Artists I Want To Hear From In 2012

10. Tool – We’re closing in on six years since Tool released 10,000 Days.  I’m sure they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but they make really great rock music.  They are known to take their time in between albums, with 5 years in between Aenima, Lateralus, and 10,000 Days.  But when they do come out with new material, it is rock solid.  Lateralus was one of my favorite albums of the previous decade and 10,000 Days had some great singles in “Vicarious”, “Jambi” and “The Pot.”  If they come out with anything this year, it will be a welcome addition to the 2012 rock landscape.

9. Muse – Muse seemed to really hit it big with The Resistance in 2009, becoming one of the biggest rock bands in the world.  They make big, anthemic progressive rock and when that works, it really works.  The Resistance produced a lot of big singles, but I sometimes wondered what exactly it was that they were resisting and raging against in their songs.  In the long run, it didn’t really matter, as they make great big music to sing along to.  There is talk that they are working on a new album already, so we’ll see what 2012 brings from these radio-friendly rockers.

8. Mumford & Sons – These guys had a monster 2010 and it looks like they are readying for a follow-up album to be released this year.  It is going to be interesting to see if the indie folk genre is sustainable or if there will be too many bands out their replicating their sound to be able to achieve success again.  If they can make an album that is as enjoyable and accessible as Sigh No More, then things will be alright.

7. Kings of Leon – It feels like their star has faded a bit, like they peaked with Only by the Night and the smash hits “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody.”  Come Around Sundown was released in the latter half of 2010, and they usually put out music at a steady clip, with releases in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2010.  So it is possible that they would release something toward the end of this year, but they could take a step back like their ‘04-‘07 period.  As divisive as their musical progression has been for some of their fans, I still enjoy their sound, though I wouldn’t mind a return to the grittier sounds of their first few albums and away from the polish of their last couple.

6. Anything Jack White – The White Stripes are done.  I’ve shed my tears, rent my garments, covered my head in ashes, and started to piece my heart back together.  In the wake of that, I’ll take anything “full-length” that Jack White has to offer musically.  Whether it is in the form of a new Raconteurs album or The Dead Weather or a solo album or some other collaboration he is prominently involved in.

5. Damien Rice – This guy seems to be notorious for taking his time to release new albums.  It seemed like I was waiting forever for 2006’s 9, a follow-up to 2002’s O.  And while 9 wasn’t as good as his first album, it was still enough to keep me interested.  But now we’re closing in on six years since his last release.  And there is no hint of anything new on the horizon.  I wonder how much of an effect his breakup with Lisa Hannigan had on his music.  She was a longtime collaborator and girlfriend and their relationship ended poorly.  Since that time, she has produced two really good albums and he’s gone rather silent.

4. Band of Skulls – These guys have a bluesy rock sound similar to The White Stripes and The Black Keys.  However, as their debut album, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, showed, they are a very versatile band.  It seems like they have 2 or 3 competing influences and give them all a chance to be aired on the album.  They’re listed as having a February 21st release for their second album, Sweet Sour.  I’ll be interested to see if a dominant influence emerges.

3. Arcade Fire – Arcade Fire have released three very impressive albums, with the last one The Suburbs, winning the Grammy.  They have usually gone 2-3 years between albums, so 2012 might be a bit early for a follow-up to Suburbs, which came out in August 2010.  But I can hope.

2. The Shins – The last Shins album was 2007’s Wincing the Night Away.  Since then, James Mercer, the lead singer, replaced all of the other band members with new performers.  And he has had a successful run with Danger Mouse in forming Broken Bells, releasing one EP and LP.  So this new album will be different, but hopefully not too different.  On March 20th, Port of Morrow will come out.  This makes me happy.  This new album with a new lineup will be different, but hopefully not too different.  At least one of my musical appetites will be sated this year.

1. Fiona Apple – It’s been seven, SEVEN, calendar years (six years and about 3 months) since Fiona Apple released Extraordinary Machine in October of 2005.  It may come as a surprise to some that I would list her at the top, but, man, do I missed her voice.  She is easily my favorite female artist.  As far as I’m concerned, Norah Jones, Alicia Keyes and any of these other singer/songwriter ladies are merely pretenders to the throne and Fiona puts them all back in their place whenever she releases something new.  Nobody else on this list has had as much time elapse between when they released their last album.  She has stated recently that she made new music that has been done for over a year and it’s just sitting on a shelf.  Given the difficulty she has had getting Extraordinary Machine released, it is no surprise, but I hope it sees the light of day sooner rather than later.



