Time magazine just released its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for 2012. The list includes world leaders, pioneers, moguls, and activists. Also among the 100 are athletes Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow, who were chosen alongside such people as President Barrack Obama, billionaire Warren Buffet, and Senator Mitt Romney.
Whatever criteria Time used to complete their list, it does make one wonder how Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin made the cut.
Here are some stats on the two athletes:
Tim Tebow (2011)
Games Started: 11
Team Record as Starter: 7-4
Passes Attempted: 271
Passes Completed: 126
Completion %: 46.5%
Rushing Touchdowns: 6
QB Rating: 72.9
Team Record Before Becoming Starter: 1-4
Jeremy Lin (2011-2012):
Games Started: 25
Team Record as Starter: 16-10
Points Per Game: 14.6
Assists Per Game: 6.2
Rebounds Per Game: 3.0
Turnovers Per Game: 3.6
Team Record Before Becoming Starter: 7-15
At first glance, the numbers don’t jump out at you. In fact, one could argue that Tim Tebow’s numbers are bad, perhaps even horrendous. Lin’s numbers appear to be that of a mid-level NBA point guard. So why such a fuss about the two?
Tebow-mania began with a Denver Broncos' comeback victory against the Miami Dolphins in overtime. Down 15-0 with only 3 minutes and change left in the fourth quarter, Tebow rallied his to team to an unlikely overtime victory, winning 18-15.
After being decimated by the Lions the following week, Tebow and the Broncos reeled off seven straight victories, putting them into the playoffs. Tebow capped an unforgettable season by defeating the Steelers in a first round playoff game with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in overtime. The Broncos later lost to the eventual AFC champion Patriots the following week.
Linsanity began on February 4th, 2012, when Lin was given the opportunity to start against the New Jersey Nets. Lin didn’t squander the opportunity, scoring 25 points, nabbing 5 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists in a Knicks' victory.
Lin followed that effort with an encore performance at Utah, dropping 28 points and 8 assists in another Knicks' win. Lin even set an NBA record in the process, averaging 26.8 points and 8 assists in his first 5 starts, something no player -- Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson included -- had ever done. The Knicks would go 7-0 in Lin’s first 7 games as a starter.
The firestorm started by these two athletes ignited debate, controversy, and conversation across the nation. Analysts were in disbelief not only as to the quality of each man's performance, but also as to the influence each had in improving his respective team.
Fans from Denver and New York believed a savior had come to rescue their dismal teams and deliver them to the promised land. Critics argued that it was never about Tebow or Lin alone, and instead focused on the entire team's collective play.
The numbers show that after the initial boom, Lin and Tebow’s stats returned to more pedestrian averages. Nevertheless, Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow had already entered the thoughts and minds of every American. They had become influential people, whether they liked it or not.
Tebow relished the spotlight. He used the attention he received as a springboard to evangelize his faith to the masses.
He started a trend called “Tebowing,” where he would go on one knee, placing his arm on top of his leg and resting his head on his hands. He would speak openly about his faith at every press conference, interview, and talk show. Tebow knew what he wanted to do while the lights were shining on him.
Lin on the other hand didn’t know how to handle the spotlight. Before the entire Linsanity craze, he was sleeping on his brother’s couch. He did not expect to become a superstar, and during interviews answered questions with humility and gratitude for his opportunity. He always praised teammates and attributed each victory to them.
More than their stellar beginnings however, it is their drive to succeed that ultimately make Tebow and Lin great.
Tebow, a quarterback, was crucified when he entered the NFL, as scouts and experts told him that he would have a better chance making the NFL as a HB, TE, or FB. Tebow couldn’t accept being anything else besides an NFL QB, as he seemed determined to either succeed as an NFL QB, or fail trying to chase his dream.
Lin suffered most of his criticism as a high school senior, awaiting scholarships to the nation’s top programs. After receiving no offers, he decided to go to Harvard University -- a program which does not hand out athletic scholarships. Lin thrived at Harvard and was picked up and subsequently cut by the Golden State Warriors, eventually signing with the Knicks this season.
As fate would have it, both athletes are now in the Sports Mecca of the world, New York City. Tebow is hoping to continue his success with the Jets, and Lin is aiming to bounce back from a season-ending injury in time for the postseason.
Two classic underdogs, neither of whom could lay claim to being the best player on his own team, let alone in his sport. Yet somehow, each one legitimately cracks Time's prestigious list.
Maybe they are one-year wonders. Or maybe both go on to have successful careers. Who knows? No matter what the future holds, no one can say that they did not feel a little touch of Tebow-mania or Linsanity this year.
By Steve Oh
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald