He arrived at a time when the nation was fearful and fighting malaise, hungry for a hero to root for, eager to find hope amidst the dark clouds of uncertainty.
That the “he” was a three-year-old thoroughbred racehorse made no difference. After all, Americans enjoy rooting for the little guy, especially when that little guy is criticized and counted out by so-called experts.
Do you remember the story?
It was 1938, smack in the middle of the Great Depression. Seabiscuit was a three-year-old horse from Kentucky. Analysts thought him too small and too wobbly to be a real contender and his performance in his first few races seemed to confirm the corporate consensus. But something clicked, or better yet, somebody gave the horse a chance. In time he didn’t just win, but was declared the best horse in America. He lifted people’s spirits and helped to remind them that with heart and hard work good things can happen.
In the 2003 Academy Award-nominated film about the hero horse, his owner declares, “Everybody loses a couple. And you either pack up and go home or you keep fighting!”
Cynics might be tempted to dismiss such sentiment as Pollyannaish or myopic. Let them. The improbable story is true.
I’ve been thinking about that old horse lately, not because I’m a fan of the sport, which I’m not. Nor am I all that interested in the fact that he won when people thought he would lose. I’m most impressed with what that effort did for the American psyche. People pulled for that horse for no other reason than because the horse gave them hope. It gave them something to cheer about when things in the country looked bleak. It reminded them that success is not just about victory but also persistence and attitude.
Which is why I think Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is today’s version of Seabiscuit. The public is particularly hungry for a good guy to root for and eager to see an underdog defy his critics.
To be sure, they’ve found an affable and honorable hero in the former Heisman Trophy-winning player.
It’s also refreshing to see a guy who gets paid to play football remind reporters that there are more important things in life than football, namely his faith in Jesus Christ and his care and concern for his fellow man. When Tebow was asked to address the team the evening before the game, he gave an inspired message based upon Proverbs 27:17:
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
“I just tried to share from the heart,” he later said.
Which is exactly what the world is instinctively craving, whether they know it or not – a person with heart who wants to help lift up the weary by infusing them with hope – hope that will never disappoint or let them down.
With another win yesterday afternoon in San Diego, his fifth in six starts, “Tebow Talk” grows greater still, including that of his detractors who still think he’s overrated. But if you ask me, Tim has given a lot of people a lot of hope – not that good guys win, but that good guys never give up, never give in – and in doing so, help to remind us to keep the main thing (our Christian faith), the main thing.