Christians and Lions – Tim Tebow and the Sports Media Establishment

I’m promoting this back to the top due to this letter to the editor by a Rabbi. It was picked up at The Other McCain, AOSHQ,  made the headlines at Hot Air,  JWF and is here in it’s entirety. Please read it all so you can bask in the glory of the sheer stupidity.

People are always looking for signs of God’s beneficence, and a victory by the Orange Crush over the blue-clad Patriots, from the bluest of blue states, will give fodder to a Christian revivalism that has already turned the Republican presidential race into a pander-thon to social conservatives, rekindling memories of those cultural icons of the ‘80s, the Moral Majority and “Hee Haw.”  The culture wars are alive and well, and, if the current climate in Washington is any indicator, the motors are being revved up for what will undoubtedly be the most cantankerous Presidential campaign ever.  When supposedly well-educated candidates publicly question overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change and evolution and then gain electoral traction by fabricating conspiracies about a war on Christmas, these are not rational times.

Into the middle of it all rides Tebow.  Absolutely confident that God is on his side, he comes across as a humbler version of the biblical Joseph, who, in this week’s Torah portion, audaciously lays claim to being the Chosen One, and then goes out and proves it.  Tebow’s sanctimonious God-talk has led even pious peers like Kurt Warner to suggest that he cool it. Joseph could have used the same coaching.

If Tebow wins the Super Bowl, against all odds, it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants.  While America has become more inclusive since Jerry Falwell’s first political forays, a Tebow triumph could set those efforts back considerably.

Unlike some other blue-staters, I do not fear people of faith.  I fear people of certainty.  The worldwide struggle going on right now is not between good and evil, but between certainty and doubt.  It cuts across denominational lines: Progressive and Modern Orthodox Jews lie on one side of the divide, joining mainline Christians and moderate Muslims; and those on the other side are also Jews, Christians and Muslims; the people of certainty.

For me, only one thing is certain. On Sunday, I’ll be praying for the Patriots.

The good Rabbi classifies Tebow as sanctimonious (i.e. feigning piety or righteousness). I would like to see his basis for this claim – it seems to me that Tebow’s displays of faith are genuine and significantly less distracting than other celebrations. He sure isn’t running to the camera’s to yell “Thank you, Jesus” before heading off to the post game parties with the NFL groupies, the media is seeking him out. The first part of this is nothing but “progressive” tripe, a regurgitation of leftist talking points. Doesn’t teh rabbi know that his “progressive” friends view his religiosity and commitment to faith the same way as they view climate “deniers” (unless he isn’t THAT committed after all).

Strange bedfellows as they say, I guess.

Here was my take from November 23rd when Tebow was only 4-1 as a starter. He is now 6-1 after erasing a 10 point deficit to the Bears in the last 2 minutes of regulation and winning in OT.

There is a story that I have been watching for years that is beginning to play out in front of us. This is not a story of politics or policy, not even an issue of national security. It is however, a lesson about culture and where we are as a nation. It is a lesson from the world of sports.

It is an incontrovertible fact that sport has always been part of the American experience. High school football, particularly here in the American south, is a rite of passage for young men and for many smaller towns, a part of the community identity. It is typical to see championship banners/billboards posted at the city limits announcing to the arriving visitor that the particular high school was the boys or girls state champion in football, basketball, etc. It is not uncommon for smaller Mississippi towns to be effectively  closed at 7 pm on Friday night because the entire population is attending the football game. If you want to find anyone, you follow the bright lights in the sky to the local high school football field.

There is also a reason that the South is commonly referred to as the “Bible Belt”. As much as high school football is a Friday night tradition, going to Sunday School and Church services on the following Sunday is a core part of Southern tradition. Religion is not something that is so much practiced as professed. When you leave a small town store and the lady behind the counter says “God Bless”, she means it on a personal level – it isn’t a generic/non-specific/meaningless salutation like “Have a nice day!” When you see a bumper sticker that claims that “Jesus Saves” , it isn’t advertising a sale by Jesus, the local Latin dance instructor, it actually is an affirmation that salvation is possible through the blessings of Jesus Christ.