Top 10 Movies of 2011

I really struggled with this list.  At one point I thought about expanding it to a Top 25.  And for quite a while I had it as a Top 20.  But at the end of the day, it would have just been too long.  So I said to myself, if I could only have 10 movies to have 2011 be known by, which 10 would I pick?  So that is what this list is.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – This is sort of a lifetime achievement award, a culmination of a pretty good series of movies.  They did a really good job concluding this film franchise with this movie.

9. Beginners – Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent may have been the most adorable on screen coupling of the year.  Christopher Plummer put in an amazing performance here as well.  Most of the news about this movie focused on the aspect that Plummer’s character revealing late in life that he is gay, but the real focus of this movie is relationships, particularly the one between the father and son.

8. Source Code – Duncan Jones makes really good sci-fi movies.  Moon was one of my favorite movies of 2009 and so I was very excited to see this follow-up effort from him and it did not disappoint.

7. Bridesmaids – Funniest movie of the year.  Kristen Wiig, as much as I sometimes can’t stand her on SNL, was really good in this movie.  Melinda McCarthy had a breakthrough performance as well.  And Rose Byrne, who was all over the place in 2011, was really good in the somewhat-antagonists role.

6. Crazy, Stupid, Love – Why can’t more romantic comedies be like this movie?  Outside of the horror genre, I think the rom com genre is the most overrated in terms of producing the most dreck that people have to sift through in order to find the few gems that are out there.  This was a definite gem.  2011 was the “Year of the Gosling,” and this movie was a major part of that in showing his versatility and range as an actor.  Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore were also their typical reliable selves.

5. The Muppets – A welcomed return by the Muppets.  I was a bit worried about this movie, not sure if they would be able to pull it off or if it would have the same spirit as the other Muppets movies and the tv show had when I was younger.  They pulled it off.  You can tell that Jason Segel and the people who made this movie had a real love and respect for the Muppets.  I also loved that Bret Mackenzie of Flight of the Conchords wrote some of the music for the movie.  “Man or Muppet” felt like a Conchords song.  And Chris Cooper was great as the villain.  Maniacal laugh.  Maniacal laugh!

4. 13 Assassins – This might have been my favorite movie of the year.  I’m cheating a bit here, because the movie was released in most countries in 2010, but it had a brief US release in the spring of 2011.  Takashi Miike makes some of the most graphic, gory, violent, and distrubing movies.  This movie had all of that, but most of the graphic gore in this movie came from the violent action and less from some of the disturbing things sometimes found in Miike movies.  The first half of this movie is mostly build-up, but the last half is basically one non-stop action sequence that is just wonderously bloody and beautifully choreographed.  It puts Hollywood action movies to shame.

3. Drive – This movie, along with Crazy, Stupid, Love, and The Ides of March made this the “Year of the Gosling.”  Of his three big movies, this was the best.  A stylized, neo-noir thriller with a killer 80’s-style soundtrack, Drive was a really unique movie experience.  It even had a kind-of-homage to Halloween.  And the elevator scene with Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan was one of the best scenes of the year.  Just a cool, cool movie.

2. 50/50 – I felt like this movie had a high degree of difficulty.  It’s a comedy where cancer is prominently involved.  Ok, it’s more of a dramedy, but I don’t really like to use that word too much.  Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt made a great pairing as best friends.  The movie made me want to fall in love with Anna Kendrick, who plays JGL’s therapist.  More than anything, the movie seemed genuine and true to life, especially the scene in the hospital when he is surrounded by his family before heading into surgery,  The emotion conveyed during that scene of fear and uncertainty was so effective.

1. The Tree of Life – Maybe a controversial movie in that it’s likely to be disliked by as many people who loved it, but it is the movie that stuck out to me the most this year in terms of what it seemed like everyone was talking about online for movies, it’s the movie that captivated me the most when I watched it, and it is the movie that has stuck with me the most after seeing it even now.  The acting is good, but what sticks with me with this movie is its impressive visuals: the vivid colors and the beauty of the world around us.  And the spritualness of this movie also left an impression on me.  I loved the visual, spiritual, poetry of this movie.  A splendid job by Terrence Malick.


