He’s got folk hero status across the country.
He’s winning when everybody was betting against him.
He’s won over fans outside of football.
Could Tim Tebow one day win elections like he’s winning football games now? It’s clearly way too soon to predict, before you scoff at the notion of an athlete leveraging success on the field or court to success in politics, remember: there is a precedent, and plenty of it.
Tebow may win ugly, but it doesn’t look like his fans care. For them, he represents something bigger. He’s the underdog. He’s also a Christian underdog. Both types of underdog fans are pulling for him.
Conservatives love him and Christian-conservatives adore him. He can’t win the presidential nomination this go-round, obviously, but could he be a favorite in 2036? He’ll be around 50 years old by that time and potentially primed for the Republican nomination.
Jack Kemp was on the ticket with Bob Dole for Vice-President when Clinton and Gore won in 1996. Kemp played the quarterback position, too, starring for the Buffalo Bills in the 1960s.
There are plenty of other sports figures who have made it to Congress. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, the positions which have the ball in their hands most often have fared the best in public office.
Hall of fame Wide receiver Steve Largent, former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler, former Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts, NBA star Bill Bradley, and former all-star pitcher Jim Bunning handled both their fare share of the ball and political fireworks (Shuler is still in office).
None of the former athletes-turned-politicians can claim to have worn their religious beliefs on their shirtsleeves (or tattoos on bodies) as strongly as how Tim Tebow does though; and this may be where he stands out most in the eyes of Republican voters, especially on the Christian-conservative side.
Tebow causes controversy by being as open with his religion as he is. Some people take offense to Tebow’s insistence that Jesus is responsible for his skills and work ethic and his propensity for public prayer.
Right now though, Tebow’s openness about his religious beliefs don’t seem to matter as much as they would were he a candidate for public office.
As a football player, Tebow is riding a wave, a rare wave, one that many want to compare to “a miracle.” Headlines in the sports world read as if Tebow is a savior, which he may be for the Broncos this season. He has saved, enlightened, exalted, and healed many a football fan this year. Some fans are looking for his games to watch as if they are being “born again” as football fans.
Eventually, Tebow’s stardom will fall back to earth just like everybody else’s in the sports world; but unlike everybody else, he will continue to be a darling to Christians and Republicans, and especially to those who are both.
Tebow’s future scriptures may not have “Hall of Fame” or “Super Bowl MVP” written in them, but they might just have other nominations inscribed.
What do you think?
Tebow wouldn’t be the first outspoken athlete to turn to politics after his sports career ends as a way to affect change. Do you think he fits the profile of an athlete who could (or will) succeed in the political arena? Comment below.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com.