Bob Bestler

As many try to bury Tim Tebow, he valiantly keeps coming back strong

Columbia Fireflies player Tim Tebow signs an autograph before a game against the Hickory Crawdads last month.
Columbia Fireflies player Tim Tebow signs an autograph before a game against the Hickory Crawdads last month. AP

Apologies to the Bard of Avon, but I have come today to praise Tim Tebow, not to bury him.

Tebow is playing the outfield for the Columbia Fireflies and by all accounts he is the most popular minor leaguer to come through the capital city since a young Hammering Hank Aaron in 1953.

The Charleston Post & Courier recently reported that Tebow doesn’t hesitate to sign autographs, pose for pictures, talk to kids and fans. Some pundit even dubbed him “the Palmetto State’s Angel in the Outfield.”

I’m not surprised by any of it. Every time I’ve seen him, in interviews or sports shows, he has demonstrated nothing but respect and good humor, even during the tough times in his career.

Still, for reasons I have never fully understood, Tebow seems to be reviled in some quarters of the sports world.

Ostensibly it is because he does, indeed, wear his Christianity on his sleeve and that does not sit well with many – Christians and non-Christians, I’m sure.

He even became a subject of ridicule when he was photographed on a football field, kneeling in prayer. “Tebowing,” some called it.

Oh, come on, folks.

How many times have we heard popular and well-meaning boxers and basketball players and baseball players and NASCAR drivers “thank God” for their success? None of that seems troubling, yet I’m not sure God plays favorites in sporting contests.

The thing about Tim Tebow is that he is the real deal. He comes by his religion honestly, inheriting it from his Christian missionary parents. As a teenager, he himself served as a missionary in the Philippines.

Seven years ago he established the Tim Tebow Foundation to help bring some hope and joy to children with life-threatening diseases. He’s financed Tim’s Playrooms in children’s hospitals around the country and has provided life-saving surgeries for children in the Philippines.

His football career? That’s another thing.

As a college quarterback, Tebow led the Florida Gators to two national championships, setting team records along the way and winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007.

He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2010 and by the end of his first year as a professional, it seemed he was on his way to greatness.

He relieved starter Kyle Orton in the fifth game of the season with the Broncos trailing the Miami Dolphins 15-0. He brought the team back in the final three minutes and Denver ended up winning, 18-15.

He then led the team to wins in six of the last eight games – and then, curiously, he was traded to the New York Jets and his career began a downward spiral.

After disappointing stints with the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, Tebow eventually turned to baseball, a game he had not played since high school.

Now, at 29, Tebow’s athletic career appears to be in its waning days, despite an occasional home run as a Firefly.

But he has proven to be a popular football broadcaster and recently signed a contract extension with ESPN. He’ll continue his role as an analyst on the network’s show, SEC Nation.

Sounds like Tim Tebow, despite the setbacks, is in no hurry to be buried. I wish him well.

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