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Star-Telegram.com

Is Tim Tebow's success divine?

Posted Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012

By Mac Engel

tengel@star-telegram.com

engel Because Tim Tebow's season is going to end tonight in Foxborough, it would be foolish not to take advantage of the ratings gold who is the starting quarterback for what is now apparently God's new favorite team. (Way to go, Jerry; when you closed the roof He had to find a new team.)

Accordingly, to be consistent with the biblical popularity of Tebow, this column will be 316 words.

For those who are not sports fans, Tim Tebow is an even more popular Justin Bieber, and just slightly more pronounced in his Christian beliefs.

Tebow is either an inspiration -- whom people want to succeed -- or a constant source of irritation -- whom people want to see fall flat on his face.

As a quarterback, he may. The league doesn't discriminate against those who prefer Gomorrah and those who prefer church. There are facets to Tebow's game that fly in the face of NFL quarterbacking tradition. But it is too early to kick him to the sideline.

Celebrate who he is and what he stands for all you want, but do not think for a moment that his success on the football field is divine.

In a poll conducted by Poll Position on Jan. 8, 1,076 registered voters answered whether they believe Tebow's success is a result of divine intervention. Forty-three percent said they thought divine intervention was the reason.

So why did recently retired Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna never have this success? Kitna displays his faith just as much as Tebow. Why has Mark Brunell not won 15 Super Bowls?

Tebow's success on the field has more to do with the fact that he is a 6-foot-2, 236-pound man with superior athletic skills than it does his ability to recite Psalms 23.

Eric Youngdahl is a longtime friend, a former high school football player at Austin Westlake who played a couple of years at Gustavus College in Minnesota. He is now a 38-year-old pastor at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

"Your Lord and Savior does not care if you won a football game," Youngdahl said. "Why are you thanking Him? Because you threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to win a football game? Or is it because of the opportunity? As far as his demonstrations, like the Tebowing, it's entertaining in a way. He's quite the phenomenon. I don't know if it's because he is so outspoken about his faith. I used to think Kurt Warner was over the top with it, and Tebow blows him away."

The numbers from Denver's overtime wild-card win against Pittsburgh suggest a far greater power than the Broncos' offense is at work here.

By now you are aware Tebow threw for 316 yards, averaged 31.6 yards per completion and the game drew a 31.6 TV rating. Former NFL wide receiver legend Raymond Berry told the Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy in a story that ran Friday that all of those numbers can't be a coincidence.

Yes, they are.

Tebow carried the ball 10 times for 50 yards. His passer rating in the game was 125.6. The Broncos were 3 for 10 on third downs. The Steelers' time of possession? 31:06.

Examine any box score long enough and you, too, will likely find some biblical passage you can attach to said player.

Playing in the NFL will eventually reveal whether he can keep this up.

Personally, I can't see a quarterback who gets hit as much as Tebow surviving very long in the league, regardless of his throwing mechanics.

Life will eventually reveal Tim Tebow is a human like the rest of us. It already has. It is not a question of whether he makes an error but merely the degree.

"I am a pastor, so there are people who look at me and say, 'He must be perfect because he's close to God,'" Youngdahl said. "I'm not the nicest to my family all the time. We get into arguments. I mess up just as much as the person next to me. It's my faith that allows me to start over fresh every day because I know I'm not perfect. He's not. I'm not. You're not."

Youngdahl concurs there is a large segment of people who wish failure upon Tebow just so Tebow Nation will shut up. Wishing for a person to fail is a waste of time.

Youngdahl mentioned the widely viewed picture of Tebow with a buxom girl while he was a student at Florida; somehow the image of a man of faith standing next to an age-appropriate girl, who reportedly was never his girlfriend, was somehow wrong because she was well-endowed.

"People are waiting for that moment when he trips, and they jump on that; hopefully they don't equate that with his lack of faith," Youngdahl said. "People tend to do that."

We do, which says more about us than it does about the other person.

Could Tebow turn down the volume on his religious rhetoric? Yes, but that's not who he is right now. So, who cares? He is not judging or hurting anyone, so turn down the volume on the TV if it really bothers you.

I hope Tebow does well, if for no other reason he truly sounds like a decent guy and a person who helps and inspires people. Finding a decent guy trying to do the right thing, not necessarily a hero, in our 24/7 media world is hard enough.

We need more of these people, regardless of their religious beliefs, because it would seem God would care a lot more about that than who wins a football game.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @MacEngelProf

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