Too Good To Be Untrue
The amoeba. You remember it from biology class; it’s your long-lost relative. Don’t believe it? Well, you’re probably one of those pro-life Christian homeschooling losers. You don’t play nice with others. You are socially maladjusted.
“Amoeba are essentially everywhere and have probably existed . . . long before the appearance of macroscopic animals,” says the science department at the University of Edinburgh. “Throughout our entire existence therefore, we have lived in intimate association with amoebae. It is consequently no surprise that some amoeba have adapted to take advantage of us.”
Twenty-four years ago, a pregnant lady encountered one of these pathogenic amoebae in the Philippines. This pesky single-celled creature, in the process of its attempt to take advantage of her, gave her an infection that put her into a coma. In an attempt to revive her, the Filipino doctors gave her medication that caused her placenta to separate from her uterus. So severe was this placental abruption that the awakened lady was given disturbing news: Your baby will likely be stillborn. Your best option is to have an abortion.
Now, if ever there was a case of a protect-the-life-and-health-of-the-mother abortion, this was it. She was married, yes, but she already had four children. Can’t we all just agree that in this, the rarest of circumstances, it is best to take some sort of decisive action?
Then again, she and her husband were no mere tourists: They were missionaries. As Christians, abortion was not an option. So they resigned themselves to fate or, as they would say, the “will of God.”
Who would win: mom or amoeba?
It turned out, the baby—a boy—was born healthy. He was so perfectly normal that, at age six, he took an interest in football. The family split time between their missions work and orphanage in the Philippines and their home in Jacksonville, Florida. As parents, they were the hands-on sort. Dad made the boy join his brothers and sisters in tending a half-acre garden. Mom homeschooled them.
The boy really, really liked football, and so it occurred to the parents: Why not see if the local public school would let him play on the team? As luck would have it, in 1996 the state of Florida had passed legislation allowing homeschoolers to play for a local high school of their choice in district. And it turned out the boy wasn’t half bad. As a high-school junior and senior, he was named Player of the Year—of Florida. It helped that, as quarterback, he led his team to a state title in his senior year.
Despite being a maladjusted, evangelical, six-day-creationist homeschooler—did I mention that he pledged to maintain his virginity until marriage?—this 6'3" muscle-bound loser was coveted by several SEC football programs. As a freshman backup quarterback for the Florida Gators, he rushed for only 469 yards and eight touchdowns. At the end of that season (2006), in the BCS National Championship game, the Gators faced the no. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, led by Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith. The Gators routed the Buckeyes 41-14, and the boy threw and ran for a touchdown.
Next season, he became the starter and won the Heisman himself—the first underclassman ever to be so honored.
In 2008, his coach decided to split the load at QB since this wrecking ball of an abortion candidate didn’t know when to quit. Coach should have known that from the start: In high school, he’d finished a game on a broken leg. Still, the boy led the Gators to another BCS Championship that year.
And then, just as you’d expect from a homeschooling nerdstrom, he announced that he was staying in school to complete his senior year, instead of entering the NFL draft, wherein he would likely have signed a contract worth something in the neighborhood of $40 million.
During his senior year, despite a season marred by injury, he managed to break the SEC’s record for career touchdowns, formerly held by Herschel Walker, perhaps the greatest college running back ever to play. The Gators won the Sugar Bowl, and the boy produced a mere 533 yards of total offense—enough for a BCS record.
“A lot of times people have this stereotype of homeschoolers as not very athletic,” the statistically stillborn boy remarked, after it was noted in an interview that he was the first homeschooler ever to win the Heisman. “It’s like, go win a spelling bee or something . . . ”
And yet, there are plenty of sports and cultural commentators who wish Tim Tebow would just go away, spelling bee or no. He’s a painful reminder of all their blown stereotypes. Rest assured, if he ever slips up, they’ll be there with their cameras and knowing grins. Somehow, it will have to have been wrong for him to win, in football and in life, on his first birthday.
This article first appeared in the March 2010 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.