With Apologies to FJM: We Discuss Tim Tebow with the New York Times

Disclaimer: I did not invent this style of post. did. They are smarter and funnier than I am. 

I know it's Auburn week, but I think this deserves some attention. Over the last few weeks Tim Tebow has been playing some QB in Denver. He's been sacked, he's been inaccurate, he's been mocked, but he has also been on the winning team in two of his starts. He has also been the subject of a cultural question or two; Greg Bishop of the New York Times, take it away....


 In Tebow Debate, a Clash of Faith and Football By GREG BISHOP Published: November 7, 2011

Tim Tebow is an N.F.L. quarterback,

That is correct. 

and Tim Tebow is an outspoken Christian.

Correct as well.

And while quarterback controversies are almost as common as quarterbacks,

Let's do a thought experiment. Let's assume the entire world contained two quarterbacks, and the entire world didn't know which one of them should play: a quarterback controversy. How much more common are quarterbacks than quarterback controversies in our universe? Twice as common right? Can you envision a situation in which you had a second controversy involving our two quarterbacks? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. Now start adding teams to our imaginary football league, all have quarterbacks, some have a controversy. Our ratio of Quarterbacks to controversies increases. It is impossible for the quarterbacks to be almost as common as controversies. I had some pizza for dinner tonight, the pizzas were almost as common as the pieces of pizza. 

who play perhaps the most scrutinized position in American sports,

Sure, way more than bowlers for instance where you going with this....actually I guess your sentence wasn't that long until I interrupted you, my fault, continue.....

what has erupted around Tebow this season is altogether different.

So this is a column about things which have erupted around Tim Tebow eh? We are clearly not talking about the Broncos passing offense then amiright!....go ahead.....

At the intersection of faith and football, the fervor that surrounds both Tebow’s beliefs and his struggles in his second season for the Denver Broncos has escalated into a full-blown national debate over religion and its place in sports.

Full blown national debate? I'm the Quincy Carter of Accountants and this is Meet the Press, our issues this week, a woman comes out to accuse Herman Cain of sexual harassment, voters in the midwest vote down laws restricting unions, but first, does Tim Tebow love Jesus too much? I may be off on this one, but I think the sides of the Tim Tebow debate are 1) people who think Tim Tebow is a bad quarterback, a nice guy, genuinely pretty good person, and a great Christian, and 2) people who think Tim Tebow is a bad quarterback, a nice guy, a genuinely pretty good person, and kind of a douche. There's common ground, and the whole debate isn't that important.

While Tebow is not the first openly religious athlete,

As opposed to what, religious athletes that are in the closet?

the circumstances surrounding his performance this season are so unusual, the N.F.L. is experiencing a rare, if not unprecedented, religious feud.

I'm not sure what you mean by circumstances surrounding his performance, but I'm pretty sure that teams have gone 2-5 with bad quarterback play before. It isn't that unusual. Even the wins aren't that unusual. The Ravens won a Super Bowl with Elvis Grbac for God's sake. 

The latest chapter in the Book of Tebow played out Sunday, when he threw two touchdown passes in the Broncos’ upset of the Oakland Raiders, perhaps saving his status as the starter, but not ending the larger debate.

Those two touchdowns were 20% of his total completions. He was 10 for 21. That is his second most accurate game of the year. He has not completed over 50% of his passes this season. I'm not saying you're wrong about his status as a starter, but I am amazed by the fact. Since the both sides of the debate agree Tim Tebow is a bad NFL quarterback, we shouldn't expect his performance to end it. 

“The role religion plays here is enormous,” said Kurt Warner, the former N.F.L. quarterback and a similarly outspoken Christian athlete. “When somebody professes their faith, and I was that guy for a long time, people automatically think when you praise God it’s because He makes passes go straighter or helps win games. When you lose, they say, your faith doesn’t belong here. Your God’s not helping you win.”

Tim Tebow's passes did not go straight in his wins or his losses - he is beyond reproach. Divine intervention is not required to beat the Raiders or the Dolphins.  

To his most fervent supporters — and there are many —

Many who are not University of Florida fans? 

Tebow was never just a quarterback.

Which is good, because now that he is barely a quarterback it's good to have whatever he was falling back on. 

