I love freedom. I’m not going to cry about it like Glenn Beck, but I am feeling a little verklempt today, after reading a breathtakingly stupid comment on TJ’s Tebow post, and it has stirred up my patriotism for American freedom. I know what some of you right-wingers are thinking – liberals don’t like freedom, and they aren’t patriotic.
You’re free to believe that stupidity if you want to. (I’d like to see you serve four years in the military.) The commenter on TJ’s post is free to call us religious bigots if (s)he wants to. If (s)he’d gone further over the line, we’d feel free to delete their comment and ban them. Freedom is a good thing; nobody is going to throw any of us in jail for doing any of those things.
This is not going to be much about football. I’m free to write an article about another topic, and you’re free not to like it. Incidentally, I couldn’t care less whether you do or don’t, so spare me the whining about it.
Today, I want to talk a bit about Tim Tebow, whom I very publicly supported for a long time, going back to his college days. I’ll still tell you that he’s the greatest college football player I’ve ever seen. Those were simpler times, when he was a football player who took college classes too. I’m a Florida fan, and from that experience, I had no inkling of what was to come.
Once Tebow had exhausted his eligibility, some interesting things started to happen. The first was the Super Bowl ad paid for by the hate group. It was a pretty innocuous ad, content-wise, but it signaled something about the type of public persona Tebow and his handlers were going to try to craft.
He was willing to lend his name and his celebrity to a divisive issue. Now, if you’re trying to win and achieve a policy outcome on either side of such an issue, you probably like celebrity endorsements. If you’re trying to win football games, it should probably be a bit of a red flag. Is this guy really committed to football, or is it just a part-time pursuit?
To be fair, many athletes and celebrities get involved in politics at some level. I remember in 2008, Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn were stumping a bit for John McCain around the Cleveland area, and it didn’t cause any uproar. Two rich white men were advocating for the nominee of the party that only cares about the interests of rich white men.
It didn’t bother me a bit, and nobody in Cleveland really cared either. They’re free to go to a McCain rally on their day off, and encourage the tens of people who showed up to vote for their guy. That’s the American political process at work. Being a Republican in Cleveland is some grim stuff, and you almost had to feel sorry for them. Tebow, though, is clearly different. Remember during the Republican primary season when politicians were quietly trying to get him to endorse them? They actually thought that his endorsement could help swing the nomination. A football player!
The exact reason why Tebow is different is what I want to explore. Let's compare him to Brady Quinn. They're both good-looking, devoutly religious guys who played at high profile colleges, were late first-round picks, and have struggled to accurately throw the football at the NFL level. What's the difference? I would say that it's the sect of Christianity that they belong to, and the nature of the people who belong to those sects.
To many evangelical Christians, Tebow is a symbol. He’s one of them, and he’s famous, and really, his narrative is one of success, even his time in Denver.
He was home-schooled, and he became a national symbol of home-schooled kids, which is a huge deal to Southern Christians. They want to be free to teach their children nonsense. I consider teaching a kid that it doesn’t matter how much oil we use, because the homie Jesus will make more, to be tantamount to child abuse, but it’s a freedom that Americans have, and if you love freedom, you pretty much have to be all in on it.
To evangelicals and home-schoolers, Tim Tebow is a symbol. His successes are their successes, and his failures would be theirs if they didn’t reflexively deny that he could possibly fail. Think about that for a minute, because this is what’s hard to get your head around if you’re a thinker rather than a believer.
People are prone to something called the Typical Mind Fallacy, and it bears into understanding the Tebow phenomenon.
The typical mind fallacy is the mistake of making biased and overconfident conclusions about other people's experience based on your own personal experience; the mistake of assuming that other people are more like you than they actually are.
I say again, to evangelicals and home-schoolers, Tebow is a symbol. In their minds, then, it tends to follow that the rest of us also see Tebow as a symbol. If Cletus down in Buttfumble, Georgia sees Tebow as a symbol of Christianity, then Doug in New York, or Ted in Tallahassee must see him the same way.
The major implication of this is that when we criticize the guy, they understand it as us criticizing what they understand him to represent.
Tebow = Christianity to me, so Tebow = Christianity to everybody else too.
