Something To Believe In

Last season, the monotony of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and the humdrum beat of training camp didn’t stop anyone on the New England Patriots from reporting as usual and going about their pre-season workouts. Meanwhile, a rival in New York faced much more than just the regular OTAs. SportsCenter specials and HBO’s Hard Knocks, just two of the camera crews inside the locker room, were in conjunction with fangirling by Hanna Storm over football itinerant and devout Christian Tim Tebow as well as Rex Ryan, the Jets’ Coach, and his outlandish tattoo of his wife posing scantily-clad while donning a Mark Sanchez jersey.

Jets camp couldn’t be described in anything other than a mess. Ryan started off on the wrong foot by guaranteeing the Super Bowl but then their hopes tanked as they finished 6-10. During camp, their highly publicized preseason led to a quote by Bill Belichick that went, “We’ll let them have the papers in August, and we’ll take them in February.”

That’s how the Patriots usually operate. They let other teams get hyped and make overblown statements in the paper while they quietly go about their task and focus on winning games and not media battles.

That’s always been the sentiment of the team with the consummate professional figures in owner Robert Kraft and Head Coach Belichick.

This offseason however, it’s been anything but quiet. The team released Tight End Aaron Hernandez one year into his 7-year deal because of an impending murder trial, they let stalwart slot-man Wes Welker depart to Denver and signed Tim Tebow, who came equipped with a three-ring media hullaballoo.

The Welker and Hernandez business aside, the one that generated the most speculation and outrage on Boston radio station WEEI was the signing of Tebow.

To outright describe Tebow would be impossible. The man represents a Christian dignitary and a winner in the NFL. He sings sideline supplications to the Lord and went 7-4 in his 11 games started for the 2011-12 Broncos. He is also a Quarterback whose mechanics are poor at best and who was relegated to the bench for the Jets last season even though he wasn’t the Signal-Caller who fumbled after a collision with his offensive lineman’s backside.

As Denver and Florida Gators’ fans sipped the indoctrinating Tim Tebow Kool-Aid, everywhere else in the NFL fans belittled the Quarterback’s success as a mixture of pure luck and good defense.

He’s a proven winner – four straight fourth-quarter comebacks. He’s a terrible passer – 46.5% completion percentage as a starter. The juxtaposition of Tebow’s stats and Tebow as a winner provide a dichotomy unlike any other. It seems he only really plays well when others consider him finished.

Of anything though, the main castigation against Tebow presents itself in religion. His life is unlike any other. He is unlike any of his peers for that matter. Tebow, as his Christian principles maintain, remains abstinent, quotes scripture to media and builds hospitals in the Philippines in the offseason.

Some say Tebow goes too far. They say his religion insists upon itself and that his grandiose presentation of his Christian values actually diminishes his message.

Naysayers point to his crooning of “Our God is An Awesome God” during warm-ups. Even though Simon Cowell would likely burst into laughter at the Quarterback’s pitchy performance and then sadistically joke about him having no career, Tebow’s performance became a lightning rod for those who disliked him. Scripture quotes on his eye-black show audiences across the United States his religious views every Sunday afternoon and as football dominates television viewing on the Sabbath, many see the Tebow Circus and wonder if he is legitimate.

The disenfranchising of the American public towards its role models and important figures came about at the same time as the camera phone. Whether its Justin Beiber smoking marijuana, Miley Cyrus dancing with a stripper, or Britney Spears shaving her head, the American society is used to the cognitive camera phone capturing everything. The camera phone serves to topple our celebrities and make those once exalted into ridiculed. They transfigure the legends into the myths.

That raises the question: will Tebow be caught misbehaving and unlike a boy from the choir? Cynics say its only a matter of time and masochists assure Americans Tebow is an act, waiting for his fall.

It’s the same disenfranchisement in sports. However, one player can break the trend. Tebow is abstinent, former teammate Antonio Cromartie has fathered twelve children by eight women in six states and needed a $500,000 advance on his paycheck from the Jets to pay child support. Tebow doesn’t drink, now-teammate Rob Gronkowski poses shirtless and drunk with a porn star. Tebow fights poverty and homelessness in third world countries, Adam “Pacman” Jones fights his short-changing crack dealer outside a strip club. (Jones proclivity for strip club fights eventually earned him a year-long suspension from the League.) Since the Super Bowl, 27 current NFL players have been arrested but Tebow can’t be counted among them.

Why, then do many insist that Tebow’s outward display of religion is offensive and wrong? They point out that he does it just to look good in the media and that’s why he does it so often.  Yet many fans neglect the notion that many baseball players point to the sky after hitting a home run. David Ortiz has publicly stated he points to the sky in tribute to his late mother Angela and his hope that God is caring for her. Ortiz has blasted 417 round-trippers in his career, including 387 before Tebow was known outside of his school in Florida. Maybe the fans didn’t notice.

So why don’t people get offended when Ortiz points to the sky? Why don’t they get so upset that slugger Albert Pujols thanks God, or Jamaican bullet Usain Bolt, or former-Packers receiver Greg Jennings? When Kurt Warner is interviewed by Terry Bradshaw in 2009 about leading his Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl, Bradshaw arouses an interesting point. Bradshaw states that Warner is the third-oldest Quarterback to ever bring his team into February Football and asks him how. Warner responds by thanking Jesus and there is an audible increase in volume from the crowd. But when Tebow wins a playoff game in heroic fashion by beating Pittsburgh in 2011…nothing except criticism and vehement denials of his skill. To Tebow’s credit, he’s more successful at being a Quarterback than Taylor Swift is at dating.

Tebow even invented a move, which earned a simple phrase of “Tebowing” where you would get down on one knee and bow your head, resting it on your fist. The nation was taken by surprise attack and Operation Tebow was in full effect. The internet, a few pixels at a time, was sweeping with people of all ages, genders, and nationalities Tebowing in crazy places. However, to over one billion people around the globe, Tebowing is better known by a simpler name: praying.  

If you think he’s a bad Quarterback, that’s fine, but on no grounds can Tebow be the subject of much calumny for his religious beliefs when people like David Ortiz and Kurt Warner are celebrated. We don’t need a double standard, we don’t need contradiction.

Players like Pacman Jones, Antonio Cromartie, and Gronkowski are celebrated in the media for their unbelievable feats of athleticism, as if playing prowess excuses their detrimental conduct. Ortiz, Pujols, and Usain Bolt receive passes past the criticism. Tebow gets the opposite: demeaned for “luck” on the field and censured for his beliefs.

Whether he’s a successful or skilled Quarterback in the NFL, Tebow provides a good influence by staying over the influence, doesn’t America, and the NFL as well, need a little of that?

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