He was a champion of Christianity in shoulder pads, a wholesome, fearsome football player who loved God and touchdowns, in that order.

He hung out with Urban Meyer too, let's not forget, no issue here, Tebow's a great guy. Just kind of a douche as well.

If detractors found Tebow preachy, if he seemed too good to be true, he still won two national championships and a Heisman Trophy at the University of Florida, securing his legend as one of the greatest college players ever.

His legend as greatest draft pick ever is less secure. But sure. No one disputes Tebow's greatness as a college player. Really no one disputes his status as a really good guy. In short, there is no debate about Tim Tebow the college quarterback. 

Drafted last year by the Broncos, he played sparingly his rookie season.

In which the Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton had a passer rating of 87. That's not exactly lighting it up, but it was better than about half the other guys in the league. Just saying. 

Now, his struggles to adapt to the N.F.L.

Struggles to adapt? Tim Tebow is to "struggles to adapt," as Jericho is to "minor masonry problem." To find Tim Tebow on ESPN's stat's page you have to expand it to see all players, not just the quarterbacks, he's listed along with the punters who have thrown passes on fakes and running backs who have thrown halfback passes. More specifically, Tim Tebow has completed 45 of 96 passes. He has been sacked 15 times. He is 29th in the league in passer rating. He has never completed more than 50% of his passes or thrown for 175 yards in a game.  In fairness he has only thrown one interception and he has tacked on 45 yards per game running the ball. Also, Orton was playing very poorly too.  

have changed the tenor of the debate around him, made it nastier, more personal, more intense.

So you are saying that Tim Tebow going from being the best quarterback in his league to the worst changed the debate about him? Would you expect it not to? 

Supporters have reacted to criticism of Tebow as an indictment on religion, while detractors seem to delight in every wayward pass.

I really feel like most of the criticism at Tebow is that he is an exceptionally bad NFL quarterback. If you are an exceptionally bad NFL quarterback but receive attention incommensurate with your skills, shouldn't we expect him to be mocked a bit? Plus, the preachiness, it's kind of douchey right? Not at Florida, you're as good a player as he was there, you've earned it. But here's the problem, you've got to earn it again at the next level. You can't be a spokesman for anything as an NFL quarterback if you suck at being an NFL quarterback. 

Just last year, Tebow drew national attention for his antiabortion commercial broadcast during the Super Bowl.

Reasonable people can disagree about the ad, but it's kind of weird to come from a rookie quarterback right? Has any player ever done an ad like this before? During the largest stage for advertisements in the world? During the highpoint of the season of a league in which Tebow, at the time had done, nothing? I'm not saying it's wrong, but it's kind of a douche move right? 

In the past three weeks, he has become the most discussed and most polarizing figure in sports,

This was written just prior to the Penn State affair. But still, most polarizing figure in sports? A Rod, Kobe, Tiger Woods, Rothlesburger, Bellicheck (can't possibly be how you spell that), Rex Ryan, TO, the late Al Davis, Lebron? Mike Leach? Craig James? I don't think I can quite get to most polarizing in all sports. 

strange territory for a replacement player on a last-place team.

He is a bad quarterback on a bad team. 

Opponents mocked his celebration pose — kneeling, in prayer, which became an Internet meme known as Tebowing

and the SEC East said Amen. 

and his coach offered a lukewarm vote of confidence.

because you are neither hot nor cold I shall spit you out of my mouth?

One columnist in Denver called Tebow the worst quarterback in football.

Is Jimmy Clausen still around? Ok, Matt Moore? He's pretty bad too. 

Another columnist in Canada labeled Tebow the “Kim Kardashian of sports,” for the intense reaction he elicited.

Does Kim Kardashian elicit intense reactions? Is this the most intense reaction eliciter he could come up with? And doesn't a lot of Kardashian-ness involve sports, wasn't she briefly married to Kris Humphries? Isn't this like saying he's the Cadillac of Automobiles? By the way, people that call themselves, "The X of Y," are usually real tools....

Online, the torrent of mockery and criticism has been fierce.

I feel I've been restrained but cutting.

