Monday, February 1, 2010

Tim Tebow: Cultural Warrior

Tom Krattenmaker has another piece on Tebow in today's USA today. Krattenmaker is no fan of Tim Tebow, but his piece is measured and deserves a read.

Tim Tebow: Cultural warrior?

The football star’s appearance in an upcoming ‘pro-life’ Super Bowl ad seems to remove any ambiguity about whether controversy will dampen his very public faith.

Even before its airing, this commercial has accelerated a Tim Tebow backlash that was already growing over the course of Tebow's senior year at Florida. Heretofore, much of the criticism has been provoked not so much by Tebow himself, but by the over-the-top fawning of some fans, broadcasters and writers who have told and retold the Tebow story past the point of hagiography: His home-schooled childhood under the wing of his deeply Christian parents. His missionary trips to the Philippines. His passionate, championship-winning play. His fiery motivational talk after a dubious Gators' loss, now enshrined like Scripture on the entrance to the university's football facility. His virginity.

With this ad, Tebow becomes a direct participant in the political uses of his person and his story. Call him naive or call him courageous and principled — probably more the latter — but few will be calling him non-controversial after this.

"Tebow will come crashing into football's Holy Night with a partisan pronouncement on one of the most controversial issues in American life," pundit Ed Kilgore aptly observes on The Democratic Strategist blog. "I somehow doubt it will persuade too many watchers to change their views on abortion, but it may change some views about Tim Tebow."

In one sense, Tebow's athletic, religious — and now political — visage is nothing new. For decades, evangelical athletic stars have been using their visibility to help promote a Christian message. In the many instances when they've segued into the political sphere, they've generally marched in tight alignment with conservative causes. (Think former Boston Red Sox star Curt Schilling and his high-profile campaigning for George W. Bush after his 2004 World Series heroics.)

But rarely if ever has a young sports star combined these elements in such dramatic fashion as Tebow, and in a manner that has excited such passions. Gator teammate Brandon Spikes has likened him to "God." A contributor to the Dear Tim Tebow website glories that "God sent a son to the Florida Gators to do a job and ... we are so proud and honored." Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke has written, "It's almost as if Tebow is a dream come true."

Tebow's accomplishments and character are beyond question. But some have called his wild popularity a form of idolatry — the worship of Tim Tebow. The new emphasis on the circumstances of his birth appears to take this glorification to new heights. Whether and how the Super Bowl ad will frame the story remains to be seen, but the pre-game hype alone has brought new attention to it.

Full story here.

We disagree with the notion that his popularity is a form of idolatry. At least on this site, we have pointed out his flaws, but also have tried to demonstrate that while none of us will play as he does on the field, that we can all help those around us. Instead of putting Tim Tebow on a pedestal, we have invited our readers to "join the game", so to speak, and make Tim Tebow commonplace in our society and not a figure to be "worshiped." As long as there are sports, there will be sports heroes. We prefer our sports hero to be a decent guy, not a narcissistic philanderer or worse.

What is not being said in this piece, is it is rather sad commentary of our current culture that so many have to look towards a 22 year old man to find a public figure unafraid to stand up for what he believes without having to take a poll or conduct a focus group to see which side of an issue he should stand on. You may disagree with his beliefs and his politics, but don't try and quibble with us that having some sort of integrity in this day and age isn't something worth applauding, much less worth emulating.

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