Therefore, anybody who criticizes Tebow for anything must, by extension, be bigoted against Christianity.
Of course, that’s absolutely insane, but I think that that’s what is behind the circus. Part of the evangelical Christian experience seems to be that you’re supposed to just believe what you’re told, and if anybody says any different, you’re supposed to understand them as persecutors who are trying to victimize you.
Think about it like this:
Barack Obama = black people to me, so Barack Obama = black people to everybody else too.
Therefore, anybody who didn’t vote for Barack Obama must, by extension, be bigoted against black people.
The two lines of thinking are exactly the same, right? How many people who would call us religious bigots for not showering Teebs with praise would object to being called bigots because they didn’t vote for Obama? I mean, they’re mostly the same people, aren’t they? They'd be positively agog about how black people need to stop playing the victim if anybody said such a thing, and it would be completely hilarious.
Even in the reasonable-ish Christian sect that I grew up in (Roman Catholicism), there is a good amount of this righteous possessor of the truth / frequent victim vibe going on. In the less reasonable sects, you can imagine how strong it gets.
At this site, we’re analysts of football, and we call football like we see it. That’s our reason for existing, and for having a reader base. I had Tim Tebow wrong, coming out of college. I believed that he’d work really hard, and that he’d improve. By most accounts, he’s worked hard, among all his other activities, but he hasn’t improved. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I think his throwing has regressed significantly since college.
Now, if you don’t improve over an ample period of time, then one of two conditions must be true, or possibly a combination of both:
- The hardest worker ever thing is a con game, and you’re only pretending to be committed to what you’re trying to improve at.
- You just lack the ability to improve, and your efforts are futile.
This is the cold reality of life, that we’re all eventually told we’re not good enough. There are a lot of very smart people out there who always planned on being doctors, and worked hard as undergrads at good schools, and made solid grades. Then they took the MCAT, and it told them that they were more chaff than wheat. It happens to all of us at one time or another.
Nobody held a protest about it, or claimed that bigotry prevented them from being successful on a test they had prepared for. The standard is the standard, and many people just aren’t good enough. It sucks, but you get over it, and you go to school to be a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner instead, and you go on to live a good life.
The NFL test has told Tebow that he’s not good enough to play QB at this level. If he hasn’t beaten out Mark Sanchez, who’s had a pretty awful season, then that tells me that he’s continued not to improve as a QB. The Jets want to win, and if they felt that Tebow could help them do it, in a way that’s sustainable long-term, they’d get him out there. That’s the football reality.
Nobody at this site is a religious bigot, and nobody who reads us is a victim. We don’t consider Tim Tebow to be a symbol of anything, whether you do or not. To us, he’s a dude who is trying unsuccessfully to play QB in the NFL. He did some impressive things as a Bronco, and he did some things that were hideous. He has a place in Broncos history, but it was an absolute no-brainer to bring in Peyton Manning this year.
Attached to Tebow are a bunch of nutjob fans who have been trained throughout their lives to deny reality. No amount of evidence will make them believe what they don’t want to believe. Frankly, I support declaring people with that mindset to be mentally defective, in a legal sense. They represent a drag on Tim’s efforts to be successful, because almost any team would rather have a different developmental guy who didn’t come with a horde of such awful people.
It doesn’t look good for Tebow making it as a starting NFL QB. Things may change, but the evidence doesn’t lead me to think that that’s terribly likely. When his playing days are over, I expect that his real career as a proselytizer and/or politician will begin, and that it will thrive. Networks give talk-shows to much lesser celebrities than Tim Tebow. Maybe he’ll replace Honey Boo-Boo when her run is over. I imagine there's substantial overlap in their audiences.
In any case, IAOFM, and other media entities whose charge is analyzing football, and the events around football, will continue to do what we do. We’re free to do that, and you’re free to read us, or not, and comment, or not. TJ’s post today was relevant to football, because it included Broncos players saying obvious things. They kept their comments anonymous, because who wants to get the treatment that Demaryius Thomas got?
We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, and you can keep doing what you’re doing.
If you don’t like it, I’d remind you that it’s not us, it’s you.