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Michelle Turnberg, Published December 16 2011

Turnberg: Tebow's faith, actions admirable

I like people with gumption. I like people who have a purpose in life – those who stand firm in their beliefs even when they are condemned by those around them.

I like Tim Tebow.

It’s hard for me to understand why he is so polarizing. I posted an article on my Facebook page this week and in a matter of hours had around 50 comments.

The more I read about him, the more I am cheering for him. And the more I read the negative comments, columns and commentary, the more it serves as proof that some people just aren’t happy unless they aren’t happy.

There are those always looking to find the negative. Always looking for ways to knock others down. And I suspect the more success he has the louder the critics will become.

What I find so interesting is Tebow is not just another athlete who crosses himself after a touchdown or thanks God in an interview. While leading Florida to two national championships, Tebow became well known for spending his summers helping the poor and needy in the Philippines. He also spoke in prisons and volunteered regularly. He made service to others a cool thing and in his senior year, the powder-puff football tournament that he launched was able to raise $340,000 for charity.

Has there ever been an elite athlete who has been doubted more than Tebow? The “great football minds” have been saying he doesn’t have what it takes to make it in the NFL. An inexperienced passer with awkward throwing mechanics and the build of a fullback, he likes to run over defensive players, which is a no-no in the NFL, where starting quarterbacks are expensive and hard to come by. They point to his poor completion percentage and third down conversion.

He may not have the best mechanics as a quarterback, but he’s an inspiring leader who is able to motivate his team. I’ve rarely seen him make a big deal about his religion without someone asking him about it. And he doesn’t gloat. In postgame interviews, Tebow often starts by saying, “First, I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and ends with “God bless.” He stresses that football is a game and that God doesn’t care who wins. After his last win he gave credit to God and his teammates who he says “make me look better than I am.”

He’s an athlete who “walks the walk.” He’s passionate about his faith. He prays. And he also wins football games.

Why the intense criticism? While religion makes some people very nervous, he is comfortable showing his faith. We understand moral failings better than high moral character. Perhaps there is jealousy. He’s a rich, young, handsome NFL quarterback.

I find it laughable when most of the critics who rant about Tebow’s ineffective skills probably couldn’t throw a spiral themselves. There are plenty of other NFL quarterbacks who are ordinary (Vikings fans know this), but don’t endure the intense scrutiny and negativity associated with Tebow.

Considering the many options, which sports star would you want your child to emulate? A dog killer? A guy who beats up his girlfriend? One who takes steroids? Or, a man who proudly loves Jesus, helps orphans and builds hospitals for the needy?

To those who say you don’t need to be Christian to be a good role model, I say you’re right. But I’ll take Tim Tebow in my huddle any day.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column for SheSays. She can be reached at michelleturnberg@gmail.com.