Having grown up in the South, playing high school sports and going to church, I understand that these two things are integrated into the culture of the region and are inexorably linked in the people who grew up here.

This brings me to the object of my observation.

Being a son of the South, Southeastern Conference football is part of my DNA. I graduated from Mississippi State but have been an Ole Miss Rebel fan since I was old enough to know about football. The “red-headed kid from Drew” ( Drew, Mississippi )- Archie Manning – was my childhood hero. The number “18” (Archie’s college number) was my high school number, so cheering for SEC teams is in my blood. Regardless of inside the SEC rivalries, I have been a big fan of our conference teams any time one of them attains the position of winning a bowl game of capturing the national title, even LSU. Ole Miss fans can’t stand LSU – largely due to what happened on Halloween night of October 31, 1959 – but I will pull for them this year as I did for Florida in their championship runs of the last few years. Geaux, Tigers!

I also have a special fondness for Urban Meyer, the former Florida coach. Urban coached my other alma mater, the Utes of the University of Utah, to BCS glory in 2004/2005. After completing an undefeated season, Utah became the first team from a non-automatically qualifying BCS conference to play in a BCS bowl. The Utes played Big East Conference champion Pittsburgh in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, winning 35–7 and finished the season ranked #4 in the AP poll. Meyer moved on from Utah to coach the Florida Gators in the SEC – mentoring the subject of this column, Tim Tebow.

Everyone who knows about college football knows the name. Playing for Meyer, Tebow quarterbacked the Gators to a national championship in 2008 and won the Heisman Trophy – but more important than that, Tebow is an unapologetic and proud Christian.

Tebow was reared in a missionary family and continues to do missionary work. He was reared to be a committed Christian and as such to promote his faith and to be a mechanism to bring others to Christ. He was able to largely pursue that as a collegian but I wondered how this would play out at the professional level of sport.  Now that Tebow is a second year pro and the starting QB for the Denver Broncos, he is getting some press. There has been a QB controversy in Denver due to poor play and there were many Tebow fans who wanted to see him get his shot; however there were just a many who are convinced that he isn’t up to being an NFL starter. Tebow is 4-1 as a starter, doesn’t have the greatest stats…but he is doing just what he did at Florida – just win, baby!

Now that he is gaining a higher profile, we are beginning to see that the NFL sports reportage establishment are having a difficult time in dealing with a Christian and a man of character. The real insight is that it shows how twisted and convoluted our society has become.

I watched with amazement yesterday as a sports reporter, one that I like – Skip Bayless of ESPN – tried his best to subtly mock Tebow for his faith and Bayless actually is a Tebow defender in the media.  When that didn’t work, he tried to bait him into making controversial statements that could be used against him, some of which revolved around the comments of a former Bronco quarterback, Jake Plummer. Plummer was quoted as saying in a radio interview:

Tebow, regardless of whether I wish he’d just shut up after a game and go hug his teammates, I think he’s a winner and I respect that about him.  I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ then I think I’ll like him a little better.  I don’t hate him because of that, I just would rather not have to hear that every single time he takes a good snap or makes a good handoff…

Tebow didn’t bite.

BigLeadSports has a quick synopsis:

My favorite parts (besides his incredible ability to bat away ever single potential landmine – Elway, Plummer, etc):

* 3:00: “I want to do whatever works … it’s not about how it looks, it’s not about the plays you run, it’s about trying to get in the end zone and win games.”

* 5:00 “I try not to worry about what other people say … That’s not my priority to listen to what people say.”

* 8:50 is when the religious talk begins. “I will continue to work as hard as I can to make this organization proud.”

* 9:30 is when Tebow says he was unaware of Jake Plummer’s dumb-ass comments. I greatly enjoyed his marriage analogy. Does he know Plummer once left his cheerleader fiancee at the altar?

* 12:15, he’s still talking about religion. “I know no matter what happens on the football field, win or lose, God is in control and has a plan for my life … no matter what happens on the football field does not define my life or me as a person.”

