I’ve been thinking for a while now about the Tim Tebow phenomenon.
I’m not talking about how the 2007 Heisman winner is somehow managing to win NFL games despite having a throwing motion that makes the purists cringe.
No, the football aspect of what he is doing doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve been a long-time advocate of blowing up the old quarterback archetype that’s been central to the sport for the past 50 years. Tebow represents the natural evolution of the position and his recent success is a punch to the NFL establishment’s solar plexus.
Oh, I admit it gives me immense satisfaction to see so many former players and coaches turned-analyst struggling to figure out why Tebow is winning. It’s like their heads are about to explode. The rest of the media is equally perplexed since it tends to dutifully accept almost everything the NFL tells it as it relates to X’s and O’s.
Whatever. The Tebow on-the-field stuff will eventually sort itself out and the league will continue its offensive evolution. The NFL will probably never be the same. It’s a good subject for further discussion on another day.
But what’s really stirring me up is how so many people actually hate this guy. They hate him for reasons that strike me as absurd. Let’s see. They hate him because he doesn’t play the way they’ve been told a quarterback should play. They hate him because he has an exotic throwing motion (or so they’ve been told) and he sometimes gains more yards on the ground than through the air (how dare he!).
But those are just side issues. What really stirs up the hate for Tebow is that he is [shudder] a Christian who actually dares to advertise as such.
Type in “hate” and “Tim Tebow” in Google and you get stories about how he is a polarizing figure because of his faith. Radio hosts are telling him to STFU about God. You’ll see Facebook groups devoted to hating him. And the usual snarky types who hate him mainly because the media won’t stop talking about him.
Most of this is, of course, completely disingenuous. Tebow is not the first, nor will he be the last, professional athlete to thank Jesus Christ during an interview. He’s not the first athlete to take a knee and pray. But he’s suddenly a target for ridicule, as if he invented it. All this stuff isn’t even new to Tebow who, if my memory serves me correctly, was an outspoken Christian when he was winning the Heisman Trophy and two national championships at Florida. So why all the fuss and furor now over him spouting his religious views?
I enjoy watching Tebow play. He’s a bonafide star, a Ruthian figure in football. Always has been. He was the first sophomore to win the Heisman. That tells us a lot about the impact he had in college. I have no idea what kind of person he really is off the field and I don’t care. I’m on the record as saying that no player or coach should be idolized off the field. I don’t support any misguided individual out there who somehow thinks Tebow is a good person just because he professes his faith. We’ve all been down that road too many times before, I think, to fall into that trap again.
But, all that said, who gives a rat’s ass if the man wants to thank Jesus before an interview? Are we that screwed up about religion that we have to get offended by this, too? Must we mock a guy because he sincerely loves his faith and wants to share it? Have we lost all sense of perspective on what is actually worthy of hate? The sports world has plenty to offer in that respect.
We’ve got Jerry Sandusky allegedly raping little boys in the shower. We’ve got Ray Lewis still starring in the NFL and he might’ve (allegedly) killed a guy a few years back. We’ve got Michael Vick back playing again after torturing dogs. We’ve got professional athletes of all stripes (and too numerous to name) living lifestyles that would make their mothers cringe–and making no bones about it. Can we get through a year without some kind of sex/rape/gun/drug scandal in sports? Good luck with that. In the NFL itself we see varying levels of buffoonery on display after every touchdown, sack, first down and routine play. There’s barely a peep about all this stuff most days.
But Tebow thanks Jesus and we are repelled? For this we should hate him? Seriously? Get out of here.
It’s really not a big deal. Or it shouldn’t be. Most Americans are comfortable with a certain level of bland religiosity in public life. Last I checked, people still celebrate the holidays in one way or another. Maybe Tebow upsets that apple cart a bit when he professes his faith so starkly, but those who strive to call him a polarizing figure are guilty of caricaturing his beliefs to serve that end. It’s so easy to rip on the holier-than-thou goody-two-shoes, even if we’ve never actually heard him claim to be better than anyone else or to live anything other than a normal life. Doesn’t matter. Don’t you know he’s probably a hypocrite, stupid? And for some in the media who have been trained to view Christians of the born-again variety as bumpkins, Tebow’s fervor is downright scary. He might as well be a Scientologist, though Tom Cruise, before he freaked out on Oprah, was treated with less disdain. It’s a shame.
I’ve got a few personal requests of the Supreme Being in 2012. For starters, I’d like to see the Kardashians move to North Korea. All of them. Throw in Bruce Jenner, too.
But I’d settle for society getting a little more perspective on things like this.
There are plenty of figures in sports and society worthy of our hate.
Tebow isn’t one of them.