In 1964, while the world was discovering a brilliant 22-year-old Broadway phenomenon named Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl,” her husband at the time, actor Elliott Gould, described his wife as a combination of two of his favorite people — Sophia Loren and Y.A. Tittle. Loren is and remains one of the most luminous and beautiful women on screen and in the world.
Tittle, on the other hand, is still famous only to sports fans. He was the quarterback of the New York Giants in the early 1960’s, when he threw 86 touchdown passes in three seasons. He was a two-time NFL MVP (most valuable player) and is still remembered for his grit, courage and winning ways.
It’s that reference to a football player — that Elliott would compare Barbra to a consummate athlete — that made me connect Streisand to today’s most interesting athlete on the planet, Tim Tebow. You might not realize it, but there are similarities between Barbra Streisand and Tim Tebow.
For starters, Tebow is 24 — that’s Barbra’s lucky number — and this year Tim Tebow has had the luck of Streisand guiding him. Some equate his near-miraculous success in football to his devout religious beliefs. And that may well be the source of his strength. But I see some characteristics between the Denver Bronco’s quarterback and Brooklyn’s own Barbra Streisand that have spelled success for both of them over the years.
I’ll Light Up Like A Light
Some people carry an inner light. They glow. They seem to be always in the spotlight. They radiate with a charisma that’s unmistakable and completely alluring. People are drawn to the light, watching the person in the center and marveling at the sight. Barbra Streisand has that kind of charisma and has since she first time she ever opened her mouth to sing. Whether in a small nightclub like the Bon Soir or as a spark of light in the center of 135,000 people during “A Happening in Central Park,” Streisand is magnetic. Tim Tebow’s also had that kind of something and he’s showed it off since peewee football. The camera finds him and when it does, he makes magic happen…and everyone wants to watch.
You Don’t Have the Right Style
Remember in “The Way We Were,” when Hubbell admits to Katie, “You don’t have the right style.” Well, that’s what they’ve been saying about Tebow – and Streisand — since day one. Even after Tebow won a Heisman trophy and two national championships with the Florida Gators, he was still told he wasn’t National Football League quality. As a quarterback, Tim Tebow is a bagel on a plateful of onion rolls. He didn’t look the part. He may not have skinny legs like Barbra did as Fanny in “Funny Girl,” but Tebow doesn’t have throw like other passers in the pros. His delivery is all-wrong. The ball doesn’t go where it’s supposed to and he can look really bad. Nevertheless, when he connects with a receiver, touchdowns seem to follow. Kind of like Barbra changing the way people regarded what’s pretty. Before “Funny Girl,” Streisand was a meeskite.* Today, when you see “Funny Girl,” she’s beautiful. What changed? Not the film. No, it’s our perception of beauty; and Streisand did that.
I Know What’s Right for Me
“Fix your nose, change you name, cap your teeth.” As a kid just starting out in show business, Barbra Streisand heard all that advice and refused to listen. She instinctively knew what was right for her and she followed her instincts. That meant going by her gut and sticking with what God had given her. Tebow’s been no different. Plenty of experts have told him to change positions; to become an H-back or a tight end, anything but a quarterback. Tim Tebow smiled politely and thanked everyone for their counsel, then stuck to his guns and chose to play quarterback. He knew it was right for him.
Couldn’t We Both Win?
Say what you will, and the critics have, but Streisand and Tebow are winners. Despite the naysayers, despite the obstacles thrown in their paths, both Tebow — in his burgeoning career — and Streisand — in her legendary 50-year career — have consistently proven the experts wrong. They win. They win big. They represent every underdog imaginable who has ever been knocked back and told to give up and stop trying. Tebow hasn’t listened and Streisand never will. They’re winning is a victory for all of us.
*meeskite – Yiddish for an ugly girl.