Dec 15, 2011

The Curious Case of Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow.  Are there two more divisive and polarizing words in sports right now?  For the past few months it's been All Tebow All The Time, it seems, with many blog posts, news reports, ESPN reports, and message board posts devoted to diagnosing every aspect of Tebow and the Broncos inexplicable victories.  There's also been some pretty clever .gifs and videos made as well, with  DJ Steve Porter's "All he Does is Win" video involving ESPN's Skip Bayless being probably the best.

However for all those who are cheering on Tebow and praising his every victory, there are also a large number who are criticizing him and nitpicking every slight defect they can find in order to paint him as a failure and someone who will never make it in this league, despite his 7-1 record as a starter this year, after the team started 1-4 without him.  There are those who will mock his faith in God and make disparaging comments about said faith, and will go so far as to root for his failure, so they can then kick him while down and somehow vindicate everyone that ever had to listen to the crazy media hype around this kid.

And I think that there is a portion of the backlash against Tebow that stems from their frustration at how people are framing Tebow's success.  There is, of course, the aspect where there are those who feel that Tebow is getting too much credit that his defense, coaches and kickers should be getting, and that it's made out that Tebow is doing all of this on his own.

Yet I think there's a huge part of this demographic that vehemently root against Tebow that are doing this in reaction to the huge contingent of Tebow's supporters that view Tebow as a huge bonafide example of God's grace and how He can shine his love and good fortune on someone and allow them to succeed in the face of insurmountable odds.

I've talked with many other Christians who are FIRMLY in the camp that Tebow's success is owed exclusively to his faith in God.  That because of Tebow's unabashed love of God and his not being ashamed of his faith, that God is smiling on him and allowing him to go out there and win each week.    And they view everyone who disparages Tebow as being this unrelenting cabal of Christian Hating heathens who want to make this an Anti-Christian nation and suppress all forms of exhibition of one's faith in God.

And this is what I think causes a great number of people to disparage Tebow with such venom.  It goes beyond simply thinking he isn't a capable pocket passer, or a traditional QB or even being a fan of a rival team.  This is something much deeper.  I think this is in direct response to many Christians in this country that subscribe to this myth that Christians are some persecuted minority.

I can't tell you how many Christians I've spoken to at Church or other functions that are sincere in their beliefs that mocking Christians is widely accepted and seem to believe that being a Christian in America is somehow something that you have to be quiet about or people will discriminate against you and/or disparage you.  However, if you think about it, this makes no sense.

A Gallup poll from earlier this year revealed that 92% of Americans polled identify that they "Believe in God or a Universal Spirit" More specifically 80% said they believed in God and 12% said a "universal spirit".  7% said they do not believe in God or a Universal Spirit and 1% had no opinion.

So this idea that Christians or those who believe in God are some heavily persecuted demographic in society is ludicrous when you really think about it.  how can 92% of the population be discriminated and persecuted by 7% of the people who claim to not believe in God and/or the 1% that had no opinion?

Are there those out there who are strongly anti-faith?  Of course there are.  Are there movies out there and TV shows that exhibit a disliking or disrespect of the Christian faith? Of course there are.  However this idea that there's a heavy discrimination is outrageously laughable.  Christians in this country are the VAST majority, so the idea that we are oppressed as Christians, is just ridiculous.

I mean think about it for a moment.  In this country it's gotten to the point where if you are NOT someone who believes in God you are looked at as having no morals or ethics.  If you doubt that, ask yourself this question: What are the odds that in this country that an Atheist could ever be elected President?

Think about that.  In theConstitution it states, CLEARLY and EXPLICITLY that there shall be no religiouslitmus test for political candidates, and yet that's what we have done.  If someone even seems like they don't go to church regularly, Christians have a tendency to look down on those people and question their faith, and often will refuse to even consider voting for them. 
As a result politicians, particularly those in the Republican Party, have to go out of their way to reinforce that they do indeed believe in God. President Obama STILL has his faith questioned by many on the conservative side, because of his political beliefs and this ridiculous smear campaign put out by Fox News, World Net Daily and their ilk, about him being born in Kenya and being a "secret Muslim", as if being a Muslim is absolutely the worst thing you could possibly be.

