Tim Tebow and the Numbers Game We Can't Stop Playing
Tim Tebow did something provocative before the New York Jets underdog matchup with the Houston Texans that may have signaled the cosmic storm clouds he sees forming over the New York Jets' 2013 season.
At first blush, Tebow sending out a Bible verse seems rather pedestrian.
I know, Yawn! Tebow tweets Bible verses as instinctively as he runs out of the pocket.
But that's not all; he hinted at a cosmic significance to his football play by evoking the most nefarious figure of all end-times numerology, 666.
Looking forward to giving God all the glory in tonight's 666th Monday Night Football game. Romans 8:37-39
— Tim Tebow (@TimTebow) October 8, 2012
According to some renditions of evangelical theology, that unholy string of digits is associated with a political ruler who will arise in the "last days" in an attempt to thwart all that is holy.
That devilish figure is called the "Antichrist" and (according to certain narrative interpretations of the New Testament book of Revelation) those who are deceived by his demonstrations of power will show their allegiance by taking the "mark of the beast."
Get it? The "Mark" of the beast.
If you are having trouble making the connections to the football Apocalypse brewing in New York, ESPN.com's Rich Cimini has broken down the relevant numbers from Mark Sanchez this season with blunt and repetitive force:
• Touchdown passes: 6
• Interceptions: 6
• Passer rating: 66.6
• Average yards per attempt: 6.6
• Longest completion: 66 yards
• Sanchez's uniform number, of course, is 6.
Week after week, the Jets coach assures everyone that Sanchez is his man and Tebow is his Wildcat, despite Sanchez's uneven play and Tebow's ferocious potential.
"Ryan is deceived!" cry the Tebow faithful.
Let me be rational and frank about this for a moment: I think Ryan is right. By all reasonable accounts, Sanchez is a superior QB to Tebow and the former should start over the latter all season long.
Indeed, If the Jets continue to sink and Tebow gets to start, he may just as likely accelerate the pace of the wreck. The Jets have been plagued (pardon the biblical allusion) with injuries that would minimize the passing options so essential to the occasional change of pace Tebow would need to make big gains in his otherwise predictable runs.
But it is not the reasonable or the rational that makes Tebow's narrative so dramatic. (Come on, you can't argue that he doesn't create drama wherever he goes.)
In his much-replayed playoff victory over the Steelers last year, the then-Bronco version of Tebow threw for 316 yards.
Glen Levy of Time.com summed up the strange collusion of (sacred?) figures from that stunning upset:
Tebow threw for exactly 316 yards in the 29-23 upset win, presenting an eerie allusion to the Bible’s John 3:16 passage—whose number Tebow famously wore in the black under his eyes when he led the Florida Gators to victory in the 2009 collegiate national championship game. What’s more, that event took place exactly three years ago on the same day as his latest miracle comeback. And that wasn’t it for the coincidences: Tebow set an NFL playoff record with, you guessed it, 31.6 yards per completion and the TV rating on CBS peaked between 8.00-8.15pm ET with a rating of, say it ain’t so, 31.6.
To my knowledge, Tebow has never commented on those wild numerical connections.
That is what makes his recent promise to glorify God on a day that he suggested carries auspicious significance so intriguing. Either Tebow is in on the joke: "Hey guys, I get that there is a lot of wild stuff that seems to follow me around, so let me make this lighthearted apocalyptic reference as a rhetorical wink at all the craziness."
Or Tebow thinks his god is up to something again this season.
If Tebow is thinking that, and if he gets a chance to start, he may pull off some of the miracles we make in life when we believe that we are destined for greatness.
The question remains, though, whether the Jets share that faith. Not the religious beliefs Tebow trumpets so enthusiastically, but the leap required to believe that Tebow can help redeem a season.
My guess is they don't have that faith, and my head says they probably shouldn't.
Sanchez is not the football equivalent of the Anti-Christ and Tebow is no QB Messiah. But when Tebow hints at seeing portents brewing in the air, I sure as hell am going to watch to see what happens.
Who knows whether heaven might break loose again.
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