REGGIE HAYES: Tim Tebow gives the people what they want on “Night of Hope” at Memorial Coliseum

Tim Tebow speaks at the "Night of Hope" event Thursday at Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Christian worship leader and singer Charles Billingsley, left, is teased by Tim Tebow during the "Night of Hope" event Thursday at Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Christian worship leader and singer Charles Billingsley sings during the "Night of Hope" event Thursday at Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Tim Tebow gestures during "Night of Hope" on Thursday at Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Tanya Crevier, known as the world's best female basketball ballhandler, spins multiple balls during a performance at "Night of Hope" on Thursday at Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Indiana University football coach Tom Allen speaks to the crowd prior to Tim Tebow's appearance at "Night of Hope" on Thursday at Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)

About 10,000 people packed Memorial Coliseum for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes event Thursday to worship Jesus Christ. Tim Tebow then fed the 10,000.

“Night of Hope,” a popular and annual FCA event, had never been this popular. Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly didn’t draw this kind of crowd. Neither did former Indianapolis Colts’ Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy or Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Kelly came closest, attracting about 4,000 over two nights. In other words, Tebow more than doubled the fun.

Tebow, the former NFL quarterback and current minor league baseball player, knows how to work a crowd, especially a friendly one. He drew the people in, and then he held them close.

Some of the stories Tebow told no doubt sparked a familiar cord to those who have read his book or previously heard him speak. His anecdotes took the audience from his childhood to his University of Florida career, where national championships and a Heisman Trophy (along with his outspoken Christian faith) made him a household name.

Each point along the way led to the same place – his faith journey.

This is what struck me most: Tebow often ventured into territory where he doesn’t get enough credit for visiting, and that’s in recognizing his faults and his big-time athletic ego. He called himself out for losing perspective. He acknowledged when he has been guilty of having too much pride.

One of those times was his senior season at Florida, when the Gators were going for an undefeated national title. Florida lost to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game. The dream was shattered. So was Tebow.

“I was caught up in the game, the awards, the legacy,” he said, “and it affected who I was.”

At a postseason awards banquet, still smarting from the failure, he ended up meeting a special needs girl, who inspired him to remember the importance of looking outward and helping others. He demonstrates that ethos with his foundation’s “Night to Shine” event, a prom experience dedicated to special needs students.

“How are you working to do something that really matters?” Tebow asks himself and, in turn, wants others to ask, too.

As Tebow told the FCA crowd his stories from the stage, it was striking to hear the reaction. There were times when it was completely silent except for Tebow’s voice. If you’ve ever been to an event at the coliseum, some people are always talking, even during the most intimate moments of a concert.

Tebow’s voice soared through the coliseum in solo flight.

“Our perspective gets so clouded on what we think really matters,” Tebow said. “The world is going to tell you the most important things are money, fame and power. It’s really easy to get caught up in those things.”

Tebow delivered a mix of humorous stories, such as his father giving his sons an “edge” by having them watch “Braveheart.” He delivered poignant ones, such as a more recent experience in prison ministry.

With each story, no teleprompter needed, Tebow proved to be the consummate mix of big-time athlete and big-belief evangelist.

This was a crowd predisposed to feed off Tebow’s message. Their reactions confirmed it.

“Let’s not get caught up in things that don’t matter,” he said. “Let’s have a life that focuses on things and people that matter. Let’s have a life of real meaning and real purpose and real significance. That doesn’t come in money, fame and power. It comes in a relationship with Jesus Christ and impacting those around us.”

Tebow’s time didn’t include any stories of leading the Denver Broncos in the playoffs. He didn’t talk about the end of his NFL career or the beginning of what some feel is a pipe dream of chasing professional baseball.

Tebow’s time was spent preaching. He was preaching to the choir, as the phrase goes. But I left the event reminded where Tebow stands and why, which was pretty much the point of the night.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

COMMENTS