Look at this year's Republican field.  People are falling all over themselves to claim God, insist that they are the biggest lover of the Jewish people that's ever been, and seemingly secretly cater to and appeal to those in the Christian conservative base that refuse to vote for Mitt Romney due to his Mormon faith.   Because according to them, he's not a "real Christian" and therefore, they don't trust him.

There are many reasons not to trust Mitt Romney however his specific faith is not one of them. However that is where we are at, where being Christian is the thing to be, and if you are not, you're just not trustworthy or respectable enough, whether it's Politics or whatever.  As if Christians have the market cornered on morals and ethics.  It's this arrogance that turns off those who do not share our faith, and turns them against us.

And it's my belief that this stems from a sort of victimhood that many of my faith tends to latch on to.  And it's not exclusive to the religion of Christianity, it's embraced by many people whether it's rappers who want to insist that everyone that doesn't like them or their music are "haters" or it's athletes who insist no one gives them or their team respect.  There's something that perhaps is ingrained in our DNA that seems to make us, as human beings, susceptible to this victim complex where everytime we perceive someone as disrespecting us or perhaps not giving us our due, we flip that switch and suddenly our defense mechanism kicks into gear and we are able to explain it away as saying "it's not US, it's not anything we are doing, it's THEM!  They're HATERS!"

And I think this ties in to the whole Tim Tebow phenomenon that is sweeping the sports world, and to be honest the entire country at this point. I've written about this situation before, and I've posited that for the most part people love Tim Tebow for the exact same reasons as those who hate him.  And those reasons are as follows:

A. His belief in God and his being unafraid to let everyone know about it.
B. His story is a feel-good type story which has been hyped Ad nauseam by the time he graduated College, with us hearing this story of his life over and over again.
C. The media has hyped him up, in part due to his faith, in part due to his being a good looking kid who's ultra-polite and respectful, and in part because of his overwhelming success in college.

And there's another reason that I didn't touch on before in my previous post, however it is a part of this and only someone who perhaps doesn't want to accept or acknowledge it would deny at least the possibility:

D. The perception that the Media is overlooking his flaws in his game, to highlight all the positives, and the similar perception that if Tebow were black that this situation would be handled in a vastly different way.

Now while I DO think that part of his appeal to many in the media is his wholesome aw-shucks clean cut white boy who loves Jesus image, I'm not going to get into THAT aspect in this piece, because that's a whole book worth of discussion and I'm just not in the place right now to even tackle that.  I WILL say that it should be pretty clear to most people that his being White perhaps has led many in the media and fans to perhaps look at him completely differently than if he were a Black QB with the EXACT same skills, flaws, and beliefs. 

Would he be given so much leeway for his mistakes and bad passing abilities and had as many people demanding he continue to be given the keys to the Broncos Kingdom?  Who knows?  All situations are different so we won't know.  As I said, another discussion for another day.

However I do think that there's an aspect to this whole Tebow thing that bothers me and has me conflicted.  I am a self-admitted fan of Tim Tebow.  I was hoping the Patriots would end up drafting him late 1st round or early 2nd round, but the Broncos jumped the gun and grabbed him earlier than many thought he'd go (or felt he deserved to go).

I would have loved to have him learn behind Tom Brady for three or four years, and then when Brady eventually retires, have Tebow with years of tutelage by Belichick and Brady under his belt, he could be amazing.   I have always liked the kid's heart, his attitude and the fact that we are both of the same faith, I'm not going to deny had a part in it I'm sure.

