Tim Tebow: Who Benefits More, Religion or the NFL?

Mike StangerCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos walks off the field during the Broncos 16-13 overtime win over the San Diego Chargers in their NFL Game on November 27, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him."

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche's pronouncement of God's death wasn't literal, but rather figurative, in that society no longer recognized the deity on which it was founded.

Although Nietzsche's comments were controversial at the time, his words seem to ring true in today's world. One has only to attend a Sunday church service to see the empty pews that were once filled not that long ago.

The death of God leads to nihilism, Nietzsche believed; therefore, someone or something needs to fill that void.

What has filled that void in today's society?

For some, believe it or not, football has.

If this seems absurd, just go to a local church and see how many people attending the service are wearing jerseys or jackets with their favorite football teams' logos on them. Many of them are probably thinking more about the upcoming game than they are the homily.

Others don't even bother going to church because it might interfere with tailgating time.

But as popular as football is, it is just a benign game that doesn't speak to any cosmic sense of morality. It cannot, in and of itself, fill that void.

Enter Tim Tebow.

The success of Tebow has created a unique confluence between faith and football, which has resulted in a tumultuous current flowing throughout the vein of our society.

His performance on the field, combined with his strong religious beliefs, has made him a lighting-rod topic at tailgating parties, company water coolers and family baptisms.

Some admire Tebow for being strong in his convictions, while others loathe him for putting religion front and center in the game that they love.

There doesn't appear to be much middle ground.

But the hidden message in the Tebow phenomenon is that people and groups are looking for something to lead them, whether it be superficially or in a deeper, spiritual way.

They have chosen him, at least momentarily, to fill that void.

The NFL and the religious community are two entities that have latched on to Tebow due to his popularity.

But who has benefited more?

Tebow has helped the NFL both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Quantitatively, he has been a bonanza in ratings, at least in the Denver area, as viewership for Bronco games are said to be up 17 percent.

Furthermore, the NFL has made subjective judgment calls when dealing with the television networks due to the demand for Tebow.

The league disallowed NBC the right to flex the New England Patriots at Denver Broncos game, even though CBS didn't initially protect it as it was obligated to do earlier in the season.

Also, the Denver Broncos-Minnesota Vikings game was shown on Fox, when it technically fell in the domain of CBS.

These moves are unprecedented.

All of this over Tebow.

Moreover, the NFL recognizes a good public-relations move when it sees one. 

Indeed, the always image-conscious NFL has taken a few hits to the face recently, with the imprisonments of Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress, the sexual assault allegations against Ben Roethlisberger and Julian Edelman, and the recent arrest of Samuel Hurd for cocaine distribution.

Here is where Tebow has helped the league qualitatively.

Regardless of how one feels about him, Tebow truly appears to be a good man with strong character. Evidence of that character is provided by how his teammates respond to him.

The Denver Bronco players believe in him

Tebow represents much of what is good in professional sports: he competes on a high level, yet doesn't gloat; he chooses to console his teammates, not to scold them; and he always gives credit to others over himself.

And he always thanks his God.

Due to Tebow's strong faith, many within the various religious communities have latched on to him as a poster child. 

For some of those religiously minded, Tebow has provided a renewed pride in the expression of faith. His willingness not to be shy about his beliefs has given them confidence in their convictions.

Even religious NFL players are attracted to Tebow and draw inspiration from him. They see him putting himself out there despite the mocking and ridicule from some of his peers.

In many ways, Tebow is the anti-Nietzsche. Whereas Nietzsche saw the death of God, Tebow sees God alive everywhere.

Whether you are a theist, agnostic or atheist, there is a quality about Tebow that resonates in all of us. He represents humanity's strong desire to believe in something greater than itself.

So, who benefits most from the success of Tim Tebow?

We all do. 


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