Degrading the Different

As most of you know, I’m a pretty hardcore sports fan. I enjoy everything about sports- playing them, watching them, discussing technique and strategy, working with athletes to improve performance- it’s all in my wheelhouse of preferred activities. Why? Because athletes are in a class of their own, and I’m convinced that once you’re trained to be an athlete, you never stop thinking and acting like one.

I find this to be true with business clients, educators, pastors, and doctors alike. The profession is less important than the hardwired competitive drive that always accompanies those who participate in sport. If you really ponder this for a moment, you’ll agree that individuals often participate in sport long before they ever choose a life-long career, so it’s not all that unusual that the athlete persona persists long after the individual quits competing.

Athletes are known for possessing a few coveted characteristics that are greatly sought in every area of life. They are trainable. They are goal-oriented. They like to win and will sacrifice to be successful. They are disciplined. They typically work well with others and are team-oriented. They have positive, can-do attitudes that spread to those around them. (Show me an executive who can give a rousing speech moments before a major event, and it’s likely you’re looking at an individual who has spent some time in a locker room preparing for a big match.)

These qualities are undeniably attractive to organizations around the globe. So it’s no wonder that the media coverage of one of the NFL’s most controversial athletes has me a bit perplexed.

Tim Tebow, the quarterback for the Denver Broncos, has been the talk of the country for the past few weeks, and it’s certainly nothing new for this 24-year-old powerhouse athlete. He’s been the source of great debate almost his entire life.

Sports analysts from every major network are taking the opportunity to trash Tebow, and they have plenty to say. Here are just a few of their “highly qualified” opinions and observations: He lacks the arm strength and accuracy to play QB in the NFL; He has no natural throwing rhythm; He doesn’t set his feet and throws off his back foot causing inaccuracies far beyond league-acceptable levels; He only plays QB because he’s too small to be a Wide Receiver, and too big to be a Running Back; and He should just be a Half-back and stop trying to be something he’s not cut out for.

Pretty harsh criticisms for a guy that has turned the Broncos from a 1-4 season under their starting quarterback, Kyle Orton, to a 4-1 record under his leadership. The critics have even gone so far as to say that he “wins ugly”. Seriously? Would the team prefer that he “lose pretty”? I don’t think so!

And the criticisms aren’t restricted to his athletic abilities either. Industry professionals have weighed in on his polite, positive attitude that Tebow credits to his Christian faith. He constantly praises players on the opposing team for making good plays- particularly hard hits they lay on him. He avoids swearing, takes his position as a role model seriously, and does a substantial amount of volunteer work when he isn’t on the field. Yet, somehow the media is convinced that they need to discredit and vilify this young man’s talent and intentions. They just love to degrade the different. But perhaps to understand this young man you have to know where he came from.

While his mother and father were expecting his arrival while living in the Philippines, his mother suffered from a life-threatening infection with a pathogenic amoeba. The medications they used to save her and bring her out of a coma caused severe complications with the pregnancy. Her doctors told her that her child would likely be stillborn and recommended that she have an abortion. She refused, and relied on her faith. When Tim was born, she knew she had a fighter on her hands.

The youngest of five children, Tim was homeschooled by his mother in Jacksonville, Florida. After the State passed legislation that allowed homeschooled students to participate in their local school’s athletic programs, Tim began his football career at the local Christian Academy where he played linebacker and tight end. Knowing that he wanted to be a quarterback, he transferred to a local public school the next year to play under a coach that ran an option passing offense. He began having major success and demonstrated the capacity to overcome great odds- something he proved by clinching a win in a high school game while playing on a broken leg.

As one of the most highly recruited quarterback prospects in the nation, Tebow received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he played for coach Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators football team from 2006 to 2009. From his freshman season in 2006, when he was a backup behind the Gators’ career passing yardage leader, Chris Leak, to his Heisman Trophy-winning sophomore season in 2007 (and he’s the only sophomore to ever win the award), to his BCS Championship-winning junior season in 2008, to his 13–1 senior season, Tebow left an indelible legacy on the Florida Gators football program. He set multiple rushing and passing records during his tenure as a Gator, surpassing other alumni greats like Emmitt Smith. The Gators’ coaches selected him as a team captain in 2008 and 2009, and he is the only three-time recipient of the Gators’ most valuable player award, having been chosen by his teammates in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Upon entering the 2010 NFL Draft, he was selected in the first round by the Denver Broncos. He set an NFL Draft record for jersey sales, and has had the best-selling jersey in the entire NFL every month since (even prior to taking his first snap). Tebow earned the “Rookie of the Week” award for his performance against Kansas City and finished his rookie season playing sparingly in six games as a back-up before starting the last three games of the Broncos’ season. He threw for a total of 654 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed for 227 yards and six touchdowns. Tebow became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for a touchdown in each of his first three career starts.

After the Broncos began the 2011 NFL season with Kyle Orton at the helm and went 1-4, Head Coach John Fox announced that Tim Tebow would start the second half of their game against the San Diego Chargers. Tebow fought back from a 16-point deficit, but ultimately lost 29-24. He hasn’t lost since.

In his last four appearances, Tebow has “played ugly” the first three quarters of every game, but has rallied his team in the final minutes to pull out victories. And still they criticize him. Yet, Tim Tebow continues to live by the following quote:

 

Monday Morning Perspective 

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” – Tim Notke

 

We can all learn a lesson from Tim’s tenacity. He may have been built wrong- he lacked certain physical characteristics that predispose players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to succeed- and he may not be your orthodox quarterback. But guess what? He’s a fighter- He doesn’t quit even when most would. And he wins.

We are quick to tell people why they won’t succeed. What I love about Tim is that he proves that “talent” isn’t just predisposed characteristics that we either have or we don’t. Real talent comes from character- and success is an inevitable by-product.

So before we fail to utilize someone because they “don’t fit the bill”, ask yourself if you’re passing up on the next Tim Tebow.

Have a wonderful week- and enjoy that Thanksgiving turkey (and football)!!!

Warmest Regards,

Crystal Dyer 

© Crystal Dyer 2011. All rights reserved.

ISSN: 2158-1355

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