The New York Times today wades into the debate about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s overt religiosity. Because Tebow is Christian, he has naturally inspired the anti-religious bigotry so prevalent in American popular culture. He kneels in prayer after touchdowns–a move that has received the nickname “Tebowing.” He is no stranger to controversy and, perhaps most provocative of all, he has been thus far resistant to the bullying masses of theophobic nihilists telling him to please shut up:
To his most fervent supporters — and there are many — Tebow was never just a quarterback. He was a champion of Christianity in shoulder pads, a wholesome, fearsome football player who loved God and touchdowns, in that order. If detractors found Tebow preachy, if he seemed too good to be true, he still won two national championships and a Heisman Trophy at the University of Florida, securing his legend as one of the greatest college players ever.
Drafted last year by the Broncos, he played sparingly his rookie season. Now, his struggles to adapt to the N.F.L. have changed the tenor of the debate around him, made it nastier, more personal, more intense. Supporters have reacted to criticism of Tebow as an indictment on religion, while detractors seem to delight in every wayward pass.
The controversy over Tebow’s faith went mainstream when it was announced before the 2010 Super Bowl that he would appear in a pro-life ad during the game. Here was how ABC News described the ad before it aired: “The Focus on the Family ad tells the story of a woman who contracted amoebic dysentery and, despite doctor’s advice, chose not to terminate her pregnancy. The son she gave birth to grew up to be college football star Tim Tebow.”
This description so horrified liberal interest groups that they mounted a full-scale effort to get the network to drop the ad. My favorite comment came from Jemhu Greene, president of the Women’s Media Center, speaking for the anti-Tebow left: “An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year–an event designed to bring Americans together.”
Now, you may be wondering where the Women’s Media Center was in 2008, when Barack Obama, then a candidate for president, ran an advertisement during the Super Bowl. Here is a description of that commercial from USA Today: “The 30-second ad is a summary of Obama’s political message, played against images of crowds of supporters, despair in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina’s destruction.”
That all sounds pretty divisive. Where were the liberal women’s groups that year? Right–calling Sarah Palin “more a conservative man than she is a woman on women’s issues.”
The Times article tells us how the NCAA dealt with Tebow’s expressions of faith on the field when he was in college, such as writing the names of Bible verses on the anti-glare patches under his eyes: they banned it. (Banning is to the NCAA what taxing is to big government Democrats.)
The Times article is, overall, pretty fair, and gives voice to Tebow’s supporters and offers other explanations for why Tebow is struggling to connect with fans and teammates. (Reasons that, the article suggests, are both more plausible and less likely to be voiced on the ratings-obsessed sports networks like ESPN, leaving real analysis to sports blogs and radio.)
The controversy is unlikely to go away, however, as Tebow seems generally unmoved by liberal hecklers demanding he sell out his faith so they can enjoy football again without the rude intrusion of other people’s opinions.