Christmas Present: Put A Tebow On It

Broncomaniacs, If You Can’t Hear God Now, You Might Never

Inspirational leadership requires that you be inspired, first and foremost. So to deliver a fresh dose of inspiration, please pardon me if I bring in the “G-word” today – “God.” Because whether or not you are a fan of the unabashedly-religious Tim Tebow, or of my beloved Denver Broncos (for whom he plays), or even of sports in general… I’m here today to tell you that you are Ebenezer Scrooge, and the Spirits are coming to call.

I don’t mean that you’re a miserly, grumpy old man (though you might be that, too). I mean that you are being visited by Spirits – not in the form of Tim Tebow, but of the truly-miraculous events currently befalling Tebow and his team – the Spirits of Christmas (and Broncos) past, present, and future. And unless you turn even a more deaf ear to the Spirits than did the original Scrooge, you’re likely to gain a new generosity of spirit, a new willingness to believe in the Divine, and (dare I say it?), a new Inspiration.

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the story to which I refer, begins by pointing out that Old Marley, Scrooge’s former business partner, was dead – dead as a doornail. And Dickens declares that this fact must be clearly understood, or the rest of the story doesn’t bring you the power it should.

The same is true of the Broncos this year. The Broncos were dead as a doornail, and this was clearly understood by everyone – and I mean EVERY ONE – who follows pro football this year. The team was 1-4, and had to dismiss a proven starting quarterback in favor of an untested, reputedly unskilled quarterback in his second year as a professional (Tebow). Essentially, the Broncos had to start over, a little more than a month into a four-month season. They were in last place. They couldn’t score. They couldn’t stop an opponent from scoring at will. Experts were predicting the Broncos might not win another game. They were dead as a doornail.

Enter Tebow, who’s become famous for his open Christianity, to include kneeling in prayer on the gridiron in a pose that’s come to be known as “Tebowing.” He’s been mocked by everyone – and I mean EVERY ONE – from his bosses to leading media experts – as much for his Tebowing as for his apparent lack of skill as a passer of the football. But a weird thing has happened since Tebow started leading the team: the Broncos have won seven out of eight games with this unskilled neophyte at the helm. In all of those games, the Broncos were big underdogs. In all of those games, they were behind late in the game. And every come-from-behind victory has defied explanation by anyone who’s even a casual observer (let alone a rabid Broncos fan like myself).

Yesterday’s miraculous win over the Chicago Bears, in which the Broncos trailed by 10 points with a little over two minutes left and ended up winning by three in overtime, was so improbable it left everyone – and I mean EVERY ONE – shaking their heads in disbelief. No one can explain the win, let alone its place at the end of a long string of nearly-equal miracle victories. According to the experts, Tebow still can’t pass, the Broncos are still no good, but they’re winning. They’re holding other teams out of the end zone… they’re scoring what they need to score in nearly every game… and now, they’re in sole possession of first place with an 8-5 record.

A miracle is anything that happens which can’t be explained by human reason – good, or bad, as reckoned from your own self-interested perspective. So, since everyone – and I mean EVERY ONE – is without an explanation of the Broncos’ recent success, one must at least consider some possibilities that we, in today’s cynical world, often are very quick (blindingly quick) to dismiss: it’s possible there really is a God, that He gives a crap about YOU, and that He’s sending His Spirits to pay you a critical visitation which might be no less the “one chance and hope of redemption” than the one Dickens’ Scrooge got when his dead-as-a-doornail partner sent some ghosts to bug him one Christmas Eve.

If there really is a God whose sense of humor permits him to speak to all of us through such a silly medium as pro football… if there really is… would that help you explain the Broncos’ (and Tebow’s) miraculous victories of late? God knows the usual stuff (analysis, statistics, prognostication, player evaluation, match-up assessment, etc., etc.) isn’t working… right? So – play along with me here – what if there really is a God who is trying to get your attention? What if He’s willing to go to great lengths – even as far as exhuming a dead football team – to ring your rusty doorbell?

You can see the Spirit of Christmas (and Broncos) future in Tim Tebow, to be sure. However, of all the players in this drama, I think the unusual (OK, miraculous) events of late are intended LEAST of all for Tebow. Perhaps he’s already got whatever message God has for him these days. My guess is that he won’t really get what all this means until he’s a grumpy old miser, many years from now. No, the principal Spirit at work here is the Spirit of Christmas (and Broncos) present.

The Broncos’ run is a lesson for everyone – and I mean EVERY ONE.

It’s a lesson for all the so-called experts, who’ve said all along (and still maintain) that Tebow doesn’t have the skills to be a successful pro quarterback, and that the Broncos don’t match up well against other NFL teams. They’re not wrong. They’re experts. But maybe the lesson for them is that miracles still happen, and they wouldn’t BE miracles if the Broncos (or Tebow) could really claim credit. Sure, the team’s belief in itself is critical… but a lot of teams have believed in themselves only to be defeated by superior opponents. What makes this team different, now, and especially at this time of year?

