Wow. Tebow's ad has now been discussed in The New Yorker. If there's a skit on SNL, it's a trifecta. Sadly, no obtuse cartoon with the following, but there is a Malcolm Gladwell reference:
Is Tim Tebow becoming the Trig Palin of the sports world? For those who haven’t been following the Tebow story, or have only caught sidelong glances of a charging quarterback with bible-verse citations written on his eye-black, here’s the situation: Tebow is considered one of the best college players of all time. He is also, according to Sports Illustrated’s Austin Murphy, “the most effective ambassador-warrior for his faith I’ve come across in 25 years at SI”—which, as anyone who’s seen, say, Josh Hamilton thanking Jesus for rescuing him from crack and helping him dominate in the Home Run Derby knows, is saying quite a lot.
That faith will be on display at the Super Bowl, when Tebow and his mother are scheduled to appear in anti-abortion ad. And it won’t be a generic one, either. As Bob Tebow, Tim’s father, asked Murphy for the Sports Illustrated piece, “Have you heard the story of Timmy’s birth?” Cut to a mission in the Philippines:“When I was out in the mountains in Mindanao, back in ’86, I was showing a film and preaching that night. I was weeping over the millions of babies being [aborted] in America, and I prayed, ‘God, if you give me a son, if you give me Timmy, I’ll raise him to be a preacher.’ ” Not long after, Bob and Pam Tebow conceived their fifth child. It was a very difficult pregnancy. “The placenta was never properly attached, and there was bleeding from the get-go,” Bob recalls. “We thought we’d lost him several times.” Early in the pregnancy Pam contracted amebic dysentery, which briefly put her in a coma. Her doctors, fearful that medications they had given her had damaged the fetus, advised her to abort it. She refused, and on Aug. 14, 1987, Pam delivered a healthy if somewhat scrawny Timothy Richard Tebow.
“All his life, from the moment he could understand, I told him, ‘You’re a miracle baby,’” Bob recalls. “‘God’s got a purpose for you, and at some point I think He’s going to call you to preach.’
“I asked God for a preacher, and he gave me a quarterback.”
Now, the point of choice is that Pam Tebow had a choice, and one should respect her right to make it. It’s great—one is very grateful—that she and her baby lived through that. Tebow also seems like a community-minded guy, visiting prisons and hospitals. That’s nice of him. (It would have been nicer still if we’d all been spared the press conference in which he confirmed that he was saving himself for marriage.) It’s also nice to watch him play—in Brett Favre’s place, at the end of the NFC championship game, he would have scrambled for those yards, and won it. Part of the problem, though, is that he almost surpasses Favre in his ability to provoke commentators to excess—causing them to regularly compare him, as Joe Scarborough quite rightly pointed out, to a “Christ-like figure.” (That is not to say he will ever play like Favre; for several reasons related to the difference in the college and pro game—see Malcolm Gladwell for more on that—he might not work out as a QB at the next level, though there is a theory that he’d make a fantastic running back or tight end.) The problem is the proselytizing use to which the story of his birth is being put—this is the Trig factor. There’s something gaudy about it. There will be a Super Bowl ad about the happy outcome that attends not listening to medical advice. Ignore your doctors, trust in God, and your child, too, can win a Heisman trophy. Will there be empathy in there for women who aren’t ready to risk their lives in order to be given a quarterback?
Questions of will and agency are inseparable from this debate. Some women’s groups are asking CBS not to run the ad (the network says it has, in recent years, loosened its strictures on Super Bowl advocacy ads) but that doesn’t really seem to be the answer. Having an answer is the answer. Similarly, do the French really think that they are championing women’s rights with their ban on women wearing some forms of hijab on public transportation and in state hospitals? That is, for want of a better word, silly. One looks forward (if not happily) to the disputes about just what—just how many inches of cloth—constitutes a forbidden garment, and bus boycotts and more. A law about what a woman must and must not wear does not get you to a society built on mutual respect, or on commonly recognized rights. Really, it’s a matter of choice.