2011 Movies: Honorable Mentions and Missed Opportunities

Before I list my Top 10 movies of 2011, I wanted to preface it with a list of movies that I missed out on:
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The Adventures of Tintin
Jane Eyre
We Bought a Zoo
The Descendants
Midnight in Paris
The Skin I Live In
Take Shelter
The Artist
Martha Marcy May Marlene
The Guard
War Horse

Also, here is a list of movies I saw this year that I enjoyed, but weren’t quite good enough for my Top 10, in no particular order:
X-Men: First Class
Super 8
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Adjustment Bureau
The Ides of March
Our Idiot Brother
Fright Night
Young Adult
Cedar Rapids
Win Win
The Way Back
Pearl Jam Twenty
The Lincoln Lawyer

Also, since Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy didn’t become available in my area until this past weekend, I’m counting it as a 2012 movie and reserve the right to put it in my 2012 year-end list if I so choose.


New Year’s Pop Culture Resolution Suggestions for 2012

This is a list of entertainment (mostly, if not all, TV) I love that I know not enough people have experienced that if you’re looking for something to check out in 2012, you should give it a shot.

1. Mad Men – Four seasons in and every single season has won the Emmy for best drama.  But since it is a cable drama on AMC, I know that there are plenty of people who have not seen this show.  Do yourself a favor and watch.  All of the show is available on Netflix Instant Watch.

2. Breaking Bad – The other best drama on AMC.  Mad Men is a compelling ensemble show while Breaking Bad is spectacular deconstruction of a single character for the most part.  Such a great show.

3. Community – The show is on hiatus on NBC right now.  This is my most favoritest show.  It makes me laugh so consistently hard and it also balances the funny with some genuine sincereity that is incredibly rare for a sitcom.  I know its rapid fire jokes and style of comedy might not be for everybody, but it’s got a great cast and a it’s a wonderfully versatile show.  I love it so much.

4. The Wire – If you haven’t seen this show, you owe it to yourself.  It feels significant.  It’s compelling.  It’s ridiculously layered, but easy to follow.  It’s gripping and heartbreaking and the best show HBO has ever produced.

5. Party Down – A terrifically funny show about a catering business in Los Angeles that employs failed and/or struggling actors.  Only about 20 episodes of this show were made but they are all fantastic.

6. Firefly – If you don’t think Westerns and Sci-Fi can mix well, think again.  Such a shame this show never got a fair shake on Fox.  Speaking of which…

7. Arrested Development – Arguably the funniest show of the last decade.  And with a return of the series planned for 2013 and a potential movie also in the rumor pipeline, what better year than 2012 to dive into this series?

8. Friday Night Lights – This was an outstanding series.  I know for a fact that not nearly enough people watched this show.  You don’t even need to be a big fan of football to really enjoy this show.  It’s more about the characters and the stories they’re involved in than the game of football.  I’m going to miss the story of Coach and Mrs. Coach and their family and friends in Dillon, TX.


New Year’s Pop Culture Resolutions for 2012

This is a list of things that were produced before 2012 that I intend to try and consume during this new calendar year.

1. The Hunger Games trilogy – There is a movie coming out in March.  I will have read the first book by then.  In fact, I have already purchased all three book on my Kindle, it is just a matter of finishing up a couple of other books before I dive into this series.

2. Doctor Who – Among others, my friends the Pinaults have sung this shows praises to me fr quite some time now.  I watched the first episode with Christopher Eccleston a few months ago.  I will watch more in 2012.

3. Deadwood – This HBO series is complete and already queued up for me on Netflix.  It’s just a matter of making it priority.

4. Boardwalk Empire – I want to see at least the first season, which will be coming out soon on Netflix.

5. Homeland – A Showtime series that I heard very positive reviews about and since I don’t get Showtime, I will have to wait for the DVDs, probably sometime in late 2012 as Showtime is notorious for delaying the release of their DVDs for about a year, usually right before the next season’s premiere.

6. Dead Like Me – This is another completed series that has been on my Netflix queue for a very long time.  And it’s available on Watch Instantly.

7. Freaks and Geeks – A show that didn’t even make it out of its first season, but so many people involved with this show went on to be stars to some degree.  Probably one of the most glaring blind spots in terms of shows I’ve missed out on.

