CNBC’s Darren Rovell tweeted that Sunday night’s NFL Broncos-Patriots matchup scored 19.5 million overnight views, the best regular season game in four years.
It was a battle on the scale of the Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson matchup as three-time Super Bowl champion and two-time MVP Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took up arms against the Broncos, led by the highly unconventional evangelical Christian quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow has become a highly polarizing figure in the NFL as a result of his beliefs. Leftist commentator Bill Press recently, in less-than-polite language, said that Tebow should shut up. Whether the animosity towards Tebow is justified or not, his role in the so-called culture wars is ultimately irrelevant and non-Christians shouldn’t be so freaked out by it.
As Rick Reilly notes, Tom Brady is second in passing yards and third in completion percentage this season. Tim Tebow is dead last. While Brady swears profusely, Tebow is probably the only virgin in the NFL. And that includes the waterboys.
But Tebow leads miracle victories at the last minute, with a 4th-quarter QB rating of 99.6.
No last-minute redemption for Tebow this weekend, though. The Bronco’s six-game winning streak under Tebow came to an abrupt end after a crippling 41-23 Patriots win, thus putting to bed the notion that God actually cares about who wins at football.
His 2011 Super Bowl anti-abortion ad induced the NFL to prevent him from speaking on the topic in the future, lest he anger fans and others. Most recently, a writer for the Abortion Gang website asked fans to donate to pro-choice groups every time Tebow scores a touchdown. And in an apparent effort to convince Tebow to bridge the gap between evangelicals and LGBT people, a Change.org petition with over 8,000 signatures now urges him and the Broncos to join other professional sports teams in producing a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign and take a stand against anti-gay bullying.
But we should drop a little bit of the pretense that Tebow's advocacy campaigns or his advertising really mean anything.
Disclaimer: I am an agnostic. I think the pro-life position is deeply wrong and presents a sexist and a retrograde view of women and sexuality. I also think that Focus on the Family, which admonishes adherents to “pray the gay away,” is a blindly dogmatic group whose allies include right-wing extremists and homophobes. In 2008, it published a paper titled Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America, which among other things claimed Obama’s Supreme Court would force the Boy Scouts to let gay scoutmasters sleep unattended in tents with young boys. (The implication is obvious, though there’s no evidence gays assault children any more frequently than heterosexuals.)
At the same time, Tebow does not and has not at any point carried himself with the obnoxious moralizing and cynical political posturing which most Americans have come to associate with the evangelical movement. Tebow’s ad and his genuflecting seem, well, genuine, and motivated less by right-wing demagoguery than a simple set of morals. He’s no Jerry Falwell, more of a Ned Flanders, and as such, his message is only making a big ripple through the kinds of folks who already are receptive to his message. Sure, the ad means to normalize their message through a veneer of friendliness, but young voters aren’t exactly rallying to the right-wing camp.
So while I disagree with them, I don’t think Tebow’s beliefs are particularly threatening, especially because he isn’t in a place to influence actual policy. Frankly, the NFL culture has bigger and much more systemic issues than one Christian quarterback; just look at Ben Roethlisberger, and think about who you’d rather cheer for.
More than likely, his publicists won’t even react to the petition to have Tebow produce an It Gets Better video, and they would probably argue they have no obligation to. Now that Tebow has spoken out on abortion, though, he has made himself a political figure rather than merely a cultural lightning rod.
It would be reprehensible if Tebow refused to participate on the grounds that preventing suicide by gay teens isn’t Christian, because if I learned anything from church, Christians are commanded to not be bigots. At the very least, Tebow should issue a statement telling us that he supports the goal of preventing gay teens from committing suicide, a message everyone should agree with regardless of their social views.
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