him to fail are ready to pounce on any mistake. It would be easy for me to live by whatever standard I want if nobody else knows what it is. If I fail, nobody else would know. Tebow has taken that option away for himself.
As a sports society, we still idolize Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger despite their accusations of assaults on women. Michael Vick served time in prison for dog fighting. If I listed the athletes that have been busted for drugs, drunk driving, assaults and failure to pay child support, this would go from a quick article to a novel. Once those athletes start to win games and championships, though, all is forgiven.
Perhaps we like our athletes so flawed. They may be able to beat us at their athletic specialty, but we have often been able to look down on them and claim that we are better people.
Maybe that makes us feel better.
In Tebow, we have come across someone who is better on the field than us and has shown us how much better we can be as people off of it. Does that make him a better person? Not necessarily. But it seems to have forced us to look at ourselves in the mirror, and the reflection is not as pretty as we like to think.
So cheer against Tebow if you want for his play, laugh at the next wobbly pass he throws or cringe at his next stat line, but don’t attack the man. It is always dangerous to look up to athletes, but kids in our culture do that. What example does this set for our kids when we lift criminals and those with questionable character onto our shoulders and parade them around, yet we toss stones and mock someone who is trying, at minimum, to do the right thing? Which qualities are we telling our kids are important?
Perhaps if we had more players that held themselves to a higher standard, or if we as fans defined men by their character and not by their touchdowns, then we would all be better off.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist for the Detroit Red Wings and a writer of many other sports. You can follow him on twitter.