The Skip Bayless interview below is long, about 15 minutes, but if you liked Tebow before, this will make you like him even more.

The people who report on the NFL have never had a problem with athletes pointing to the sky and professing thanks to God after a big play on the field and then going out and proving the stereotypes of NFL players – having illegitimate children, getting popped for drugs and/or gun infractions, getting arrested for DUIs and wrapping a sports car around a tree or even being arrested for domestic violence. One supposes that they have no problem with it because the off the field behaviors by some of the athletes validate that those professions of faith are just window dressing, casual comments just like the “have a nice day” comment mentioned earlier. They consider that approach safe because it isn’t a real profession of faith, it is just something that we say a casual comment – it has no real meaning, nothing to worry about…until Tebow came along.

Now they have a problem with a star athlete dropping to one knee and saying a prayer of thanks in the end zone. Nothing flashy, no grandstanding, just a simple prayer.

The Tebow situation illustrates how we have become a culture opposed to the very things that built it, that we have reached a point where some seek to tear down the very type of person who should be celebrated as a role model – a good, ethical man who lives his life by a code that our debased culture sees as an anathema, a challenge to its Sodomite beliefs and its celebration of human achievement over that of the spiritual.

The NFL is often compared to the gladiatorial contests of ancient Rome and there are real similarities. The speed and finesse of the plays, the skill and raw physicality of the players, the uniqueness of actually making the teams – all are celebrated achievements. We laud our modern gladiators with multi-million dollar contracts and endorsement deals. The League uses gladiatorial imagery in its advertisements and we respond to them. We cheer at a particularly hard hit or a well executed play. It is our bloodsport.

It appears that our culture has actually turned into the bread and circus culture of  Emperor Caligula after all. Apparently it has become fashionable to feed modern day Christians to the lions (in this case their contemporary substitutes – the sports media establishment).

What the NFL establishment has to conceptualize is a man who says things that he actually believes and orders his life and priorities in that fashion. They are having a hard time getting their collective minds around that concept and it almost seems that they are rooting for this “too good to be true” person to fail just so that they can give a hearty “see, we told you so” to America. I hope (and pray) that they never get that chance.

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9 thoughts on “Christians and Lions – Tim Tebow and the Sports Media Establishment

  1. “The Tebow situation illustrates how we have become a culture opposed to the very things that built it, that we have reached a point where some seek to tear down the very type of person who should be celebrated as a role model – a good, ethical man who lives his life by a code that our debased culture sees as an anathema, a challenge to its Sodomite beliefs and its celebration of human achievement over that of the spiritual.”

    Utah, those words remind me of something one of those founders said:

    “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scripture ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evil men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”
    –Noah Webster

    And these:

    “Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.4”
    — Robert Winthrop

    And these:

    “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
    –John Adams

    AND THESE:

    ““We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
    –James Madison, author of the Constitution

  2. Good, well-written post, utah. Too much truth in it for some to bear I’m sure, not enough people living up to the most minimum of Tebow’s standards of character and/or faith. It’s easy to trash a good guy who won’t respond.

  3. My brother-in-law LOVES this player. I read up on him and found this nugget: No other quarterback in NFL history has produced six fourth-quarter comebacks in his first 11 NFL starts.
    I went to his website: The guy is a very inspiring fella and, well, …….he’s hot! Still… he’ll have to pray real hard to get me to watch this sport.
    Oh, and the rabbi is a schmuck.

  4. “and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants.”

    Given the fate of a certain Jewish carpenter some 2011 years ago, I should think this Rabi would know better than to make comments such as this. :-(

  5. It is not a problem for me, but if any praying is misguided, or in vain, it would be praying for victory in an athletic event.That said, Tebow is a phenomenon, he is a watchable as Tiger Woods. Football has its share of bad guys; it’s good to see the scales become a little better balanced.

  6. Pingback: Tebow Down – But Not Out | The Rio Norte Line

  7. Pingback: Hating Tim Tebow | The Rio Norte Line

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