God’s Squad? Tebow, Faith, and Football

Ryan NealCulture, Ryan Neal, Theology

Dallas may be America’s Team, but is Denver, led by Tebow, God’s Squad? I’ve set out to examine the evidence.

I was born in Denver, Colorado and watched as the Broncos were routinely pummeled in the Super Bowl, before reaching excellence with back-to-back Super Bowl victories in SB XXXII & XXXIII.

I’m biased. I’m a fan of Tebow, but most of that is because I’m a fan of Denver. I’m not a “hater.” I have my doubts, however. The doubts aren’t about Tebow, nor are they about his competitiveness or his ability to be successful in the NFL.

My doubts surround the connection between Tebow’s faith and Denver’s success.

I’ve compiled a few coincidences that surround Tebow’s Team and help to shed some light on this topic…

Saturday Night Live parodies him. Opponents have ridiculed him. The group that was the most ostentatious in their derision, the Detroit Lions, lost to New Orleans, 45-28 on Saturday, and a few of those players surely watched Denver’s victory on Sunday. Providence.

As if providence made it a certainty, the Denver Broncos head to New England this weekend, with the winner heading to the AFC Title Game. That story alone is intriguing, since Denver began the season 1-4, then ended it 8-8, as a sort-of accidental AFC West division champion. Accidental, since in their final regular season game they lost to Kansas City, a team led by Kyle Orton, Denver’s QB for this season’s first 5 games. Catch that? Orton, whom Tebow replaced, ended up in KC, who defeated Denver during the final week, but Denver made the playoffs anyway. Do both Tebow and Orton get some measure of satisfaction? Providence.

This matchup has to bring Josh McDaniels a bit of internal turmoil. McDaniels was the Denver head coach when they drafted Tebow in the 2010 draft, which many in the league found laughable. Until now, perhaps. Fired before the 2010 season was over, McDaniels was rehired by New England to be the offensive coordinator about 48 hours ago, after New England’s previous OC left to be head coach at Penn State, who – in case you hadn’t heard – hasn’t had a head coaching search in about 50 years. Now that Tebow has led his team to a division championship and a playoff win, do both McDaniels and Tebow get some measure of satisfaction? Providence.

Tebow used to write John 3:16 on his eye black in college (this habit is disallowed in the NFL). On Sunday, he passed for 316 yards, on ten completions. In case arithmetic isn’t your strong suit that equates to 31.6 yards per completion. Providence.

With these coincidences or some may call them “providences,” some may attribute divine intervention. God is leading Tim Tebow to victory despite the mocking. His success brings God glory, and gives Tebow a bigger platform for his message.

Tebow is a Christian, in case you hadn’t heard. He has a take-a-knee celebratory-type gesture on touchdowns, and at the end of games. This is called Tebowing, which is so well known after just a few months that it elicits 2,220,000 hits from a Google search. His unabashed Christian faith is a constant thread in articles written about him, whether positive or negative. Many find it irritating, while a good number find it inspiring.

In the face of the connections I’ve made above, I am not convinced this is divine intervention. I root for Denver, since it’s the city of my birth, but I don’t think God has a special dose of affection or specific purpose for the Broncos.

I question it when players attribute the source of their winning being from God, just like I do if a player blames God for not catching a ball, as a Buffalo wide receiver did. I think all athletes should acknowledge their creator for their abilities and skills, but assigning to God credit or blame when a team wins or loses is questionable.

This leaves me in an interesting situation: I root for Denver to win, but it’s not so God can receive the glory. Other teams have Christians on them, and certainly New England isn’t full of pagans (after all Wes Welker, from Texas Tech – my alma mater – plays for them). Would a Denver victory make me smile? Absolutely, but I won’t praise God any more if they do or any less if they don’t. And I find it highly questionable when others give this type of thinking credence.

After all, if a Denver victory brings God more glory, then God shouldn’t have Tebow win 1 playoff game, Denver should win 4 playoff games, and be crowned Super Bowl champions. If God wants to prove the “haters” wrong, then 4 wins wouldn’t be difficult for God to do. Parting seas, walking on water, beating mortals in football? No problem, for God. For Denver, however, that would be quite a run. Denver would need to beat: Pittsburgh at home (√), at New England, then probably at Baltimore, and then probably Green Bay on a neutral field.

If they do that, then I’ll call them God’s Squad. That would be providence.