By now the stories of Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin are legend.
There's the time Lin parted the Red Sea. And the time Tebow turned water into wine. And who can forget that awesome book they co-authored – the one with an old version, a new version, and yet another version that King James, the great Miami Heat player, had a hand in as well.
Or maybe I'm confusing Tebow and Lin with someone else.
Because it's what Tebow and Lin are doing now – and what they aren't doing, in some cases – that makes them a great teaching resource for parents. By now the stories of Tebow, the new New York Jets quarterback, and Lin, a point guard for the New York Knicks, are part of our social fabric. The public, the media and Tebow himself have turned him into today's "It" face for religious conviction and a clean lifestyle. Lin's social dialogue revolves around believing in yourself and never giving up.
While it's true both are role models for kids, we as parents should be asking ourselves, "Role models for what?" Neither Tebow's nor Lin's stories have been fully written. In fact, we're still somewhere in the first few chapters, and so far not all is sunny for our favorite social role models.
Which is what makes them truly valuable, relevant role models, because – let's face it – perfection is not only unattainable, it's boring.
Four things Tebow and Lin can teach our children:
A good start does not mean a good finish
Remember Tebowmania? Remember the sensation Tebow created by being horrible for three quarters of a football game while his team's defense kept the game competitive? Then Tebow would find himself in the fourth quarter or overtime and Denver would creep out a win? Sure you do.
Remember Denver's playoff game against New England, when Tebow completed barely one out of every three passes, got sacked five times (including once when he ran backward into a Patriots player he didn't even know was there) and Denver lost, 45-10? Sure you do. That's the lasting impression of Tebow.
And remember Linsanity? Remember when the third-string point guard, who had been cut twice during the preseason, came off the bench to eventually become a starter and lead the New York Knicks back into playoff contention? Sure you do.
Remember what happened when the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and the New Jersey Nets' Deron Williams grew tired of the Lin hype and decided to shut him down, and then did? Do you know how Lin has played the last four weeks? Sure you do.
So what's the message here? The message is that it's not enough to do well for short stretches of time. Longterm, sustained success is more important than short-term excitement. Tebow and/or Lin might have long successful careers. As of now, they have not. An important question to ask your child might be, If Tebow's football career ended right now, is that the kind of career you'd like to duplicate?
Nobody likes a showoff
Yes, we're looking at you, Mr. Tebow. There are public shows of faith, and then there's sprinting past your teammates to an empty spot in the endzone where you can pray alone, just you and the TV cameras.
That's what prompted Tebow's former teammate and backup quarterback Brady Quinn to say the way Tebow shows his faith doesn't "seem very humble," and, "When I get that opportunity, I'll continue to lead not necessarily by trying to get in front of the camera and praying but by praying with my teammates, you know?"
And so the question we ask our kids is, What's more important? Is it giving thanks to God? Or is it making sure the TV cameras see us giving thanks to God?
Stick up for yourself
OK, let's give Lin and Tebow some credit.
Subtle and not so subtle racial insensitivity flared when Lin's star began to rise. The New York Post's headline -- "Amasian" -- prompted Philly.com's Will Bunch to satirically recollect, "It brings to mind some classic Post sports headlines from years past, like Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965. 'Jew Da Man!,' and Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point explosion against the Knicks ('Blacktacular!') and this more recent one when Jose Reyes left the Mets for Florida ('Press the Hispanic Button!')."
But the person who most needed to stick up, did. Lin. He could have played it safe. Shrugged it off. Done the marketable thing. Instead, he did the right thing at NBA All-Star Weekend when he said, "I know a lot of people say I'm 'deceptively athletic' and 'deceptively quick,' and I'm not sure what’s deceptive. But it could be the fact that I’m Asian-American. But I think that’s fine. It’s something that I embrace, and it gives me a chip on my shoulder. But I'm very proud to be Asian-American and I love it."
Tebow, meanwhile, took some heat over talk radio for taking part in a press conference earlier this week when he joined the Jets. It was a little strange – the idea of a press conference for a backup quarterback. Or as Chris Greenberg of The Huffington Post put it "the most elaborate press conference in the history of backup quarterbacks."
Recognizing the potential backlash, Tebow did what he had to do. He protected his reputation, even if he did toss the hot potato back to his employer. "The reason we are here is because I have bosses, too," Tebow said, "and they made me do it."
Sometimes – most times – it's best to speak up.
Individual vs. Team
Individually, they have it all.
What about their teams?
The Knicks are struggling to hold onto a playoff spot. And the Broncos believe they're ready to make a Super Bowl push … because they signed QB Peyton Manning and traded Tebow to the Jets, a franchise that talks bigger than it plays.
Which means what to our kids? For those who look up to Lin and Tebow, it gives us a chance to talk about goals and priorities, hype vs. accomplishment, the individual vs. the team.
What Tebow and Lin have earned are opportunities for professional success and social awareness. What they've given parents is an opportunity to talk to kids about what's real and what matters vs. what's perceived and what's created.
Follow Dave Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.