Sunday night, watching Denver quarterback Tim Tebow's post-game press appearance and President Obama's interview on CBS's 60 Minutes, I was struck by the fact that one man is offering his team (and the country actually) the leadership they need while the other is trapped in traditional discourse and scoring political points.
Tebow is not even close to the most physically talented quarterback in the NFL (and he probably isn't even the most physically talented quarterback on his own team), but he has taken a team sitting in the cellar and lifted it up to playoff contention.
Do I buy into some intervention by God because Tebow is a man of incredible religious faith? No. I do believe there is a divine presence in every one of us and in every thing, and the power of that presence remains a mystery of the ages. It can't be proven or disproven by an intellectual conversation or scientific method, but it is hard not to accept if you are a person of faith and connection to something outside our mere humanity. Yet that is not what this Denver rise and winning streak is about.
First, I would be very surprised if God is concerned about whether one NFL team is winning and whether one is losing. Even if God was concerned, I would hope he would have helped my hometown team -- the Detroit Lions -- who have had no success in the Super Bowl era.
Second, there are many players of faith on every team in the NFL, so I don't think the Creator is picking and choosing which player or team or faith He likes more or less.
I do think this Tebow boomlet is about faith. And it's about confidence. And leadership. And humility -- a humbleness born of strength and conviction. It is about Tebow's faith in his own teammates. It is about his faith and confidence in his own organization. It is about him acknowledging his own weaknesses and failings and mistakes and understanding that if his team looks good, then he looks good.
Obama, and so too the Republican candidates for president, can learn a lot from what is going on in the Mile High City. Our economy, and this country, are struggling with huge deficits of confidence and faith. We need a leader who can bring us together, exude confidence in us as a team, and lead us to where we need to go in the 21st century. A leader who is willing to admit mistakes and approach politics not by pointing fingers or scoring points but by helping us all be better people.
Take a look at Obama's latest interview. It does not make you feel better about where we are heading. You don't feel like we are going to win under his leadership. He points fingers and refuses to admit his own mistakes or weaknesses. I often wonder where is the Barack Obama of the 2007 and 2008 campaign. That Obama was much more like the leader we need at this time. He offered hope, he had soaring rhetoric, he offered a change from the bitter politics in Washington, and he made us feel we could win.
Tebow is the kind of leader for his football team that our country needs at this crucial moment in history. Yes, the Denver Broncos streak will probably end, and the odds are a team like the Green Bay Packers will win the Super Bowl. But no matter the outcome, Tebow has shown what faith, and confidence and humility can do for a team of limited skills that was losing consistently before. This is exactly what President Franklin Roosevelt and President Reagan understood about leadership.
This economy, and our country, do not need more programs out of Washington, D.C., or legislation from Congress, or tax cuts for the wealthy, or more spending on government stimulus. What citizens and businesses need is a leader who can raise us all up to a level we didn't know we had in us, give us confidence in ourselves, give us a common goal to work toward, and make us believe in and have faith in ourselves again.
It seems this is a leadership lesson we keep having to learn over and over again through our country's history. It is so easy to forget how successes were achieved along the way by Kennedy-style exhortations such as "we are going to the moon." It is so easy to default into failing Washington-style, us-against-them, to try and get short-term political success.
But maybe a quarterback who seems as much boy as man can show us all, including the candidates for president, how to win and how to get our country back on track. And how to have a little fun along the way. Now that is a leader I would enthusiastically go in the huddle with.
Cross-posted from National Journal.