I’m in a blurred frenzy of excitement, which makes the angry face of the 4-year-old inches from my face seem not only incongruous but surreal. She’s not mad, though. She’s ecstatic. And she doesn’t know why.
She is aping our expressions, her father’s and mine. You know that angry sports fan face you make when you watch your favorite team and your favorite player pull off the most memorable comeback you have ever seen.
It's memorable not because it leads to a championship, but because you cannot believe your eyes. You’ve seen it before, and that seals your incredulity. You just can’t believe that he did it again.
I don’t know what facial expression befits such an occasion. I am not self-aware enough in my buzz of football ecstasy to know what my face looks like right now or what I am saying. I also don’t know how to compare what I just witnessed.
Tim Tebow slips my reference points.
The 4-year-old is now doing Hulk poses, Tebow style, and looking down at the ground as she makes emphatic and elongated kicking motions. All the events of the game—the Tebow drives, the long field goal kicks—they are all meshing together for her.
She is still screaming incomprehensibly.
I have always been jealous of people with vivid early memories. My earliest one is comparatively late. I was six. Yes, quite late indeed. It is a traumatic memory, but also trivial.
The Montreal Expos, a Major League baseball team that was important to a lot of Canadians when I was a kid, had a chance to go to the World Series. In fact, they were one out away, and my parents and I were huddled together around our television, swelling with anticipation, ready to burst with Canadian pride.
There was a crack (the sound still haunts me a little). The Dodgers hit a home run. The game was over. No one had to say a word to me, and I don’t remember if they did.
I wouldn’t have been able to explain what I felt. It was an ineffable and bewildering pain. But I felt the loss because I could see it on my parent’s faces.
Their baseball grief was hard-earned, having accumulated years of Expos' allegiance that they had logged in various trips to Montreal. Mine was fresh and young and terrible.
I felt so bad because I could feel the devastation in the room, and I didn’t want my family to feel that way.
My mom has endured some hard times since then. Faced with a divorce very late in life, she had to go back to work at a life stage when most of her peers are retiring. She has worked diligently, heroically in my eyes. And her hero is Tebow. So he’s mine.
My dad has also recently joined Tebowmania, having overcome his own hardships: besides the familial pain, he also had prostate cancer. When I am in Canada, he is my tennis doubles partner and he hasn't lost a step. He reminds me of Tebow when he scrambles on the court.
I fell on some difficult times myself a few years ago. Money was suddenly extremely tight, and I found myself in domestic flux—that is a fancy way of saying that I wasn’t sure where I was going to live.
I would never have been homeless, and I wasn’t in a state of indigence. I was just a little bit lost, suddenly having to move out of my apartment and trying to scrounge together money for a new place to stay.
So a grad student colleague took me in. He had a young daughter and a wife, and they didn’t have ample space for a messy Canadian.
But that didn’t matter. He is that kind of guy. They are that kind of people.
I was there in the living room with my friend when his daughter took her first steps. And a couple of years later, after marrying and getting a place of my own, I was back at their place when she formed what will surely be her most vivid early sports memory of her life.After Tebow won, I hugged her and spun her around and everyone in the room crowded her with high fives, which she reciprocated with delight.
And then she turned to me and said something cute and funny: “Sean, I want to marry you.”
What she meant to say was, “Sean, this is unbelievably fun. I love all of this collective effervescence.
We should always be laughing and hugging, enjoying each others’ company, believing in miracles, knowing that people can write you off and you can seem to be completely down and out. But just wait till that fourth quarter because that’s when all those disappointments and setbacks recede into a background of pure football fun.
The cheers and laughter and love all come rushing forward to the front of life where they belong.
Sean, I’m only four so these thoughts are just in an inchoate stage right now, but, man, this is so much fun!”
She didn’t know how to say all that, so she said, “I want to marry you.”
Tim Tebow, I don’t know what to say. My mom hangs on your every game, feeling like if you can do it, she can do it. My dad finds you inspirational and is amazed at your comebacks. With the help of your "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" and all these "amazing teammates" that you continually laud, you find a way to win again and again.
Tim Tebow, will you marry me?