“Coincidences are spiritual puns.” – G.K. Chesterton
It doesn’t quite rank up there with the parting of the Red Sea or turning water into wine, but the passing statistics compiled by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, a devout Christian, in an overtime playoff victory Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers suggest the possibility of divine intervention.
At the very least, the appearance of the numbers 3-1-6 suggests a meaningful coincidence that seems to go beyond the normal parameters of “just” a coincidence, especially for Christian believers. Jungian psychologists might consider it an example of synchronicity, but whatever name it goes by, it's been noticed.
By accumulating 316 passing yards on a 10-for- 21 effort at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, Tebow drew attention to the sequence 3-1-6, familiar to Christians and TV sports fans alike (marketing studies indicate some overlap) as part of the oft-cited Bible verse John 3:16. Tebow wore “John 3:16” as eye black while leading the Florida Gators to the 2009 BCS title with a 24-14 win over Oklahoma, but the NFL does not allow messages in eye black.
Crowd shots at various televised sporting events through the years have shown countless fans displaying “John 3:16” signs. Considered by some Christians to be one of the most important verses in the New Testament, it reads: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Tebow, Broncos live another day
With their record standing at 9-8 after Sunday’s thrilling win, the Broncos certainly have lived to play another day, at least for now.
Thanks to a single play from scrimmage in OT – Tebow’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas – the Broncos are moving on to play the New England Patriots at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Saturday in Massachusetts. The game will be televised on CBS. The Pittsburgh Steelers, led by bad boy quarterback and accused rapist Ben Roethlisberger, saw their season come to a screeching halt with the sudden death loss.
Interestingly, Tebow’s statistics did not feature not the only “3-1-6” sequence that made headlines. John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal Tweeted that the final quarter-hour rating (which included the winning TD pass) for the Pittsburgh-Denver game was a 31.6.
Tebow, the son of missionaries, has received a lot of media attention for what has been termed “Tebowing,” getting down on one knee to pray after a successful play. He has been on the receiving end of comedic insults and parodies from the likes of Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs not only went after Tebow, he took a swipe at God as well. He said the Ravens do not need God on the sidelines. After Sunday’s game-winning pass, Tebow, true to form, got down on one knee and bowed his head to give thanks for the victory. If the Broncos beat the Pats and the Ravens stop the Houston Texans, Suggs and Tebow would clash in the AFC Championship Game.
An overlooked clue: Demaryius Thomas
Inspired by the possibility of a kind of interdimensional wink from the divine, a “spiritual pun,” to cite Chesterton, The Punditty Project undertook a scholarly deconstruction of the name Demaryius Thomas, Tebow’s receiver on the winning play.
If we set aside the “m-a-r-y” from Demaryius, the remaining letters spell “Deius.” Remove the “i” – interpreted by Pundittian theologians as representative of the Freudian concept of ego – and we have the word “Deus," Latin for God. The surname “Thomas” refers to both the disciple who doubted the resurrection of Jesus (John 20:24-29) and the gnostic “Gospel of Thomas,” recovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945. Mary, of course, is the mother of Jesus.
Might this mean that only by dissolving the ego (the “i”) and “receiving” Jesus the Christ (represented by the passing of the football, the catch, and Tebow’s relationship to John 3:16) can we give birth (Mary as representative of the Divine Feminine) to our own individualized yet universal connection to Deus, moving beyond the externalized doubt (Thomas the disciple, Tebow’s detractors) to a kind of enchanted self-knowingness (gnosis) of the divine within (the “kingdom of heaven” referred to in Luke 17:21 ) and win our battle “over time,” i.e., attain eternal life? That’s certainly one valid interpretation, but far from the only one. The theological implications of the Broncos’ victory and Tebow’s stats will surely one day be the stuff of dissertations. Stay tuned.
In addition to the rather obvious clues contained in Thomas’ name, some of Tebow’s other receivers have meaningful monikers as well. Consider the following: tight end Dante Rosario (evoking both the author of “The Inferno” and the Roman Catholic practice of praying the rosary); tight end Daniel Fells (Daniel “fell” in the lion’s den, only to emerge victorious); wide receiver Matthew Willis (Matthew wrote one of the Gospels, and God’s “will is” always triumphant); wide receiver Eddie Royal (Henry VIII forced the separation of the Church of England and the Vatican); and wide receiver Eddie Decker (“Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la” is part of a famous Christmas carol; Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus).
What all of this means for Saturday night's game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to see if Bill Maher’s ratings for “Real Time” drop (or rise) 6.66 percent from the season average when the year’s first episode airs Friday the 13th on HBO.
SOURCES & RESOURCES:
Big Ben’s no angel, for sure, but there’s no certainty he’s a demon, Jan. 9, 2012, CBSsports.com
Box Score, Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos, Jan. 8, 2012, USA Today
NFL Final Standings, 2011 , ESPN
Tebow Time: the three 3:16 references, boffo TV ratings and Lady Gaga love, Yahoo Sports Shutdown Corner
Is Tim Tebow God’s gift to marketing? USA Today, Jan. 9, 2012