8. Twin Peaks (Season 2) – As a X-Phile, I feel like I owe it to myself to see the rest of this show, because of how many times the shows are compared to one another.  But I’m just so anti-Lynch that I have a hard time investing myself in this show.  I need to just bite the bullet and get it over with.  And then I can decided whether or not I want to devote any more of my time to anything Lynchian or just be done with him altogether.

9. Justified – A show on FX that has gotten a lot of positive press for its first two seasons, its third season is premiering sometime this month.  I think my plan will be to start recording the new episodes on DVR and save them until I get caught up on the DVDs.

10. A Song of Ice and Fire – The series of books for the Game of Thrones TV series on HBO.  I loved the first season of the show and I started reading the first book.  Now that the second season is coming up this spring, I want to at least get through the second book before I see the upcoming season.


10 Favorite Albums of 2011

Honorable Mention:
Childish Gambino – Camp
Donald Glover of “Community” is the nerdy version of Kanye West.

The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart
Really good folk rock, but a little too paint by numbers.  Like the STP to Mumford & Sons’ Pearl Jam.

Lisa Hannigan – Passenger
Just got this a week ago, haven’t had enough of a chance to digest it.  Really good though.

10. The Black Keys – El Camino
I did not like this album as much as Brothers.  But it has started to grow on me with repeated listenings.  These guys have assumed the mantle of The White Stripes for best two-person band in the world.  While it may not have a “TIghten Up” or “Howlin’ For You” on it, El Camino still has some really enjoyable songs with some catchy hooks.  “Lonely Boy” was the first single, but I think “Gold on the Ceiling” will be the bigger hit.  And “Little Black Submarines” sounds like a Keys’ tribute to “Stairway to Heaven.”
Favorite songs:
Lonely Boy
Gold on the Ceiling
Little Black Submarines
Run Right Back

9. Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
I liked this album because it’s not a band on cruise control resting on its laurels.  They’re still playing around with their sound.  It sounds very much like the logical progression from 2008’s Narrow Stairs, and especially the really good The Open Door EP in 2009.
Favorite songs:
Some Boys
Monday Morning
Portable Television
Stay Young, Go Dancing

8. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Some bands don’t always seem genuine in the kind of music they are making; like they’re trying to cash in on growing trend and just throw out genre cliches.  Not the case with these guys.  Solidify their folk rock bona fides with a really good sophmore album here.
Favorite songs:
Battery Kinzie
Helplessness Blues
The Shrine/An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail

7. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome
Danger Mouse is one of the most prolific musical talents out there right now.  When he’s not making records in Gnarls Barkley or Broken Bells or on his own, he’s producing other people’s album, like The Black Keys’ El Camino.  This year saw him collaborate with Italian musician Daniele Luppi for yet another unique mashup of talents.  This album took five years to assemble, and it’s a tribute to the old spaghetti westerns of the 60s.  In fact, they reassembled much of the choir that recorded some of those great scores. So on several tracks, you’ve got what Rolling Stone called the “operatic vowels” of 76-year-old Edda Dell’Orso.  And then on several other tracks they have Jack White and Norah Jones on vocals.  And with talk of a movie being made to fit this album, color me intrigued.
Favorite songs:
Theme of “Rome”
Season’s Trees (ft. Norah Jones)
Two Against One (ft. Jack White)
Black (ft. Norah Jones)
Morning Fog
The World (ft. Jack White)

6. Foster the People – Torches
Was there a more infectious hit this year than “Pumped Up Kicks?”  I think not.  And even thought it was probably overplayed, it didn’t wear on me.  And while it seemed like they might be one of those bands that had one huge hit and was never heard from again, the rest of this album is also really catchy and enjoyable.  In fact, some of their other songs are seeping into our collective unconscious without us even knowing it, most notably “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)” which is featured in a couple of Nissan commercials.
Favorite Songs
Pumped Up Kicks
Call It What You Want
Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)
Life on a Nickel

5. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
This band is like the indier version of Arcade Fire.  Multi-intrumentalists, lots of influences, and very creative, impressive, and enjoyable songs.  Sadly, this band lost its bassist to cancer this year.  But this is a great album to make as your swang song.  They’re another band that just seems to keep raising its own bar and then exceeding it.  These guys make really good, really artful, indie rock.  There is not a wasted track here.  “Will Do” is a great single.  “Caffeinated Consciousness” sound like it should have come from a 80s artist like Prince or INXS.
Favorite songs:
Keep Your Heart
No Future Shock
Will Do
New Cannonball Blues

