Ron Granieri: Rebuttal #4
I have to admit that I have had a serious bias against Tim Tebow since his college days, a bias that has its roots in a fundamental theological difference.
You see, everything about Tim Tebow is an affront to my deeply held beliefs, as communicated to me through the Church to which I have belonged since birth.
I am referring, of course, to the Church of the Classic Drop-Back Quarterbacks.
How well and with such joy I remember sitting on Sundays in The Church of the Three Holy J’s [Jack, Joe, and Jim—three names holy to all Western New York football fans] as the priest opened each service with the Sign of the QB: “In the name of Unitas, and of Starr, and of the Perfect Spiral, Amen.” I can still recite entire passages from Scripture, such as this from The Sermon of Yankee Stadium, 1958 [John 19: 82]:
“Blessed are they who, when the game is on the line, can stand in the pocket and deliver the ball, for they shall win The Greatest Game of All Time.”
I also clearly remember the passages from the old Baltimore [Colt] Catechism:
Q. Why did God make the Quarterback?
A: He made him to read the defense, to identify the open receiver, and to lead that receiver to the End Zone with an accurate throw.
For one whose beliefs are as deep and traditional as my own, Tim Tebow’s style of play is nothing less than blasphemous. Of course, I am used to having my beliefs insulted by both players and an elite sports media that has rushed time and again to declare my beliefs antiquated and ill-suited to the present. How often have we been told that the “Quarterback of the Future” will be more mobile, less reliant on the Deep Out? Who after all can forget Sports Illustrated crowning Randall Cunningham as “The Ultimate Weapon,” the infamous “Slash Heresy,” or even the outburst of Flutopian Enthusiasm in my own home region? Of course, in each case, I have watched those heresies flower and wither, as championships continue to be earned by classic quarterbacks such as Brady, Rodgers, Warner, and Manning.
Certainly, recent quarterbacks have adopted some mobility—ever since the Second Three Rivers Council in the early 1970s, when my faith opened its windows to encourage the acceptance and maturation of such future saints as Terry of Steeltown and Roger of Dallas, the Church has accepted the need for modest changes—but my faith has been strong and proven reliable through every storm. That does not stop the media from anointing some college superstar as the next “Next Big Thing” with aggressive regularity. Nevertheless, every time those would-be reformers forget that college football, with its vast talent disparities and slow linebackers, rewards a very different type of play than the NFL. Short-term success is certainly possible until professional defensive coordinators get enough film to develop a counter-strategy (take note, Cam Newton!). Long-term success, however, depends on how well Quarterbacks adapt to the pro game, even if they want to keep some elements of their past—Elder Steve the Young [er] can attest to that.
So Tim Tebow, that living insult to good passing mechanics, is but the latest in a long line of false prophets and cult figures for me to reject. Though the door is always open for him to repent, convert and seek redemption in the bosom of the One True Church.
Oh, wait. You wanted my opinion on Tebow’s Christianity?
Well, all doctrinal differences aside, I really do not have a problem with that aspect of his career at all. I do not have to share his faith in all details to respect his sincerity, and every indication is that he is actually trying to live that faith in his acts toward others. I fail to see how this is a problem. The world has far too few people who combine sincere expression of faith with true generosity toward their fellow human beings, and the existence of a prominent person who is using his secular success to live such a life deserves praise, not condemnation.
One can criticize ostentatious public expressions of belief—as Jesus himself did on several occasions—while still recognizing and respecting Tebow’s efforts to keep his belief and acts in harmony with each other.
The attacks on Tebow for non-football reasons strike me as churlish and intolerant on the one hand, and disingenuous on the other. Would-be Hitchensians and Dawkinsians out there are occasionally honest enough to say they dislike him simply because he espouses Christianity, which they hate and fear. They are certainly entitled to that position in a free country, but so is Tim Tebow entitled to his. More problematic to my mind are those apostles of tolerance who want to run Tebow down just because they disagree with his conservative politics, without admitting their own intolerance. They certainly cannot want to drive all religious expression from political discourse, since that would raise uncomfortable questions about the power of such expression in movements they support, for Civil Rights, for example. Thus many liberals appear to think they have won the argument and embarrassed Tebow’s fans by simply asking, “What if Tebow were Muslim?” Allow me to answer that: If he were Muslim, and publicly expressed his faith while also living an otherwise exemplary life, he would be revered by those who shared his faith, respected by those who did not share it but understand the value of sincere lived belief, and hated and mocked by those who are so narrow-minded that the sight of those who believe differently than themselves leaves them no other reaction.
The sizes of those three categories would likely vary based on the faith expressed, of course. Nevertheless, I don’t know about all of you, but if I were of a different faith than any real or imagined Tebow, I would much rather be in that second category than the third.