Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow are gifts. Let’s use them.
For me, as a kid growing up in Pittsburgh, it was Roberto Clemente. He played his heart out, he had his many unconventional habits (e.g. neck-twitching before each at-bat), he was the first Latino superstar in baseball, and he was extremely generous to the place of his impoverished upbringing – Puerto Rico.
Many adults scoff at idolization by children, but I can say that focusing on such a great man helped build my character. I committed myself to always bust my butt like Roberto in all the sports I played, and later, I carried this over to other activities. I liked, and still like, being unconventional. I have my quirks (I never wear a tie), and like Roberto, I display them proudly.
The problem isn’t idolization of athletes. It’s in our supply of potential “idols.” Let’s face it – most great athletes don’t have exemplary characters.
Lin and Tebow are different. They’re unselfish. They’re modest. They play very, very hard, but they play fair. They don’t criticize the many who have criticized them. Also, they’re wholesomely religious. I’m not religious myself, but even the most adamant atheist would have a hard time favoring one of those superstars with super-loose morals – e.g. Magic Johnson or Barry Bonds – over Lin and Tebow.
So, I say, talk up Lin and Tebow to your kids. Buy your kids books about those guys (the first chapter book I read was about Roberto). Watch them on TV. Revel together in their miraculous success. Lin’s last-second three-pointer to win the Knicks’ game last night was one of those unique moments of pure unadulterated sports joy, and his interview after the game is a huge lesson in character.
And Tebow last fall??? Sheesh, I didn’t even feel too bad when he beat my Pittsburgh Steelers in dramatic fashion in the playoffs a month ago.
Our kids are blessed to be growing up with Tebomania and Linsanity in their midst. Let’s take stock and be grateful.