Tuesday, January 06, 2009

When talking about Tebow, we should be talking about God

By David Whitley
Orlando Sentinel
12:19 AM EST, January 6, 2009

MIAMI: Tim Tebow could have made Monday easier if he'd worn his game face. The one with eye-black patches and white lettering."Phil 4:13"

That's not a dig at Phil Fulmer's weight. It's Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

The stick-on patches started framing Tebow's nose this season. The response has been predictable.

Many think the Biblical advertising is great. Others feel religion and sports should not mix.

"Why must he rub it in my face?" they ask.

It's a pivotal question if you want to understand Tebow, though an army of professional questioners failed to pursue it Monday. It was BCS Media Day, when every Sooner and Gator was bused to Dolphin Stadium.

The stars sat for an hour of the media trying to get inside their heads. Florida drew the second session, so the sun was getting high and hot as Tebow took his seat.

"Good morning," he said, squinting out at a dozen TV cameras and about 40 reporters.

The queries ranged from Tebow's superstitions to his NFL chances to his Heisman letdown to his affinity for Frank Sinatra. Tebow merrily fielded 164 questions in an hour, and maybe five dealt with the biggest influence in his life.

"My faith," he said.

The reporters were only reflecting society. Religion makes some people uncomfortable, and athletes spouting it makes them downright irritable.

We roll our eyes when they thank God after a game. Sam Bradford is also a card-carrying Christian. What if he shows up Thursday with "John 3:16" on his face? Would God have to go to a sudden-death verse-off to pick a winner?

About the 152nd question, Tebow tried to explain. He doesn't believe God gives a hoot who wins. Philippians 4:13 just inspires Tebow to perform better. That means being humble in victory and gracious in defeat.

Tebow said the verse has inspired him countless times in and out of games. We may not believe that, we may think it's all just a psychological crutch.

That doesn't matter.

Tebow believes it helps him, therefore it does. Therefore you'd think it would be the kind people wanting to know all about Tebow would have asked about.

Think again.

He mentioned his first speaking engagement. He was 15 and shaking as he stood up in front of 10,000 high-school students and talked about his faith.

The story ended there.

Tebow's face lit up when he was asked about going to prisons and speaking to inmates."It's definitely changed me and what I feel about my purpose," he said.

But what about Oklahoma's trash-talking?

If an athlete said he was heavily influenced by Star Trek we'd all be asking about his love of William Shatner. But when one says he's inspired by the Apostle Paul, pens stop moving and tapes stop recording.

If Tebow really wanted to make things uncomfortable, he'd bring up how doctors advised his mother to get an abortion in 1987. She'd contracted dysentery in the Philippines, and the drugs she needed could have harmed the fetus.

She refused, and the former fetus was answering questions Monday.

"Who's more superstitious, you or Coach Meyer?"

"What about the scenery in Gainesville?"

"Are you a good comedian?"

"Talk about your love of Frank Sinatra."

They weren't dumb questions. Heck, I wanted to find out more about Tebow's affection for the Chairman of the Board.

But even Sinatra doesn't make Tim Tebow tick. If you really want to know what does, you'll have to watch Thursday night.

The answer will be written all over his face.

David Whitley can be reached at dwhitley@orlandosentinel.com.

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