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Oh, How We Have Fallen

screen-shot-2017-07-05-at-11-19-13-pmEditor’s Note: Normally, Kristin Kleinert and her husband Adam pen this column together. This time, Adam is sharing an experience involving Tim Tebow that he had with one of his four children. 

As a parent, you’re always glad when your offspring show enthusiasm for role models of whom you personally approve. That’s why I recently found myself excited while making a quick day trip with my son, Eli, to see Tim Tebow play minor league baseball in Lexington, Ky. We’ve been fans of Tebow for years, and when we saw that he’d be playing nearby, my twelve-year-old and I jumped at the chance to attend.

I envisioned the day ahead of us: watching a great athlete engaging in one of our favorite sports. We’d be able to talk about Tebow’s personal grace, his strength of character, his sincere effort as a sportsman. However, a different life lesson presented itself that afternoon. fit1

We were settled in our seats when the players began to emerge from centerfield, heading to the dugouts with their bats, helmets and gloves in tow. Tebow strolled out with his teammates and I noticed right away: He looked tired. This was not the energetic, upbeat guy we are used to seeing on television. It seemed strange not to see him smile as we’ve seen so many times before. Nonetheless, Eli was in awe.

As soon as Tebow reached the left field sideline, he began signing paraphernalia for eagerly awaiting “fans”. Soon, he was grabbed by staff who ushered him over to begin pregame warm-ups. Some of the waiting fans took such displeasure at this they yelled angrily for Tebow to return and continue signing. As soon as throwing and stretching were complete, he walked back to the spot where he’d stood before and began where he left off. Still no Tebow smile, however, just a very tired baseball player.

A few minutes passed, and he came to my own son. Eli leaned down and said something to his hero as he signed his glove, but I was a couple of rows back and could not hear the exchange. Tebow looked up, grinned and replied, then reached for the next item being thrust at him and went on signing in the same manner as before.

When Eli got back to our seats, I asked him what he had said to Mr. Tebow. “I just said “Thank you, sir. Have a great game today!” he replied. “And then Tim said ‘Thanks, Bud!”

I didn’t think too much about it at the time as it didn’t seem overly prolific to me.

Eli and I were fortunate enough to watch Tebow play a double header that day as his team, the Columbia Fireflies, took on the Lexington Legends. Every free moment – and I mean EVERY free moment – he took up his post, signing autographs, making sure no one was skipped, no one was left out. Even after the games, he came back out and continued to sign. Sadly, though, his trademark smiles were very few and far between. And then it dawned on me: He only smiled when he talked, even briefly, with a fan. It seemed it was almost a relief when they weren’t asking him for something and wanted just to engage. Like eli had.

I began to realize that just about everyone at the park (and let’s be honest, we were all there to see him) wanted a little piece of Tim Tebow.

Now, I know it’s easy to say, “Well, he knew what he was signing up for when he agreed to play.” Let me be the first to say I don’t know anyone who would intentionally sign up for exactly that. He was constantly being asked – and often demanded of – to pose for a picture, promote a ministry or fulfill a laundry list of other requests even after he spent every possible second signing autographs for those same folks.

As I watched all this play out, I noticed a little girl who hadn’t gotten her ball signed when the escorts began to pull Tebow away for another game. He reached out and gestured for her to toss him the ball, obviously willing to sign one last autograph as he hurried away. Within seconds of the girl’s toss to him, five or six other balls were pitched at Tebow by middle-aged men who weren’t even sitting together. (These balls were handed politely back to their owners – unsigned – by security guards.) Tebow finished his signature for the little girl and wearily headed to his next obligation.

GRABBING A PIECE OF SOMETHING ADMIRABLE DOES NOT, IN TURN, MAKE US ADMIRABLE.

The realizations kept coming at this point: 140+ games! How could anyone enjoy doing this for 140+ games?

And then I became fully aware: We were all there to see Tim Tebow. We like who he is. Each of us were inspired by him in some way at least enough to show up that day. But were we exhibiting the same behaviors we came to admire?

Through all the trials of that day (he played hard but did not have his best performance ever) he worked diligently to be Tim Tebow. He exhibited grace and respect, which sadly was not the case for many of the “fans” in attendance. One would think that folks who look up to a man of character would exhibit some of their own.

As I drove home that night, I began to think maybe the people who treated Tebow in such a demanding manner are simply a product of our culture – a culture that incessantly asks “What can YOU do for ME?”

It seems people are most concerned with what they are getting out of an experience rather than the well-being of those involved. Sadly, many members of the crowd that afternoon were not attentive to how they could be more like Tim Tebow himself; rather, they were wrapped up in what Tebow could do for them to make their own life a little more fulfilled. As a result, it was NO WONDER Tebow looked so tired. I’m sure the man was exhausted by it all. He is, after all, only human. I think we forget that about our heroes sometimes.

As Eli and I finished our trip, we talked (a talk I would have with our other three children a bit later that night). We spoke about the crowd’s general behavior toward Tebow. We discussed how his “fans” had treated him as if he were a circus monkey. We talked about the fact that no matter how nice or giving a person is, everyone has a breaking point.

Overall, we did, indeed, discuss the grace and character surrounding Tim Tebow. But the life lesson learned was not about how to emulate the character of our heroes. Rather, we discovered this realization: Grabbing a piece of something admirable does not, in turn, make us admirable. The grace we seek lies within our own actions.


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