Mile High Stadium- Football’s golden boy fell from grace last Sunday. The ass whooping the Lions put on Tim Tebow was epic, though entirely predictable: I had money on Detroit giving 3, and even took it at -$140 just so I could get a piece.
Tebows fall from grace occasioned an outpouring of serious schadenfreude. Obviously one reason for all the vitriol is a sense of vindication that accompanies the debunking of a popular myth: that Tebow is a great quarterback.
Anyone who understands the game realizes that while he was a great college quarterback, pro football is a very different game, and in the NFL he’s actually a god-awful quarterback.
Of course “god-awful” also gets to the crux of the other reason why many people hate Tebow. He is not just an earnest, fundamentalist evangelical Christian, but he’s quite in-your-face about it. He wears New Testament citations on his cheeks, speaks out against abortion, opposes pre-marital sex, fishes for converts at his father’s religious mission in the Philippines, and serves as a spokesman for the far right wing, anti-gay organization Focus on the Family.
But it’s not Tim Tebow’s religious faith and activity in and of itself that rile many people up. It’s his blatant religiosity. Unlike many players, who are content to point a finger up to the sky, end a game with a prayer circle, or begin a victorious post-game interview by thanking god, Tebow publicly expresses his faith frequently and somewhat disjointedly and public resentment has crystalized the internet’s latest craze, Tebowing.
But Tebowing isn’t just about making fun of Tim Tebow. It’s also specifically a way to mock his religiosity, his frequent displays of Christian faith and devotion. And as such, it may very well mark a sea change in what the public deems acceptable when it comes to detached religiosity.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the president is going to stop ending speeches with the phrase “God bless America” anytime soon. But the widespread the mockery of Tebow may shed some light on what many Americans really think about public religiosity.
Any clever website can go viral (well, maybe not this one), so it’s easy to dismiss Tebwoing as the fad of the week, which it certainly is. And it’s one thing for The Nation or The Onion to criticize and mock Tebow’s right wing politics and melodramatic religiosity. But commonplace resentment has gone way beyond that. He is now being openly ridiculed by his peers and even the NFL itself.
When Detroit linebacker Stephen Tulloch Tebowed Tebow after sacking Tebow, the FOX television announcers actually had a good laugh about it. “You knew that was coming,” one of them chuckled.
Perhaps most tellingly, even the notoriously right-wing NFL jumped on board. They showed both Tulloch’s and Scheffler’s plays on their website, asking viewers which version they preferred.
To me, the interesting thing about all this is that we’re not talking about a few bitter, snarky unbelievers like Bill Maher. Rather, a substantial portion of the nation gleefully bared its teeth to make fun of a celebrity’s religiosity, and that may say something about public discourse in America.
No doubt most of the people who’ve had a good laugh at the expense of Tim Tebow’s religiosity actually believe in god themselves, and are most likely Christian. And that may very well portend a shift in cultural attitudes.
Perhaps the mainstream culture, while still largely respecting and even embracing religion, is beginning to openly critique the lunacy of whack job religiosity. Maybe many Americans are drawing a line between their own sense of faith and the actions of a home schooled extremist like Tim Tebow, who thinks gays and lesbian can be “cured,” and who runs around the world circumcising young boys. For real.
Then again, maybe Tebowing is just be a blip, 2011’s pet rock: a shooting star cultural moment, unconnected to any larger trends. I could be wrong about all of it.
But hey. Ya gotta have faith.
Keep the faith tomorrow with Cheesy Bruin.