4. Wilco – The Whole Love
Wilco was a band I had heard great things about but never gave them a listen.  Then Amazon had all of their albums available for $5 in September in the lead up to the release of this album.  So I dove right in and the music was every bit as good as advertised.  And when I got to this album at the end of the month, it didn’t let me down either.  Much like my #1 on this list, this may not be their most experimental or ambitious album, but it is comfortable and accessable in a good way, without compromising the things that make the band great.  “Open Mind” is one of the most beautiful, relaxed love songs I’ve heard this year and one of my favorite songs of the year.
Favorite songs:
Dawned on Me
Black Moon
Born Alone
Open Mind
Rising Red Lung
Whole Love
One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)

3. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
If you don’t listen to Iron & Wine, you are missing out.  His early stuff is very stripped down and a lot of solo stuff.  But on his last two albums he has expanded his horizons and really delivered in ways that you wouldn’t have expected from his earlier folky roots.  I could easily make this my #1 album of the year if it weren’t for how much I enjoyed the next two albums, but it is just a beautiful album.  “Walking Far From Home” and “Me and Lazarus” are two of my favorites of 2011.
Favorite Songs:
Walking Far From Home
Me and Lazarus
Half Moon
Godless Brother In Love
Glad Man Singing
Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me

2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
It seems my ears have fallen for the indie singer-songwriters.  Bon Iver made one of the best albums of the 00s with For Emma, Forever Ago back in 2008.  And he builds on that with an equally impressive follow-up here.  But it’s also a progression.  While For Emma was made in the seclusion of a cabin in the woods which is really conveyed through the stripped down nature of the album, this one is bigger, more indulgent, and experimental.  Auto-tune properly used even finds it’s way into some of the tracks.
Favorite songs:
Minnesota, WI

1. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead (BONUS: Long Live the King EP)
There may have been better overall albums released in 2011.  There may have been more technically impressive albums in 2011.  But there was no album I enjoyed more than The King Is Dead.  The Decemberists have a reputation of making really progressive, complex, conceptual rock.  Whenever the term “baroque rock” is attached to your band, it can be a double edged sword.  They’re also famous for their large vocabulary.  At their best, their high-concept music is elegant and enjoyable.  At their worst, it feels like a college thesis and inaccessable.  All of that is to say that those high-concept aims are largely abandoned in The King Is Dead.  In its place is a band who looks like decided to relax just a bit, put down the book reports, and have fun making an album in the best traditions of R.E.M., Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Neil Young.  In fact, they even got R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck to guest on three tracks.  It’s hard not to want to start into the chorus of “The One I Love” when you hear “Down by the Water.”  The album is folksy, a little country at times, and pure Americana.  And then they capped it off by adding a EP at the end of October that included 6 songs that were culled from the making of The King Is Dead.  And all of those are enjoyable too.  I got this album back in late January of 2011 and I didn’t listen to anything else as regularly as this one.  The impressive thing for me, is that there isn’t one pin-pointable track where I can use it to say, “This is the standout track.”  What it makes it so enjoyable for me is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts with this.
Favorite songs:
Don’t Carry It All
Rise To Me
January Hymn
Down by the Water
All Arise
June Hymn
This Is Why We Fight
Dear Avery
Foregone (Long Live the King)
I 4 U & U 4 Me (Long Live the King)
Row Jimmy (Long Live the King)


The Newest Front in the Culture War: Tim Tebow

Back in the day, the culture war in this country revolved around simple things like abortion, evolution, prayer in school, gay marriage, the death penalty, assisted suicide or the size of government.  Today, apparently, it is about how one man’s ability to read a defense, throw a tight spiral on a 10 yard out pattern and whether any of this is directly attributable to God.  Tim Tebow is the latest hot button issue in the culture war of America.

