Tebow … Cultural Barometer
By Staff News & Analysis - December 26, 2012

What have they got against Tim Tebow now? … Christian quarterback faces sudden firestorm of scathing comments … He's become an upstanding hero to millions of young football fans, a fierce competitor on the field and a celebrated philanthropist off the field – just the kind of public figure analysts love to … hate? New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow's feats and foibles on the gridiron have been an endless source of debate for football fans since he was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the first round three years ago – as has his public commitment to both Christianity and abstinence before marriage. But the debates and the criticism reached new heights this week after reports leaked out that the man portrayed as a consummate teammate got into an argument with his coach over being passed over in the lineup for a third-string quarterback. – WorldNetDaily

Dominant Social Theme: Those men who are spiritual always have "feet of clay."

Free-Market Analysis: We've written several articles on US quarterback Tim Tebow and now World Net Daily has, too. The WND article is written by former pastor Drew Zahn who is editor of seven books and is a regular columnist for WND.

You can see some of our articles here:

The Psychopathology of 'Tim Tebow Time'

More than Ever the NFL Reflects the Dysfunction of US

We've tended to point out that the Tim Tebow saga is a metaphor for a dysfunctional US where people are afraid to speak their mind in any other context but sports.

A dominant social theme might be that spirituality is the last refuge of scoundrels. A subdominant social theme might feature the implacable ignorance of charismatic Christendom. These are comfortable topics of conversation, especially for men who are contemptuous of modern Baptist religiosity.

The point of the WND article is simply that those in the mainstream media and a goodly percentage of their audiences as well are prejudiced against god-fearing men like Tim Tebow. Here's more from the article:

He has spent most of his first season with the Jets on the bench, backing up starting QB Mark Sanchez, while seeing only a few plays per game in the team's gimmick "Wildcat" package and – oddly enough – on the punt team. In interviews, Tebow has repeatedly said he'd do whatever the team needed to win.

But when the poorly performing Sanchez – who has suffered a miserable year and a losing record – was finally benched 16 weeks into the season, Jets Coach Rex Ryan passed over Tebow to name the third-string quarterback the starter instead.

According to reports and rumors, the typically unflappable Tebow got into an argument with Ryan and told his coach he didn't want to be just a gimmick-play player, but taken seriously as a quarterback. Analysts long critical of Tebow pounced.

CBS New York analyst Peter Schwartz penned a ferocious column called "Tebow Turned out to Be a Phony."

"Tebow's 'I'll do whatever I can to help the team' pledge from the day that the Jets acquired him turned out to be nothing but utter nonsense," Schwartz opined. "Tebow is not the good teammate that we all thought he was, and now it seems as if reports about him being a bad apple in the locker room are true. What does it say about someone, who has captivated the world with his religious faith, doesn't want to be a part of the game plan to help his team win?"

ESPN analyst Merril Hoge was equally critical, calling Tebow "as phony as a three-dollar bill."

He then took his comments to criticism of Tebow's play: "Here's what happened in New York. They didn't realize how bad Tim Tebow was. Once he came in there and they got to see the sampling, they're like, 'Oh, my gosh.' Not only can he not play quarterback, he's not really a good football player."

What makes this so strange is that this past year Tim Tebow took the Denver Broncos to the playoffs and in doing so reversed a 1-4 losing record while compiling an almost unbelievable string of last-minute victories.

For many people who follow American-style football, it was the most compelling, ongoing performance of any athlete in the past several decades.

It was not just US viewers who watched. The Tebow saga was a worldwide phenomenon. And yet the Denver Broncos proverbially moved heaven and Earth to get rid of Tim Tebow at season's end. No doubt they were not comfortable with his spirituality, his success and his outsize personality.

Tebow, when he is winning, tends to outshine the game itself. And many in the military-style "thug-ocracy" that is football cannot stand his religious views or his habit of thanking God after touchdowns.

Now there is talk of Tim Tebow going to Jacksonville Jaguars. Tebow led his beloved Florida Gators football team to two championships and became the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. He will be at home there if it happens and will compete for the starting job.

This will be more than he was allowed to do for the New York Jets. Traded to this marquee football team at the beginning of the 2012 season, Tebow obviously had received assurances of considerable playing time.

Instead, in one of the most astonishing acts ever perpetrated in professional sports, the coach of the Jets, Rex Ryan, chose hardly to use him at all. A man who was among the most prominent and watchable of all athletes was relegated to a few in-and-out plays on game day.

Some have suggested that Tebow was simply too bad a passer for the Jets to play him, but he passed for 310 yards in one Denver playoff game in 2012 and his stats were actually better than the first-year stats of such game legends as Payton Manning who replaced him there.

The treatment of Tim Tebow is not directly speaking a power-elite meme in the sense that Tebow has likely not become a direct target of the powers-that-be. They are surely occupied with bigger matters.

But one could argue that Tebow has definitely been caught in the backwash of the current culture wars. It would seem to be a certainty that the elites are constantly trying to break down family bonds and to substitute state culture for millennia-old clan and tribal culture.

In any event … we have two ways of looking at the Tim Tebow saga which certainly encapsulates in a single human being some of the great controversies of our time.

On the one hand, we have the point of view that we've advanced regarding the Tebow culture wars as indicative of a larger US sociopathology. People generally are so scared of speaking out that the only safe place to voice one's opinion is in the sports pages. This may explain the amount of attention Tebow is getting. We think so.

A simpler explanation is the one advanced recently by WND. It simply makes the case that people are prejudiced against spiritual people and that Christian spirituality itself is under virulent attack.

It probably doesn't help that Tebow was homeschooled and has made prominent TV commercials opposing abortion. The Tebow saga is surely a sign of our times. If he does go to Jacksonsville and makes a run for the playoffs next year – after so much travail during this season – he will surely become one of the prominent men on the planet (assuming the media doesn't launch on all-out boycott as ESPN has already threatened to do).

In any event, Tebow – a big 25 year old kid who seems to believe wholeheartedly in the Bible – has already had an outsize impact on US culture, and not just in the realm of sports. It's an improbable story but one that tells us a good deal about the psychological health – or lack thereof – in the erstwhile "land of the free and home of the brave."

It's actually quite sad to watch. Not since Babe Ruth has there been a more significant – and controversial – player in the panoply of US sports. And the Babe's saga, to begin with, was more bright than dark. Tebow's tale is more fraught.

After Thoughts

Unless the US's moral, spiritual, cultural, political, military and economic collapse is alleviated (quickly) we may be in for a good deal more "Tebow time" in 2013.

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