I'm very happy for the success that he has been getting, and I think that he's only going to get better.  Remember, he had no time to learn the new system or practice a lot because of the lockout this past summer.   He's basically learning a new system on the fly with receivers who aren't necessarily all pro quality.  He's also benefitted from a vastly improving defense, and some solid coaching and kicking as well, not to mention Willis McGahee's performance as the running back.

All that said, I also understand to a degree why many people dislike him.  While I believe most people do not like athletes who get in trouble all the time for DUI's or beating their girlfriends or getting caught with drugs or guns, they also don't like the extreme opposite, and that is someone who seems too good to be true.  When someone comes along and the media is working overtime to convince you that they are the real deal and a great guy and all this, it makes some get turned off.

We're used to people supposedly being great guys and great role models and then they get caught with steroids, or accused of raping a girl in a hotel room in Colorado, or making it rain in a night club and fighting people, or running a dog fighting ring.   We've been hurt before, as the saying goes, and so our defenses are up.  People are much less likely to buy into the "oh but THIS guy is for real!" even if that guy is for real.

We keep expecting that person to fail.  To not live up to what they have been made out to be, and when that happens I think we have a tendency to want to encourage it.  We get carried away by waiting for people to show the cracks in their armor, the flaws in their character, that we start actively rooting for it, and when it happens, we celebrate and say "SEE! I told you that guy wasn't all that!"

That's happening with Tebow.  I firmly believe he is sincere.  I don't think there's anything fake about Tim Tebow.  Everything he says I think you can take it to the bank.   That said, I also think that he is in a horrible position, thanks in part to the overhyping that the Media has done with him.

And oddly enough I think that a group of people who are doing the most harm to Tebow in this whole thing are his fans.  Whether it's the kids who are engaging in the "Tebowing" craze who seem to be doing this while perhaps not really recognizing the whole reason for Tebow kneeling in that pose to begin with, or the idiots who are wearing custom #15 Bronco Jerseys with "Jesus" written on the back it's detrimental to Tebow, because that fuels those who have this  obsession with hoping Tebow fails.  It adds fire to those who are already riled up over the religious aspect to this whole situation.

And don't even get me started on the idiot at the Jewish Weekly that wrote the article saying that a Tim Tebow led Bronco victory in the Super Bowl would lead Christians to burn mosques, bash gays and banish immigrants.

However what I think does the most damage are those who claim that Tebow's success is owed entirely (are even partly) to his faith in God.  That somehow God is intervening on Tebow's behalf and pushing the Broncos to victory of their opponents. Now I've heard some say this in jest, mainly out of shock at how to explain the unexplainable (such as Marion Barber for whatever reason running out of bounds when if he had stayed in, the Broncos most likely lose that game), however there are those who strongly believe that God is the reason Tebow has had the success that he has.

In fact in the recent week there was a report from TMZ about a Pastor in Colorado named Wayne Hanson, who is the Pastor of Summit Creek Church.  Hanson allegedly said that he felt that God was the reason that Tim was having the success that he was.

Since then Hanson has come out and refuted that report, and claimed that TMZ misled him as to what they were going to be reporting, and twisted his words into something they weren't.  I know what you're thinking.  I can't believe TMZ would do something like that either. (sarcasm)

However this opens the door to some very unsavory suggestions.  It reminds me of that urban legend that gets emailed around about a girl who's walking down a dark alley late at night and there's these criminal looking guys leaning against a wall staring at her as she walks by. She's praying to God as she walks by and makes it home safe and thanks God in her prayers. Next day she reads about some girl who was raped and killed in the alley by those same guys.  She ends up going to see the guys in prison and asks them why they didn't do that to her.  What made them attack that other girl, but not her.

The men told her that the other girl was alone, while she (the first girl) was walking with these two big bodyguard looking dudes.   The story then reveals that those two "bodyguard looking dudes" were actually Angels that appeared because she was praying for God to protect her.

