A lesson for American politics from the Book of Tebow
And so it came to pass that the Lord God looked down upon the people of the world in the early years of the 21st century (frankly, it had nothing to do with His position: you would look down on them too) and saw they were dissatisfied and unrest filled the parks of their financial ...
And so it came to pass that the Lord God looked down upon the people of the world in the early years of the 21st century (frankly, it had nothing to do with His position: you would look down on them too) and saw they were dissatisfied and unrest filled the parks of their financial districts and their tea parties were no longer festive occasions featuring scones and clotted cream.
And He thought, "I have given them food and they grew fat. I have given them Eden and they paved it over. I have given them the air they breathe and they pumped it full of greenhouse gasses. I gave them life and they turned it into a reality television show. And they’re frustrated! If I weren’t immortal I’d be on the ledge myself right now."
Now it was Christmastime in America (or, as it was known to God in Heaven, holiday season) and as the Lord was finishing a big plate of latkes he pondered what He might do. "I have even given the Christians my only son," He muttered to Himself, sounding uncannily like Morgan Freeman. "How do you top that?"
And so it was that the Lord created Tim Tebow. And Tebow was a man who had the faith of the prophets, the virtue of the saints, the body of a linebacker, and the ability to run the option. He also was possessed of charm, good looks, and an underrated throwing arm (face it, three or four really good passes were dropped last weekend).
Now for those among the disbelievers who might ask, "How does the deity look down upon the earth, see a problem, and create a full-grown guy to solve it when that really would require some advance planning?" The answer is He’s the deity for Christ’s sake. Omniscient. All powerful. And for those of you who are non-believers or who believe in science (Democrats), see the recent special issue of Scientific American on the mysteries of time. It has a great explanation of how many physicists believe all instants in time co-exist simultaneously and I’m sure you can work it out from there.
To ensure that Tebow was appreciated and able to deliver to the people the Lord’s message of hope, he was made a football player, which guaranteed him far better ratings than he could get were he an itinerant preacher. Indeed, the Lord knew if he had Tebow wandering the Mideast barefoot like some of his prior creations he would probably die, the anonymous casualty of some drone strike. So, going with the NFL, which God had noticed with some frustration was considerably better at marketing than any of the world’s major religions, seemed like a good idea.
And so, each week, on the American Sabbath (which is usually Sundays and Monday nights but late in the season also includes Thursdays and Saturdays), the Lord would unfold before America a new Tebow parable for all to behold. In each, Tebow would struggle much as the Jews have through history (constantly on the run, constantly at risk, unfairly perceived as the creators of their own misfortunes). But then, in the last moments, when all hope was lost, fortune would change and, as if by miracle (not entirely a coincidence), Tebow would emerge victorious and even the cynical and the hopeless of America would for a moment believe again.
And thus it came to pass that the lesson of the Book of Tebow was written, clear for all to behold and important for all to comprehend — even if they thought football was a barbarian entertainment in which hyperthyroid freaks pound one another with the crowns of their helmets until they are insensible, thus dramatically shortening their lifespans and pretty much reenacting the most brutal, bloodthirsty days of Roman gladiators without any of the grace, elegance, or athleticism of soccer.
And that lesson was that in football and in all walks of life, no story is complete until its final sentence is written. This is as true for the average plumber or resident of the Jersey Shore as it is for those whom God has selected, such as Tebow Himself or Tom Cruise. (But this is not the place to get into why God created Scientology. Suffice it to say that it was all part of a bet with another deity from a distant alternative monotheistic universe to see just what kind of ridiculous nonsense they could get people to believe in.)
The message is clear. For 55 minutes of every Tebow game, the story an observer might tell would be one of futility, hopelessness, and misreading the secondary. But everything can be transformed in seconds. Judge not, sayeth the Lord, at least not until the fat lady has sung. Because if you are a mess for 55 minutes but deliver in the final five, people will remember you as a winner and think only of your miracles, and your reputation and your potential to do celebrity endorsements will skyrocket.
There is a lesson in all this for those who are watching American politics. It is not, by the way, that Tebow has a great career awaiting him in Washington. God has no intention of wasting any salvageable soul inside the Beltway. It is that despite impulses to the contrary from pundits, Twitterati, and other shoot-from-the-lip insta-historians, you can’t make a final judgment on politicians, campaigns, or even presidencies until the final sentence of their stories has been written.
We have seen it throughout history. Nixon may have been among the most successful presidents of the past 50 years in pure policy terms. But the last sentence of the story determined that he would be remembered for Watergate. Carter was a muddled micromanager but is remembered for a great post-Presidency. Clinton seemed lost to a sullied memory but has similarly redeemed himself in his own professional epilogue.
In this campaign, we have seen that Gingrich — for whom the Lord God denies any responsibility, attributing him to other malevolent forces in the Universe — got to enjoy the unusual privilege of reading all his professional obituaries before he got to read stories of his own second coming. (The Lord God is not very happy with that allusion either.) And so it may be that since the Republican nomination won’t be locked up until the convention, it is premature now to cast a final judgment on any candidate or his strategy.
Finally, and most importantly, it is also true that judgment must be withheld on Barack Obama’s tenure as president. Many people look at his low poll numbers and mid-term assessments of his remoteness, aloofness, and impulse to compromise and say he has frittered away an opportunity. But what if the economy rebounds a little (as it seems to be doing), unemployment slips to around eight percent or a little below, and the president is reelected. What if America actually manages the crisis relatively better than Europe or Japan (it won’t be hard) and becomes a safe haven for the capital of a world awash in money seeking a new home? Will he be remembered as aloof? Or will he instead be celebrated as the cool, calm center of reason whose steady hand helped slowly guide America to a recovery — a man who managed to stabilize markets, ride out unrest, and coax recovery into taking root, all while coolly dispatching al-Qaeda and bin Laden, getting out of two wars, and bringing health care to millions of Americans who didn’t have it before?
Think about it.
It’s not impossible. And, of course, the fact that nothing is impossible is, to be sure, the other most important lesson of the Book of Tebow.
David Rothkopf is a former editor of Foreign Policy and CEO of The FP Group. Twitter: @djrothkopf
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