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Tracy Briggs, Published January 02 2012

Parenting Perspectives: Tebow’s lessons good for kids

As we wrap up yet another NFL football season, millions are gathering around their television sets to watch the pivotal games. Who’s going to the playoffs and who’s headed for the No. 1 draft pick?

My daughters seem only mildly interested.

“Oh, the Packers are doing well? Hey, that Aaron Rodgers guy does kind of look like Jake Gyllenhaal, Mom.” (I’ve probably let my 9-year-old watch too much E! entertainment television).

For my girls, football isn’t really about the game. So far, they’ve shown little interest in first downs or touchdowns. It’s more about the personalities involved. For example, they know Brett Favre as the guy who sang “Pants on the Ground” in the locker room (which now, of course, seems sadly ironic given last year’s texting scandal).

That’s why I’ve been kind of pleased to see someone like Tim Tebow rise to NFL stardom this year. Despite, starting the year as the third string quarterback, he’s helping lead the Denver Broncos to the playoffs.

But Tebow is attracting as much attention for displaying his evangelical Christian faith as he is for his play on the field. He kneels down in prayer before and after each game, writes Bible verses in the black stripes under his eyes and thanks his “Lord Jesus Christ” after every game. To be honest, it’s a little off-putting. Many of us aren’t comfortable with this in-your-face Christianity. Some think it’s too pushy, others find it offensive and still others just make fun of him.

But I’m glad he’s here.

I go to church, but I’ve missed more than my share of Sundays. When the girls were little we’d say bedtime prayers and thank God for the important things: our family, friends, chocolate milk and The Wiggles. But we don’t advertise our faith and don’t go around proselytizing. Maybe, it’s a Midwest thing. But that kind of evangelism makes me squirm a little bit.

Nonetheless, I’d like to invite Tim Tebow to my house for dinner to say thanks for the five lessons he is teaching my children.

First, nice guys can finish first. Certainly, there are many, many nice guys in the NFL. But we often hear about the bad seeds. Some players don’t break the law, but their on-field arrogance and after-game interviews aren’t good examples of sportsmanship. Even those critical of Tebow for his overt displays of faith say he’s a good guy. As his kindergarten teacher might have said, “Tim works well with others.”

Second, a good man will respect women. He’s pledged that he is saving himself for marriage. That’s pretty rare. And certainly, celibate men don’t corner the market on respecting women. But I think Tebow has a track record of not using women and tossing them aside when he tires of them. As a good-looking, wealthy, single NFL quarterback he’s probably had the opportunity.

Third, work hard with what you’ve got. By all accounts, Tebow wasn’t blessed with natural talent at quarterback. He’s more like a fullback with an awkward throwing motion. But his college coach, Urban Meyer, said nobody worked harder to get better. And he doesn’t give up. Tebow has been a slow starter in nearly every game this season, but somehow manages to engineer amazing comebacks. It would be easy for him to say God was behind the comebacks, but Tebow has stressed it’s just a game and God doesn’t really care who wins. I like that he has that in perspective.

Fourth, actions speak louder than words. Showing faith on the football field isn’t anything new. We’ve seen players kneel and thank God in post-game interviews for years. But for Tebow it seems to go deeper than that. It’s not just lip service. He’s raising millions for his Tim Tebow Foundation and says he wants to use his fame to help those in their “darkest hour of need.”

Fifth, stand up for what you believe in. He’s been taunted and made fun of, but he’s unwaivering. He’s doing what he thinks is right. I want my girls to do that. At the same time, I want them to respect others for their beliefs no matter how different they might be. I want them to understand that everyone: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Democrat, Republican or Independent has a right to express their beliefs. You don’t always have to agree with someone to respect them and be a friend.

Still, as a cynical journalist, I can’t help but feel like those of us who think Tebow is a nice guy are headed for a fall. We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.

A few years back, I remember watching as Mark McGwire started challenging Roger Maris’s homerun record. And when he surpassed Maris, it was touching to see him climb into the stands and hug the Maris family. Many of us from Maris’ hometown felt if Roger’s record had to be broken, at least it was being broken by a great guy. Well, we all know how that turned out. It’s hard not to be a little cynical after that.

Is Tebow really a golden boy? The boy next door? So far so good. I’ll keep the pedestal packed away for the time being, but my dinner invitation stands.


Tracy Briggs is a mother of two and is an employee of Forum Communications Co. She can be reached at tracy.briggs@fccinteractive.com.