Tim Tebow is a Christian.  Tim Tebow is also an NFL quarterback.  Somehow, his ability to play his position has become a referendum on God by proxy.  You see, Tim Tebow does not play the QB position particularly well by the typical standards that QBs are judged by.  He does not have a strong arm.  He has a long throwing motion instead of a more ideal quick-release motion.  He does not have good mechanics.  When he was coming out of college, a lot of experts thought he was more suited to be an H-back or a halfback than a QB because of his running ability.  They believed he would have to unlearn all of the bad mechanical habits he had that came as second nature to him.  They believed this was going to be practically impossible because in the pressure situations of the NFL that QBs typically find themselves, unless a QB has had the right mechanics ingrained into them early enough, guys like Tebow will revert to their natural throwing motion.  In short, they didn’t think there was any way that Tim Tebow could be a successful NFL QB.

Except that now that he has been given the chance to be a starting QB for the Denver Broncos, he is 7-1 as a starter this year, and 8-3 as a starter including the 3 games he started at the end of last season.  And in doing so, there has been a clear division of fans into the Pro-Tebow and Anti-Tebow world.  And the debate that has arisen makes it seem like there is no room for middle ground.  Either Tebow is the greatest or the worst thing ever.

Tebowmania has taken hold of the NFL and even beyond the sports world.  He has become the ultimate Rorschach test.  Do you see only the good (wins) or the flaws (mechanics)?  Presidential candidates (I’m looking at you, Rick Perry) are name-dropping him in their debates, hoping that the mere mention of is name will be enough to engender themselves to potential voters in the primaries; talk about pandering.  People have gotten to the point where they seemingly cannot talk rationally about him as a player.  “Tebow Magic” has become a way of explaining his 4th quarter comebacks.  Other people are just completely incredulous, chalking him up to being nothing more than a product of the ESPN hype machine.

I feel like I am in a unique position.  I’ve never actually seen Tim Tebow play a game of football.  I have seen some of his highlights in recent weeks, but I’ve never watched a full game in which he has played from start to end.  I do not watch college football, so I never even saw him play when he was at Florida.  The only thing I have to go on is what I have heard everyone say about him, what I have heard from him personally, his pro-life Super Bowl commercial from two years ago (no doubt there’s a bit of latent animosity out there towards him for that for some people), and fantasy football analysis of him.  I’ve been fascinated and perplexed by everything surrounding the guy.  Just this past Sunday I was checking scores and stats online and noticed that the Broncos were down 10-0 to the Bears, Tebow was 3-for-18 and had an INT entering the 4th quarter.  And I thought to myself, “Well, this is about when it’s time for the Broncos to turn it on.”  And they did!  As a sports fan, moments like that are exciting and are what makes sports so enjoyable.  But apparently not everyone can fully enjoy these things because they are so blinded by their perceptions and their entrenchments.

The divide between the pro- and anti-Tebow forces has gotten to the point where it very much like how entrenched people have gotten in this country about certain politicized issues.  Neither side is willing or able to listen to anything the other side has to say, nor are they willing to engage in a productive conversation of any kind, they just want to get their talking points out there and prove that the other side doesn’t know what it’s talking about.  And everything is dealt with in absolutist terms.

Well, I’ve got news for everyone, the truth about Tim Tebow as an NFL quarterback is somewhere in the middle between the two entrenched sides who remain steadfast in their opinion of the guy.

As a Christian, I think it is great that he is upfront and open about his faith.  He isn’t afraid to say what he believes, and he believes very strongly that his professional success has afforded him a unique platform to spread the word about something he believes passionately.  This is not unique.  All kinds of athletes and other various celebrities use their celebrity status to get the message out about various causes or topics that are near and dear to their heart.  Curt Schilling is an outspoken advocate of finding a cure for ALS.  Lance Armstrong is very vocal about cancer.  Tom Cruise has his Scientology.  Barbara Streisand has things which she is outspoken about.  No one in the general public is faced with the choice of having to choose between buying into what a celebrity’s cause or dismissing their professional output.

Countless people in the public eye also take time at the beginning of their acceptance speeches or postgame interviews to “thank God.”  Too often, I find this to be incredibly cliché and an insincere throwaway line.  Tebow is one of the few people who say that and seems genuine when he says that, which is unsettling to some people.

