Sunday, November 30, 2014

“Tebow Time!” (American Football)

One of the sporting icons of recent times was a nine-days wonder – a young American Football Quarterback (QB) named Tim Tebow. A champion at College level a few years ago, idolized by most followers of the College game, he played only one season in the professional NFL, and was an exciting addition to the mix. One of the most erratic of players, his competence in the game was like nothing so much as the little girl with the little curl in the nursery rhyme – who when she was good, she was very, very good; but when she was bad she was horrid.

Tim’s problem was that he was often (usually?) horrid for the first 80-90% of every game, and sometimes superbly good in the closing minutes. During the latter period, passes that had flown yards above the heads of receivers or wide of their hands, suddenly began to hit their targets. His fans called it “Tebow Time”, and spent a lot of nervous energy waiting for it to arrive. When it did – when it did – they forgave him all the wretchedness and delighted in his glory.

During his second season as a professional in the NFL, in 2011, he was the erratic and unreliable QB of the Denver Broncos – only in the team because of his College reputation and the fact that the Broncos’ Number One QB proved to be even worse. His coaches mixed jubilation with despair, and attributed his last-minute victories to what they called his “intangibles” – plain luck, as often as not.

The last three minutes of the Miami game became the stuff of legend. Denver’s Defensive Unit had kept Miami to two touchdowns and a field goal (17 points); Miami’s Defense had kept Denver’s Offensive Unit scoreless for the first fifty-seven minutes of play. A walkover. But… but… wait… The remaining three minutes were Tebow Time.

Out of nowhere, the Offence scrambled and blocked and fizzed around like a fart in a bottle, and conjured up the necessary 17 points while the Defense – miraculously inspired – harried and hurried the opposition off the field without points. Tebow Time had come, just in time to tie the score; and Denver went on to win in sudden-death overtime.

That and similar flukes along the way got Denver into the post-season Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the bookies made 13-point favourites. This time, Denver’s Offence and Defense were both erratic for the entire game. It was Pittsburgh who fought back like tigers to overcome a two-touchdown lead and tie the game in the fourth Quarter.  Overtime again! High drama! The toss of the coin gave Tebow one last chance to do his thing.

On this occasion, eleven seconds was all the Tebow Time he needed. In the very first play, desperately protected by his Offensive Line from the Pittsburgh rush, he waited a tad over two seconds (one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three…) and fired a bullet up-field. The plan called for the receiver to run twenty yards north and cut fifteen yards eastward, and arrive exactly when and where the ball arrived.

It’s a beautiful piece of action – the crossing route executed at high speed. Eight or nine Offensive players are running every which-way, and the defenders don’t know which of them is the designated catcher. This time, the intersection was perfect. The receiver on the left ran up and across to the right, caught the ball at full speed, brushed aside a couple of grabs, veered left again and galloped sixty yards to the goal-line. Game over.

The home crowd went bananas, while Tim did his two-second kneel-down before joining in the hysteria. After scoring, he always went down on one knee for a couple of seconds with his head bowed, in the gesture known as Tebowing. Asked once whether he prayed to his God for a win, he shrugged and said, “God doesn’t care who wins football games, but it’s only fair to thank him when things go right.”
The son of missionaries, he was an evangelical Christian. During his College career, he adopted the common custom of football players of pasting black strips beneath their eyes to shield them from the glare. He advertised his faith by having John 3:16 (a famous verse from the Gospel) hand-printed in white on the black strip. In that Pittsburgh game he passed for 316 yards at 31.6 yards per completion. The TV commentators made a big play of the figures, and John 3:16 was the top search item on Google next morning. If you Google “3:16 game” you will have your choice of 56 million entries to read all about it.