It’s a lesson for the Broncos fans themselves, who also can’t explain it, but sure are enjoying the ride. I listened to caller after caller on postgame shows last evening, explaining that when things looked bleakest in the fourth quarter of yesterday’s game, they’d promised someone they’d show up in church next Sunday if the Broncos could somehow pull off another miracle win. “And so that’s just where my butt will be,” each said, “but in the early service, of course. I don’t want to miss the next game.” We’re fans, sure, and our belief in our Broncos is irrational on its face. But this 2011 miracle season goes beyond what even the most devoted of us could’ve imagined. Can it really be just luck, or a misunderstanding of the Broncos’ hidden (until recently) prowess?

It’s certainly a lesson for the Broncos’ opponents, who are shocked on a weekly basis with the loss they take at the team’s hands. They have every right to be disappointed – but their disdain for the team that beats them goes beyond the usual disappointment; they know they’re better than the Broncos, but they just can’t explain why they ended up on the wrong side of the final score. Was it really just the mistakes made by each opponent in the closing minutes of each game, every single week of late (save one)?

No, the Spirit of this Christmas present is that, love or hate the Broncos or their devoted young quarterback, everyone – and I mean EVERY ONE – who observes this remarkable Denver season is literally forced to look beyond the rational explanations they’ve assigned to their world and consider whether something more meaningful may be at work. Something like this makes you do one of two things: either you shut your eyes tight and turn away, or you soak it all in and find yourself newly inspired.

If the dead-as-a-doornail Broncos could turn their season around on a dime like this, isn’t it possible I could rejuvenate my business when I thought it was equally dead? If Tebow can go 7-1 when his admittedly-more-skilled predecessor left with a 1-4 record, isn’t it possible I could start closing sales and completing projects like never before? If an exciting young player who doesn’t know any better than to think he can make a winner out of a dead team actually does JUST that… what’s possible for me?

One nod to the Spirit of Christmas (and Broncos) past: John Elway, the legendary Hall-of-Fame Broncos quarterback of yesteryear, has thus far been very public about his refusal to jump on the Tebow bandwagon. He doesn’t see the skills. He doesn’t see the improvement. He doesn’t see a future for Tim Tebow as a big-time NFL quarterback.

Why is that? I’ve always been a big fan of John Elway… but it’s my suspicion that this great Divine message is intended more for him than for anyone else. Here’s a guy who actually had surgery to REMOVE his biceps tendon – a critical body part you’d think one would need to play quarterback in the NFL. But get this: before he lost his “good right arm,” Elway lost four Super Bowls by notoriously lopsided scores. After the surgery, with a “miracle arm” that shouldn’t have been capable of throwing the football the way it did, Elway cruised to two consecutive victories in the big game.

Maybe, for all the miraculous comebacks and surgeries and victories he experienced, John didn’t get the message back then. The grace of God (if any… remember, we’re just supposin’ here) was surely bestowed on John Elway as a player, but he never seemed to know it. He trusted his good right arm, and convinced himself they were his own great skills that made all those glorious accomplishments possible. Maybe – just maybe – Marley has sent him a new Spirit to show him otherwise. Maybe all the things he can’t see today (dance, though they might, right before his eyes) can only be viewed through the lens of his personal past.

John Elway’s inspiration (or lack thereof) is none of my business, and it’s none of yours. That’s between John and his Maker. But the great thing about God (if any) is that He can teach all of us the lessons we need with one silly football team. How many times have I crossed the proverbial goal line and spiked the proverbial ball, proud of my own amazing brilliance and ability, and giving myself all the credit? How often have I doubted the Divine, and trusted instead to my own good right arm? How many victories have left me shaking my head in disbelief, unable to rationally explain the miracles all around me, even when others could see them so plainly?

What a blessing to behold this Broncos season, and Tim Tebow’s amazing run. And what a lesson. One of these weeks, the “luck” will run out, and everyone who shut tight their eyes against the possibility of seeing a miracle will throw those eyes open with a lusty cry of “See, I told you!” That’s okay. What’s happened the last eight weeks in Denver, and on gridirons all over the U.S. where the Broncos played, cannot now be undone. It will always be there, on display in the history books, to be seen by anyone with open eyes.

If you aren’t following the Broncos at all this year, you probably haven’t read this far – but there is some other miracle out there in your immediate vicinity, waiting for you to notice it. For those of us who do bleed orange and blue, though, this particular demonstration of Divinity is near, and it’s current. Let’s not forget it. Let’s keep the lesson well, and draw from it the inspiration of the seasons – both holiday, and football.

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