Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Breaking Down Tim Tebow's Hype Machine

Since I had a rare Sunday afternoon at home, I got to listen to media feedback right after most of the afternoon games. That included having to watch the Denver-Chicago game and going from cheering the Bears re-enacting the Roman Coliseum to being stunned at another Denver comeback.

I salute Denver’s defense and kicker Matt Prater (he of the 50-yarders to force overtime and win the game). Tim Tebow played solid once again in the fourth quarter to compensate for playing like dog crap in the 3rd quarter. But give Marion Barber full credit as well for two costly mistakes for Chicago.

I watched the Denver game stunned at the Fox announcers slurping up the Kool-Aid of Tebow. I listened to the media try to describe this in glowing terms instead of recognize another great team effort besides it. I heard Tebow do his best to deflect and praise the team’s effort.

It made me boil not because Denver won another game they shouldn’t. For the first time I actually saw and heard the hyperbole on Tebow in real time. And I wondered out loud why two months in we haven’t evolved to logical explanation.

It set me over the edge. I wrote something two weeks ago but it didn't go far enough. Let’s discuss this Tebow phenomenon for what it really is. Another example of the White Christian Narrative the media latches on to and blows out of proportion. It’s offensive to me as a sports fan, journalist, writer and a Christian.

(And let’s be clear, this is not an attack on Tebow as a person. I have never hated the man since I first saw him play at Florida in 2006. This is not about taking down a brother in Christ, it’s looking at the big picture – word to Big L)

First let me start by asking how many White Christian athletes do you know? Compare that to how many Black Christian athletes you know. I’m glad that I got to know AC Green and David Robinson growing up as much as I did Kurt Warner but right now, you’d be led to believe that the only Christians in sports are all White. Why is that?

(Taking it a step further, why was George Bush considered to be more a Christian than Barack Obama when by all accounts, both credit their faith very openly albeit Bush did so in a negative way catering towards conservative evangelicals.)

Tebow fits that narrative of White piety and while it’s simple, it also does Christians of all races a disservice. Not everyone wears their faith on their sleeve and those who do should be discussed, whether they look like Tebow or me. Not every Christian is the same and that’s what makes the Body of Christ so wonderful.

Why don’t they get more attention? It doesn’t fit the narrative? They assume the typical image of a Black athlete is flashy and more demonstrative which doesn’t fit the humble, Christian narrative? I’ve interviewed several HS kids of strong faith and you can tell it shines in their leadership.

To this day, AC Green remains one of my inspirations

I wish more Black Christian athletes got publicized for their faith. Maybe it’s me wishing they publicized it more but they should also get credit nonetheless. In general though, people who let their faith lead by example instead of being public rarely get the credit.

There are always great Black leaders in sports. Derek Fisher showed why handling the lockout. Donovan McNabb was a great leader in his prime. But no, we always have to praise the White leader as something extraordinary. Tebow’s speeches are inspiring but how is that any different than Ray Lewis, whose transformation into one of football’s great linebackers/leaders is one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen.

That’s also why the media discussing Christianity bothers me. Reaching for clich├ęs to discuss Tebow’s success as miraculous and divine is weak and childish. There is logical explanation for his success but instead they want to act like star struck fans who say things like “Oh I’ve never seen this before” or  reach for spiritual metaphors trying to be cute.

It didn’t bother me at first but 2 months in, it’s annoying. It insults my intelligence as a writer. If I can’t be more creative after giving up sound logic, take away my pen and paper. It’s my job as a sportswriter to describe what I see, be awestruck at times and once you see something over and over – either give up and enjoy it or look for different ways to say it.

Is it a miracle? Miracles come great and small but if the same thing keeps repeating, sometimes it's not just chance.

Also, I’m sick of the media always asking if God gave folks the victory in sports. It’s a trap question that leads to ridicule and as a Christian that hurts me  - even if I should expect as much. Let me school you on something: God is all about the intent we put into our effort. Whatever the result, God will work it out for his glory. Win or lose, God was glorified by how those who served him played, just like how we live our lives.

