A Sporting Juxtaposition
One day, news that a hero playing the American pastime had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.
The next, an all-American football star with a mind for ways of the Lord showed once again you should never write him off and anything is possible when he's involved.
What a weekend of messages to the sporting public, first with reports of National League MVP Ryan Braun's positive drug test - yet to be announced officially because he has filed an appeal - mixed with another remarkable day in the divine pigskin world of Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos.
With less the three minutes left and the Broncos trailing the Chicago Bears 10-0 on Sunday, it looked like Denver's five-game winning streak with Tebow at the helm was over and that the young quarterback's inability to throw the ball at an NFL level had finally been thoroughly exposed.
Except then he started hitting his receivers. Seven-for-seven on a TD drive that brought the Broncos to within 10-7, with the Bears playing a soft prevent zone. The Broncos went for the onside kick and didn't get it, although they should have, and it looked unlikely they'd get the ball back.
But weird things happen when Tebow's involved in a football game. In this case, veteran Chicago running back Marian Barber inexplicably ran out of bounds on a second down playing, stopping the clock and giving Denver a chance to tie the game with the ball on their 19-yard-line with less than a minute left.
Again, Tebow moved the Broncos down the field, his passing suddenly accurate and good for big chunks of yardage. With two seconds left, Denver placekicker Matt Prater lined one up from 59 yards out and in the Mile High altitude and made it easily to send the game into OT.
Again, fates seemed to turn against Tebow and the Broncos, with Chicago winning the coin toss and driving into Denver territory. Already in range for kicker Robbie Gould, Barber ran the ball up the middle and appeared to break free until a Denver linebacker reached back and yanked the ball free.
Denver ball, and hero time again for the son of missionary parents. Tebow moved Denver just far enough that Prater could win it from 51 yards, giving Denver it's sixth straight triumph and writing another chapter in the most remarkable football story of the season.
Tebow, for reasons not entirely clear, is a polarizing figure, particularly in the U.S. where matters of religion, particularly Tebow's brand of fervent Christianity, can be controversial. Some don't like his prosletyzing, and indeed, when the camera went to him after the winning kick he clearly pointed upwards and said, "Thank the Lord."
Not sure what the practicing Christians on the other sideline may have thought about that.
He's flamboyant, but not in the self-aggrandizing, look-at-me way we're used to seeing in the NFL. Finally, in a pure football sense, he does so much wrong throwing the football that he drives purists crazy. Sometimes, it looks downright ugly. But three of his six wins have been in OT, and it was remarkable to see him find his throwing range on Sunday when it mattered most.
Aaron Rodgers is the best NFL quarterback these days as he proved on Sunday again against the Raiders, and Tebow simply can't come close to Rodgers for technique, accuracy or productivity.
But he's clearly a leader, he's been a winner in the pros just as he as at the University of Florida, and his unorthodox, leftie style clearly causes headaches for NFL defences.
It's not sure whether his supporters outnumber his detractors, or the other way around, but he's the story of the year, and a real story, a nearly unbelievable story.
Braun, who led the Milwaukee Brewers to their first divisional title in three decades, seemed to be the same kind of story, and he appears determined to fight the allegations against him despite the fact no major leaguer has done so successfully since testing began in 2004. His representatives of talking of highly unusual circumstances - there's always the Richard Gasquet excuse, which was that he tested positive for cocaine after kissing a girl in a nightclub - and this may drag on for weeks, maybe into February.
Juxtaposed with the Tebow story, it's an example of how sports can produce such stark contrasts in storylines, in this case the fiery Christian unwilling to be told he's not good enough and the disgraced, sickeningly rich ballplayer unwilling to admit guilt.
Both athletes, it's fair to say, shocked their sport on the weekend.