Now this is my problem with that truly atrocious and highly despicable story.  That implies that the other girl was beaten, raped and killed because she just didn't believe in God enough.  That implied that God saved the one girl because she prayed to Him, but the other girl was left to be violated and abused and ultimately killed because she didn't pray to Him or wasn't a Christian. This infuriated me when I first read it because that story represents EVERYTHING that I despise about fundamentalist Christians.  Those people who take the faith that I believe in and twist it and make it something that is ugly.  I can feel myself getting angry just recounting it and so that's about all I'm going to spend on that because I don't wanna get deeper into it and say some things that I perhaps shouldn't.

But this attribution of credit to God (in part or whole) for his success, is the kind of thing that causes many people to grow tired of Tim Tebow, and the media hype around him.  This is the type of thing that makes people root against him at every opportunity, and this is the very thing that causes many people, once Tebow lands on a multi-game losing streak -- and he will, just as everyone does -- to lash out with snark and sarcasm, peppering their insults with mocking of his faith.

Calls of "Where's your God now, Tebow?" and "I guess God wanted the other team to win this week, huh?" and a whole other slew of things will be coming his way.  Mind you this is not in response to anything he has done, but a reaction to the zealots that are among his supporters. Many Christians want to create a martyr in advance out of Tim Tebow and make it out that people hate Tim Tebow because he is a Christian.  That's not true at all.  Kurt Warner, for the most part, was a very popular player and he was very outspoken on his faith, even going so far as to scream "THANK YOU JESUS!" when he won the Super Bowl.  That sound bite is awesome and is still played, years later, on sports talk radio.  I can't find THAT clip, but here's another clip after winning the NFC Championship.

There's nothing wrong with professing your faith in a higher power.  Where some people take offense is how massive the Tebow hype machine is at this point.  Now this is not Tebow's fault, he's going about his business the same as he always has. He's very humble, and he's not a fake. However I DO think he could afford to dial back his outspokenness just a tad.  Jake Plummer caught some flak for speaking on this in an interview, saying that we know that Tebow loves God, and that the time when he realizes that we know this, he'll be better off.  And I agree, although he might have worded that a bit better than he did.

I was talking with my father about this and I said that while I admire him for his openness about his faith and all his other attributes that I have mentioned above, that I did think that it gets to be a bit much when during a post-game interview he responds to every single question with first saying that he thanks his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and THEN answering the question.  As Plummer (perhaps not so eloquently) put it, we get that.  We know you love you some Jesus.  That's not what you were asked.

Say it at the beginning of your interviews, and then move on to what you're asked.  But he's a kid and he's very enthusiastic about his faith and that's great!  No problems with that and I'll never criticize his faith.  I simply think he could learn to dial it back a tad.  Christian Football player and Super Bowl winner Kurt Warner has said pretty much the same thing, and he's someone who's been in Tebow's shoes, so I would think he'd have a good idea of what he's talking about.

We'll see what the future holds for Tim Tebow.  I firmly believe he'll have a very good career in this league, and considering what he's accomplished and the fact that he hasn't even had a regular off-season workout with this system or coaching staff/players, I think he's doing pretty well.  With the lockout preventing his from learning the system in the off-season, he's had to pick up this stuff on the fly.  I think he's only going to improve when he's got an off-season to learn the playbook, practice with the squad, spend more time with the players, and of course John Elway's tutelage can't hurt.

He clearly has a ways to go, his mechanics in throwing are definitely not great, and he absolutely has to get better, something which he has already admitted to.  The kid has a ton of heart and will and I know that if he sets his mind to getting better, he will do just that.  The kid isn't perfect, and right now all things considered he's nowhere near the QB that he's going to have to be to succeed long term in the league.  However I think he is going to get his chance to improve and show everyone that doubted him that he does have what it takes.

I just hope that those who are slamming him based on his faith can knock it off, and that goes doubly for those who are using his Faith as a way of justifying his success, and his supporters who are wearing the "Jesus" Bronco jerseys and dubbing him the "Mile High Messiah".  Tebow's got enough to worry about without being kneecapped by his own supporters.

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