At the end of the afternoon Meg and I walked into our woods, sure one more week that the Redskins were not worth watching. They are just not a serious team.

But we did want to pay attention to the Broncos, wondering one more week whether they would win. And so we walked and talked, and every once in awhile took out our iPhones, seeing what ESPN offered. Their main game was the Broncos vs. the Vikings, and the third quarter became the fourth, with the minutes ticking down. Back and forth, and finally a tie with two minutes left. We walked some more, eager to see what might happen in the last minute.

And then, inexplicably, the Broncos intercepted a pass, and had the ball deep in the Vikings side of the field. A long time out, and then with seconds left, a field goal—and once again, the Broncos won.

Like much of America I have been watching this story unfold, week after week surprised that Tebow and company find a way to win. There is not a day that goes by without thoughtful voices weighing in on what it means, for football and for the wider world. One of the most intriguing was the essay in the Atlantic this past week, “The Refreshing Seriousness of Tim Tebow.” Remarkably insightful from beginning to end, it begins with these words, ” We live in world saturated with irony and post-irony, and this affects how we consume mass culture—including sports. Athletes today are not judged solely on their on-field abilities but by how willing they are to show the culture at large that they get it, that they have their own brand of ironic humor.”

It continues with surprising thoughtfulness about who we are and what we prize in contemporary culture, and it would be worth a good reading. I am including the last paragraphs here, as they draw on the idea of a “calling” to make sense of Tebow. That word and the word “vocation” are the very same, but with different histories, e.g. one is Greek and the other is Latin.

“Cultural critic Lee Siegel’s recent book Are You Serious: How to Be True and Get Real in the Age of Silly explores the fact that irony and self-referential humor have saturated modern culture to such a degree that many people are now unable to discern who is serious and who is joking. Siegel’s book identifies serious people as those who pursue a calling rather than a career and go about their work with attention, purpose, and continuity.

“When I look at Tim Tebow I see someone who has both a career, playing professional football, and a calling, living a life consistent with his religious beliefs. He pursues both with Siegel’s three pillars of modern seriousness. Casual fans may not be able to articulate this, but Tebow’s workmanlike approach is what makes him so unique and so appealing to fans tired of the same pre-planned and machismo-infused routines that dominate professional sports.

“If you disagree with Tebow’s religious views or think he has no future as an NFL quarterback, then feel free to express that opinion. But like Tebow, try to do it a serious manner. I imagine your argument will get more traction. “

Refreshingly serious, yes.

Steven Garber is the Senior Fellow for Vocation and the Common Good for the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. A teacher of many people in many places, he continues to serve as a consultant to colleges and corporations, facilitating both individual and institutional vocation. A husband, a father and a grandfather, a he has long lived in Washington DC, living a life among family, friends, and flowers.

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