Jewish Journal


November 13, 2011

Tebow’s religious revolution


If you don’t know the name Tim Tebow—actually, it’s difficult to believe that anyone reading this blog hasn’t heard that name, but, just in case, the New York Times opens this story by explaining that Tebow is two things: a football player and a Christian. It’s a well-written article that revisits the social phenomenon of the Denver Broncos starting quarterback in the context of religion’s place in football.

An excerpt from Greg Bishop’s article:

While Tebow is not the first openly religious athlete, the circumstances surrounding his performance this season are so unusual, the N.F.L. is experiencing a rare, if not unprecedented, religious feud. The latest chapter in the Book of Tebow played out Sunday, when he threw two touchdown passes in the Broncos’ upset of the Oakland Raiders, perhaps saving his status as the starter, but not ending the larger debate.

“The role religion plays here is enormous,” said Kurt Warner, the former N.F.L. quarterback and a similarly outspoken Christian athlete. “When somebody professes their faith, and I was that guy for a long time, people automatically think when you praise God it’s because He makes passes go straighter or helps win games. When you lose, they say, your faith doesn’t belong here. Your God’s not helping you win.”

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.

All correct, particularly the quote from Warner. If you watch people point to the sky after a cross the goal line or get a good win, then you can see that religion is prominent in football. It also seems a bit insincere.

Not with Tebow. And that has been surprising. More surprising, though, has been the animosity directed at Tebow’s outward religiosity. He has to be the least controversial and egotistical polarizing figure that American society has seen in a long, long time.

But football is it’s own religion, and maybe this is a case of not being able to worship two gods.

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