God cares not if we win or lose, he cares about our effort and especially our intent behind it. If we do things for His glory, that’s all He cares about. I know it’s hard for the media and most to understand this so I tried to break this down.

To Tebow’s credit, he also deflects the idea that God gave Him the victory. He has the right attitude and I salute him for that. He can’t be blamed for everyone around him being irrational. He isn't God's quarterback anymore than I am God's writer. That label is dangerous cause it implies God is with Tebow only. Not true.

What he is doing is incredible. What his defense and head coach have done is equally incredible. We can describe their playmaking with sound logic without catering to illogical fans who worship everything Timmy does. I’m not going to lead the ludicrous chorus of Tebow’s sainthood when he’s clearly taking advantage of some terrible defensive strategies and making the most of his situation.

It’s okay to be in disbelief – even if Vince Young did this as a rookie, even as Eli Manning is doing it now. I’m shocked that Tebow with his weaknesses is doing it but when you consider he’s in a system built around his strengths – a system that thumbs its nose at every previous option QB who deserved a break (mostly Black) – you need to credit his coach too.

Enough stories about Tebow inspiring his defense. Von Miller is a freaky good rookie with an incredible motor and Elvis Dumervil is one of the league’s best defensive ends. Maybe they want to play better in the 4th quarter knowing Tebow is coming but it’s a lot easier when they’ve faced some bad quarterbacking.

That leads me to the Church of Tebow. That church that started the minute he threw that jump pass in 2006. That church that got even stronger after he won the Heisman and delivered that speech after losing. That church that has turned him into a saint and won’t bother listening to reason.

Call me beyond upset at them. Bomani Jones said it best, it’s like watching rooting for a Little Leaguer to win because he fights so hard. People want Tebow to win so much that they overlook other logical factors such as his QB deficiencies.

The fact he’s being discussed an MVP candidate is hilarious. Not when Aaron Rodgers is ascending from great young QB to the best QB in the league. Not when Eli Manning is doing what Tebow’s doing but as a mature passer. It’s great but let’s not get out of hand here. He’s no different than any backup who comes and inspires his mates with an improbable run. The man he faces next week, Tom Brady, is a clear example and he took his team to a Super Bowl win.

(Edit: Heck, Cam Newton has had a similar impact on Carolina than Tim Tebow. Only difference is that Cam can't play defense. But tell me he hasn't lit up that franchise and inspired players similar to Tebow. Go ahead)

Everything he does becomes a phenomenon. Kneeling down to pray is now Tebowing. People actually buy #15 Jerseys with Jesus on them. I jokingly call this sacrilege but it's half true. It makes no sense to me. Kurt Warner didn't have this level of hype and he actually 1.) won 2 MVPs, 2) went to 3 Super Bowls, 3) had the best team in football for 3 years in a row, 4) earned his success paying dues in the Arena Football League and struggling. 

They make excuses for him that didn’t work for Charlie Ward, Doug Flutie, Eric Crouch, Troy Smith and Michael Vick pre-prison. Check Vince Young’s winning percentage. In all those cases, their flaws were discussed way more despite their ability to win. With Tebow, it’s the other way around. Why??

Heck, Denver fans act like they never saw this before. How soon they forget that their exec of VP operations was an incredible athlete and maybe the greatest dual-threat quarterback and comeback artist in football history

It’s a combination of everything I said. Race, his personality, his fanbase since college, the media love fest, his faith, our quickness to praise a White Christian athlete over a Black one and our love of the gritty White athlete overcoming obstacles (i.e. Hoosiers). To deny any of this would be to call yourself a liar.

Denver has a right to be excited. Tebow should feel happy. I don’t hate their excitement.I'm happy we discuss faith in the media and God's name is discussed. I just hate when illogical fans and the media fall into traps and stereotypes that defy logic because it keeps repeating.  

The more Tebow wins, the more the train keeps churning and the more I feel I need to grow bolder explaining the lunacy behind him.


  1. Not into football, but enjoyed reading this nonetheless. As far as Christian football players, I like Polamalu's attitude.

  2. Thanks for the comment! It's definitely not just a football story so I'm glad you got something from it. Polamalu's a great person to bring up.