“Faith and Football… Tressel and Tebow”
I am a follower of Jesus Christ. You could also call me a football fan.
I love the Bible and I love the Church. You could also catch me watching a game and talking about strategy, playcalling, and the depth chart.
So when somehow, faith and football collide, it’s fascinating to me. Christians in America feel excitement and admiration when a well-known athlete speaks positively about God.
Just look at the shelves of a Christian bookstore, where you’ll find books by football coaches (Joe Gibbs, Tony Dungy, Gene Chizik, and yes, Tress). You’ll find books by current and former NFL players from all over the country (Shaun Alexander, Colt McCoy, Drew Brees, and yes, Tebow).
Should football heroes somehow double as spiritual leaders? Are their lives worth following and observing off the field? Should we read their books?
With Tim Tebow, we seem to have a young man with a faith and maturity beyond his years. In 2011, the term “Tebowing” came to describe the act of bowing, praying, and showing loyalty to God in Heaven. Tim’s faith in God seems to give strength and purpose to everything he does and says. Though His clearly-professed love for Jesus Christ is criticized everywhere from SportsCenter to water coolers across America, He seems content to praise God regardless.
Tebow has clearly said he doesn’t believe God cares or decides the outcome of a football game. But God clearly inspires this tough, unrefined quarterback to keep playing hard, always believe you can win, and pump up your teammates!
When Christians speak out about faith and attempt to live for God in the midst of public scrutiny, we should pray for strength and protection and perseverance. You can root for Tebow to lead another game-winning comeback, but let’s also pray for God to use Tim’s life to inspire others. Tebow’s pedestal is temporary, but Christ’s is forever.
With Jim Tressel, we have one of the most outspoken Christian coaches in recent memory. But in 2011, Ohio State’s beloved Coach Tressel was indeed revealed as a less-than-perfect leader. Yes, Ohio, even Jim Tressel has sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Though he had given speeches and written books on faith and integrity, Coach Tressel made costly mistakes that hurt Ohio State and cost him his job.
Since the scandal, critics of Ohio State and of Christianity were quick to bash Tressel’s testimony or mock his life lessons and write them off as self-righteous propaganda.
I don’t remember Coach Tressel ever making a heart-felt apology or explanation about falling short and making mistakes and asking forgiveness. Once a model for Christian loyalty and integrity, Coach Tressel could one day be a model of repentance, forgiveness, and dependence on God’s mercy.
I hope we haven’t seen the last of Coach Tressel, nor heard the last about God’s work in His life. Coach said a lot of things about persevering through life’s trials, and he has the chance to experience that. Tressel’s pedestal was temporary, but Christ’s is forever.
As we close the books on 2011, Christian sports fans will never forget what we’ve seen from Jim Tressel and Tim Tebow. Two men who were not ashamed to give voice to their Christian beliefs.
For a time, though not being perfect, these men acknowledged that only Jesus Christ deserved the spotlight. Sports figures (or any other human beings) are only worth following or imitating so long as they say, with the Apostle Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Tressel will always be remembered as a great coach who loved Ohio State. Tebow may one day be remembered as the underdog who led his team to greatness.
Football is great fun, and quite an escape from our daily stresses. Root for your favorite team or player, but don’t expect perfection. Don’t put men on any pedestal. Don’t think Tebow is as great as some say, nor Tress as bad as some say. We all desperately need and depend on Jesus Christ as our forgiver, our leader, and our Savior. Look at Him. Read about His life. Start acting like Him. Praise Him. Talk about Him more. He’s our Hero.