On the flip side of that, people who take umbrage with the “Tebowing” phenomenon need to realize that when you make your faith so public, you put it out there for public consumption and all that comes with it.  Personally, I find the Tebowing fad entertaining, but that’s just me.  Also, how public is too public with your faith?  Jesus said in Matthew 6:5-6, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  How does an athlete like Tim Tebow balance this with routinely kneeling to pray in celebration?  This is not necessarily a question to which I have an answer, but it is one that I think is worth asking.  And as a counter to that, you could just as easily toss in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

I think it is ridiculous to think that Tebow is winning because he has God on his side.  I am sure that there are plenty of Christians on other teams and that the outcome of a sporting event is of eternal significance.  And too many people are willing to give all of the credit to Tim Tebow for the Broncos winning with him as a starter.  In reality, the team as a whole has stepped up.  The team has won, in part, because of Tebow, but as much if not more credit could be given to the Broncos’ kicker, Matt Prater, who made two 50+ yard field goals in the 4th quarter and in OT last week to complete a comeback win, by no means an easy task.  And their defense has been playing very well too, led by stud 1st round pick Von Miller and one of the best corners of all time in Champ Bailey.

However, I think, indirectly, God does have something to do with what is going on in Denver.  Tebow, for all of his faults as a quarterback, has belief in his abilities and an unwavering confidence, and has an ability to get his teammates to believe in their ability to win too.  And that is a huge thing in sports.  This is the same team that was underperforming with Kyle Orton as their quarterback.  And the quarterback position, fair or not, is often as much about the intangibles and the ability to lead than it is about the stats and the arm and how you play the position.  He’s an elite QB now, but Tom Brady was not the Tom Brady we know today when he first took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001.  But he had a similar confidence and belief in getting the job done that rubbed off on his teammates.  And when a team starts to believe in its ability to get the job done, the sky is the limit.  It is at moments like that when a team’s sum truly becomes greater than its parts.  And as a Patriots fan who has never seen him play before and whose team is facing him in just a few hours, I am terrified of what he might do to the Pats porous defense.

To me, the biggest thing the Tebow critics don’t get and refuse to accept is that he gets better in crunch time.  A lot of QBs can put up great numbers, but when the pressure situations come, they falter and fall apart.  That is a criticism that has been made of Tony Romo over his career.  Tebow can put up some awful numbers through the first few quarters, to the point that it looks truly ugly, but he believes that his team can keep it close, they can find a way to pull it out.  There is something to be said for that.  And it is something I don’t think he gets enough credit for, especially since everybody wants a player who gets better in the big moments.  Tebow gets better in crunch time.

At the same time, you cannot turn a blind eye to his poor play leading up to crunch time.  I don’t believe you can consistently succeed in the NFL if your only have two completions for an entire game, or after three quarters of another game you find yourself 3-for-16 throwing the ball.  That is an area he needs to improve.  Right now, he is able to get away with it, but he cannot do this forever.  He is proving a lot of doubters wrong right now and challenging conventions that have been held for forever in the NFL, because he is finding a way to get it done and win games, but one convention he cannot change is that of the scrambling QB.  Scrambling QBs have a shelf life.  They need to adapt or die.  Eventually, his running ability will not be the asset it is right now.  Age or injury always take their toll on scrambling quarterbacks, and once the running ability is not what it once was, they need to have the passing ability to get by without it or be more judicious with it.  That was true of Fran Tarkenton, John Elway, Steve Young, and, currently, Michael Vick.

Here is where Tebow should consider himself really blessed by God: His GM is John Elway, one of the greatest, most clutch QBs who ever played the position.  And he could run too.  If I was Tim Tebow, I would tie myself to John Elway’s hip as soon as the season is over, and spend the offseason trying to be a sponge and soaking in as much knowledge and whatever help I can gain from Elway.  You can’t ask for much of a better situation than that.

Lastly, people should keep in mind that how they feel about Tim Tebow is not a referendum on God.  Christians should not feel like they are obligated to support him blindly without reservation or criticism.  And non-Christians should not feel like rooting for Tebow is a tacit endorsement of God.  At the end of the day, it’s a helpful reminder to keep in mind that it is sports and it should be fun.  It’s a game where adults are being paid millions of dollars to play a children’s game.  Sit back and enjoy the spectacle of sport unfold.  If you’re a Broncos’ fan, you’re within your right to be over the moon with what is happening.  If you’re a fan of another team, you are well within your right to root on or jeer Tebow and the Broncos and not have it be about his beliefs.  And if you want to embrace him because of his faith, that is fine too.  What isn’t fine is to accept or reject his play based solely on his beliefs.  Don’t unnecessarily simplify what is happening and dig in just because you feel like you have to be pro-Tebow or anti-Tebow.  There is a wide middle ground.