Tim Tebow is one of the most controversial athletes in sports today. His outward religious beliefs, which have included wearing Bible verses on his eye black and appearing in a pro-choice ad during the Super Bowl, combined with the Tebowing craze have made him both the most either hated and most loved athlete in sports today.
But while Tebow probably gets the most attention for being religious, he is hardly alone as an athlete who thinks God is #1. While it’s become completely cliché with how many athletes thank God after a game, these guys really, really mean it.
Besides strong religious beliefs, the other thing these athletes all have in common is they are all better at throwing a football than Tim Tebow.
Cassius Clay was sort of the Terrell Owens or Ochocinco of his time except pretty much the opposite as far as non-douchiness went. Always the center of attention and controversy, Clay joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. This would be like Tebow changing his name to Jesus McGod. When the Vietnam War came around and Ali was drafted, he refused to serve, saying it was against his religious beliefs. This was before the widespread objection to the war, so it would also be like Tebow getting suspended for Occupying Wall Street. His draft refusal caused him to be stripped of his titles and be banned from boxing for over three years of his prime. Later Ali would convert to Sunni Island and in 2005, Surfism.
During his career, Curtis was known more for his off-the-field behavior than his on the field production. He led the Yankees religious services during their dynasty years and once he was traded from the Yankees to the Rangers, he wrote a religious column in the Dallas Morning News. His religious beliefs also earned him a broken thumb while a member of the Cleveland Indians after he confronted Kevin Mitchell about the profanities in the songs being played in the clubhouse, resulting in him being pushed into a ping pong table and breaking his hand. Later he had a public dispute with Royce Clayton over rap music in the clubhouse as well.
After retiring in 2002, he got a degree in education and taught at North Pointe Christian High School. He also distributed autographed self-made religious baseball cards before games, of which I am the proud owner of 12.
Many athletes are religious. But only one is Carl Everett. Throughout his relatively productive career, he was no stranger to controversy. From bumping umpires to screaming matches with his own manager, Everett was seemingly always in trouble. He famously questioned the validity of the moon landing and was outspoken against homosexuality. But the defining moment in Everett’s career came with this gem of a quote:
“God created the sun, the stars, the heavens and the earth, and then made Adam and Eve. The Bible never says anything about dinosaurs. You can’t say there were dinosaurs when you never saw them. Somebody actually saw Adam and Eve. No one ever saw a Tyrannosaurus rex.”
He went on to claim dinosaur fossils were man made fabrications. As far as I can tell, Tebow is a dinosaur believer.
The NBA’s Iron Man played in 1,192 consecutive games, missing only three his entire career. But he also held the NBA’s record for celibacy going his entire career (and life) without sex and lasting until he was married April 20, 2002. Teammates would send him prostitutes, betting on who could get him to compromise his morals. None succeeded. Now Green runs camps through the A.C. Green Youth Foundation, which promotes abstinence until marriage. Green was also lucky enough to be blessed by God with chronic hiccups. That doesn’t really have to do with anything, but it made me like him even more. While Tebow claims to be a virgin, he has years to go to achieve Green’s seemingly impossible to break mark of celibacy. Hopefully if he breaks it they have a big ceremony for him and golf cart him around his bedroom.
Josh Hamilton is one of the most talented baseball players in the world. But for a good part of his life, he used his talents on doing pretty much every drug he could. He was suspended from baseball for violating the drug policy and didn’t play baseball from 2002-2004. In 2005 he turned to God. He wrote a book, “Beyond Belief” about quitting his addictions and finding God and frequently talks about God saving him. He comes to the plate to the Christian group Casting Crowns’ “Until the Whole World Hears.” In the World Series this year, he hit a memorable home run in Game 6 to tie the game up again, which he says God told him he was going to do. Next time maybe he could get God to tell the Rangers not to pitch to David Freese.
When you think about it, you really don’t know a whole lot about Mariano Rivera. He doesn’t talk a whole lot and hardly shows any sort of emotion. And it’s probably because he’s thinking about God the whole time. When he was in his 20s, he became a born-again Christian. Since then, he has “Phil. 4:13” on his glove, referencing Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” He has built churches in his native Panama and his foundation donates money to children though church initiatives. Rivera will show opponents how to throw his famed cutter, saying “It’s a blessing from the Lord: when he gives you something, it’s yours.” After retiring he’s talked about becoming an evangelical minister, which I suppose is the natural transition to go from saving games to saving souls.
Tim Tebow definitely isn’t the best quarterback in the NFL, and he might not even be the most religious. Turns out, Philip Rivers is a super hardcore Catholic, something I wasn’t aware of until recently somehow. I always just figured he was a really angry dude, but now it all makes sense. It’s one thing to be religious and another to follow through with it and have six children. Besides having tons of kids, Rivers runs a charity benefiting orphans and foster kids and frequently speaks about his beliefs. He’s a good dude, even if he’s not so great at winning important games.
Bonus: Click here to see a creepy video of Philip Rivers talking about “the gift of virginity.”
Few athletes have had the grocery bags-to-riches story Kurt Warner had. Mostly because that’s exactly what happened. But he’ll credit finding religion in 1997 for his success. Undrafted, he bounced around before winning Super Bowls and MVPs. After the Super Bowl he was asked to talk about his last touchdown pass, and he replied as such:
“Well, first things first, I’ve got to thank my Lord and Savior up above — thank you, Jesus!”
And since the only people having kids these days are religious folk, Kurt is chipping in with seven. Like Tebow, he appeared in a commercial for God, opposing stem-cell research in response to Michael J. Fox’s commercial supporting stem-cell. If that wasn’t enough, here’s a video of Kurt Warner drawing God. Can’t make this stuff up, people.
Reggie White is probably the most famous NFL Hall-of-Famer/minister ever. He would spend his off-seasons as an Evangelical preacher and was no stranger to bringing up God in interviews. In one post-game interview, he talked about his role as a Christian and an athlete.
“God allowed me to use this game as a platform to proclaim the name of Jesus. I know some people don’t like what I say sometimes, but God has called me to preach a message, and I have to preach the message.”
Which he literally did, earning the “Minister of Defense” nickname mostly because he was an actual minister and played defense.