As I pulled off IH-35 North onto Westinghouse Road in Georgetown, TX, a short 20-mile drive north from my home in Central Austin, I was met by a cavalcade of police officers on security detail that rivaled that of a presidential visit. I was told that despite my media parking pass, the parking at Georgetown’s Celebration Church was already full at 6:45AM for an Easter service that would kick of shortly after 10am. I would have to park at the nearby outlet malls, and like an estimated 20,000 other attendees, take one of 110 chartered school buses to see Tim Tebow give an Easter Message atop the tallest hill in the South Eastern United States.
Upon arriving at the mega-church, I was granted press credentials and set up shop in the media area. 1300 volunteers were on hand to help in every aspect of the event’s operations, and every 4 minutes a new bus load of people would show up and begin their trek up the hill. By 9:30 or so, the place looked like a less-fun version of Woodstock, people laying about in groups on blankets and enjoying the relatively mild Texas Easter Sunday.
Media was not permitted to tape the event, or to take pictures unescorted. I made my way around the pre-Tebow festivities, and spoke with numerous individuals from all walks of life. Some were there to see Tebow, having traveled distances as great as Dallas and Houston to catch a glimpse of him in person.
My only question was “Why is this happening?” Why is the New York Times here? The New York Daily News and the Post? Why is Tim Tebow giving a sermon to the masses on top of a giant hill in Georgetown, TX for Easter? Well, I guess sometimes the simplest explanation is usually the best.
Joe Champion, Pastor at Celebration Church is a former SEC Football player himself. He played at LSU and said he considered going Pro before a life changing event caused him to enter the ministry. He is a great fan of Tim’s and believes that he has a special gift for using his platform to spread the word regarding their shared religious beliefs. They do not share SEC football beliefs, though. In one of the more funny moments the day provided, “Pastor Joe” asked Tim Tebow if he would wear an LSU helmet for the sermon. A helmet which Tebow proceeded to take from him, set on the ground, and kick to the side of the stage.
(I did notice University of Texas defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz formerly of Mississippi State got a bigger than average kick out of this display)
This is Tim Tebow we are talking about here. As much as I want to make this a story, there really isn’t a story. This is what he does. He was born in the Phillipines while his parents were doing missionary work. His faith is not only what drives him, it makes up the very fiber of his soul. As strange as it is for me, and a lot of people to wrap our heads around, this is normal. Tim Tebow standing on a huge stage atop a giant hill, preaching gospel to tens of thousands of listeners on Easter about Jesus being raised from the dead is normal. This was a church gathering that was used in an effort by its organizers to bring publicity to their organization and their mission. Tim Tebow is obviously one of the most polarizing figures in sports. Some people hate him, and some people love him so much that they look like this when they are in his presence: