I confess I am not a zealous football fan, and until a month ago, I hoped Tim Tebow would don a Colorado Rockies uniform so I could get really excited about him. But like the other 5 million residents of Colorado, I have come to love the amazing Broncos quarterback who does not hide his evangelical Christian faith.
According to a poll by a national sports magazine, Tebow is today the most popular American athlete, ahead of Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, and (no surprise here) Tom Brady.
Tim Tebow has made believers out of millions in more ways than one. Add to the list three devout Muslim brothers in north Denver.
Tariq, Ali and Mohammad Suleiman are such huge Tim Tebow fans they are using their company’s huge electronic billboard at a prominent Denver intersection to blast out their support for Tebow and the Denver Broncos. They have put up a new message after each game. Last Sunday after the Broncos ran over the Pittsburgh Steelers, their message read: “Now Do You Believe?”
The three Suleiman brothers believed in Tebow early on. Back in September, when the Broncos were 1-and-3 under starting quarterback Kyle Orton, their billboard’s message was, “Bronco fans to John Fox: Play Tebow!” The billboard was a big hit. Radio and television stations took notice, and people began showing up in their parking lot to have pictures taken in front of the billboard.
The fact that Tim Tebow is a devout Christian who kneels in public to thank Jesus Christ at the end of each game – win or lose – does not dampen their enthusiasm one iota. You see, to these American-born Muslims of immigrant parents, it’s all about football, not religion.
“We do like the fact that he practices what he preaches,” says Mohammad, the youngest of the three Suleiman brothers. That’s about as American as you can get, whether Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or Rosicrucian. “E Pluribus Unum”? Yeah, thank God, we’ve got a lot of that in Colorado.
There is some irony in the Muslim Suleimans’ public support for evangelical Christian Tim Tebow. Contrast their respect for Tebow’s sincerity with the crescendo of secular media criticism and snickering. A large segment of the American sports establishment appears to think Tebow is violating some unwritten axiom of “celebrity sports.” The unspoken secular commandment is, “Thou shalt not mix religion and commerce in a multi-billion dollar business devoted to selling beer, sex and automobiles.”
The Suleiman’s devotion to Broncos football also stands in sharp contrast to the political branch of Islam, which subordinates every aspect of life to the Jihadist dream of a worldwide Muslim caliphate. Can you imagine Iranian President Ahmadinejad cheering any American team or champion in any sport? That’s about as likely as Mexican-American soccer fans in Los Angeles cheering the U.S. team in a contest with the Mexican national team.
The Suleiman family operates a wholesale import business, evidently a very successful one if they can devote their billboard space to a sports controversy. If they are not season ticket holders, I hope Broncos Coach John Fox has sent them four tickets to this weekend’s playoff game with the New England Patriots.
One hundred years ago, in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, this kind of enthusiastic participation in American culture was called “patriotic assimilation.” It was expected of every immigrant family and especially their American-born children. Today, sadly, it is so unusual it makes headlines.