I think we witnessed a miracle last night.
I'm not talking about Tim Tebow's incredible 95-yard game-winning drive. I'm talking about the fact that Tebow got at least two NFL Network football analysts and stellar former players—Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin—discussing God on a post-game football show. Overall, the analysts were flabbergasted by what they saw in Tebow's performance. They couldn't explain it.
But they could sense something was different. I've watched football religiously growing up. I've never seen a cluster of NFL analysts, most of them former players and coaches, so star-struck as when Tebow came on set last night after the game. After he left the set, Rich Eisen was at a loss for words.
To stats and football experts, Tebow's 4-1 record seems so complicated. But it's really very simple.
People enter life with different gifts. Some get Heidi Klum knockout looks. Some get Steve Jobs' innovative genius.
Passion and faith are gifts. So are work ethic and the ability to inspire people. And Tebow has a superhuman capacity for all four.
You will never completely understand Tebow, how he wins, and how he plays the game, by looking at statistics in the NFL. It's a passing league, and Tebow isn't a passer. It's a league where a quarterback should be able to scramble, but not run (ask Michael Vick). It's a league where a guy who only completes two passes in a game shouldn't win that game. I know the game; I know it's foolish to think a player like the one described above will succeed. Initially, it defied common sense.
But now, several analysts are the ones defying common sense. Stop wasting energy trying to explain Tebow in only the way described above. Stop being so unoriginal. Human beings, in addition to physical ability, have a mental and spiritual component. Way too often, that third component is underdeveloped. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. When experts do talk about it in the NFL, they often call it 'character.' Kurt Warner, in fact, told Townhall Magazine earlier this year that character isn't weighed heavily enough in the NFL.
Tebow, of course, takes that a step further. People get worked up because Tebow prays and attributes his success to a higher power. Tebow is simply living his life. He goes about his business. He's the kind of guy, he said yesterday, who gets more excited about a hospital he's building over in the Philippines than glory on the football field.
When people ask him why he wins, he'll say faith and that his teammates believe in each other. Yet somehow Americans – the country that made sending a man to the moon possible, the country where athletes have so many superstitions that it's downright hilarious– are too cynical to believe that is possible. So quick to praise an unproven dream team quarterbacked by Michael Vick, so surprised when a hardworking guy who's never let anyone down on a big stage keeps doing what he's done his whole career.
Marshall Faulk—a truly great running back—said last night that he can't analyze Tebow's faith, only what happens on the football field. He had a good point, but he's missing something: Tebow's game intertwines them. If you want to analyze his game, you need to understand his motivation and how powerful that faith can be. It doesn't mean you have to adhere to his faith; but it's silly to pretend that it's not a factor in his game.
"You are the Professor Tebow that's giving us all a lesson," Michael Irvin told Tebow last night. "We put so much on skill, not enough on will. When I am watching you, you are willing this team to victory."
Tebow is moving the mountains analysts put in his way. He is growing legends of mustard seeds. To fans and analysts in this situation, I say engage in a bit of well-placed wonder. We'd all be better off for it. Unless, of course, you're a Jets player or coach. Then I'd say learn a lesson.
Before the game, The New York Post ran a picture of Tebow looking to the heavens with an admittedly clever headline saying, "God help him."
Well, He did.
Read Townhall Magazine's feature on Tim Tebow in the December 2010 issue by subscribing here.