Blog posts included “God explains why he let Tim Tebow fail” and Twitter exploded in hateful vitriol,

Look, that doesn't really sound that fierce to me....

to which the Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski mused: “I believe Tim Tebow isn’t an N.F.L. starter and I want him to prove me wrong because I believe he’s a great guy. Is that allowed?”

Or, "I believe Tim Tebow isn't an NFL starter and I want him to prove me right, because despite my belief that he's a great guy, he's kind of a douche. Is that allowed?"

In sheer volume and intensity, the comments section on an ESPN article best captured the storm known as Tebow mania. They ranged from critical to crude under the theme “X is > Tebow,” with X being “eating your kids” among the options, as moderators struggled to delete the escalating venom.

Right, Tebow is a bad quarterback, ESPN covers him as though he were a superstar. ESPN has a conflict of interest in creating and reporting news. Commenters reacted against this. It is awesome. 

“This isn’t so much about Tim Tebow,” said Lincoln Blumell, an assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and a former college quarterback. “This is about people and about religion in sports.”

It really, really, really, is not. It is about Tim Tebow sucking as an NFL quarterback, but being covered as a superstar. And leftover hostility from fans who got smacked around by Florida (raises hand). 

When he starred at the University of Calgary,

Canadian College Football player turned professor of ancient scripture? There's no way this dude is real....

Blumell prayed at his locker before and after games. Early on, though, he decided that any expressions of faith beyond that, on the field, would feel insincere.

When you pray then go into your room and shut the door.....

Tebow took the opposite approach, and to Blumell and most others, that felt genuine, too.

Genuine and douchey. 

Tebow inscribed Bible verses on the black patches worn under his eyes, a practice since banned by the N.C.A.A.

True story, AJ Green responded to an altar call, and the NCAA suspended him four games since the gift of eternal salvation was considered an improper benefit. Jesus fit the definition of an agent.

He preached to prisoners in America

seriously that's a really cool thing.....

and circumcised babies in the Philippines,

seriously that's not.

where his parents were missionaries. Blumell watched Tebow’s final college game, from the Sugar Bowl stands on Jan. 1, 2010, witnessing a “remarkable polarity in the crowd with religious undertones.”

How does one witness this in a football game, that, if memory serves was played against the University of Cincinnati? What did he see?

He turned to a friend and said, “Tebow’s going to be president.”

of the youth group.

As vice president at Nielsen Sports, Stephen Master measures an athlete’s endorsement potential based on awareness and appeal. Nationally, the company tested Tebow after the draft in 2010 and again before this season. Coming out of college, Tebow recorded an N-score of 141, “an incredible rating,” Master said, “M.V.P.-like.”

So you're saying there is empirical evidence that Tebow has been treated by the media in a way that is incommensurate with his NFL achievements? It's hard to imagine this generating any negative response at all.

In the second test, Tebow’s N-score fell to a 41, which still ranks high.

When people found out he was a bad NFL quarterback. This is not shocking.

His positive appeal, though, dropped to 76 percent from 85 percent, while his negative appeal increased to 24 percent from 15 percent.

His completion percentage is closer to his negative appeal than to his positive appeal....interesting. 

Under negative appeal comments, responders wrote “overrated” and “annoying” and “overexposed” and “religious nut job.”

Touch but fair.

“There’s always a religious component there,” said Howell Scott, an evangelical blogger and pastor at a Baptist church in New Mexico. “And with Tebow, it’s often an anti-Christian bias. People want him to fall flat on his face.”

Scott refers to this as Tebow Derangement Syndrome, which his blog defined as “the acute onset of mockery and verbal ‘hatred’ in otherwise normal people in reaction to the football prowess and play — nay — the very existence of Tim Tebow.”

Football prowess is not really a fair description. Look, some people think TO's schtick is cool, some people think it's douchey. The people that think it's douchey want him to fail. Same thing with Rex Ryan, same thing with any other sports figure with a strong personality. Why is this hard? People look for reasons to root against opposing teams in the NFL. They take what's there. The University of Georgia ripped on Tebow when he was at Florida. Do you think Georgia has an anti-Christian bias? Why hasn't it manifested itself with respect to Mark Richt? Fans root against the player or coach, and take the trait that figure has to be against. They don't root against a trait and seek out a player. 

Tim Hasselbeck, a football analyst for ESPN, estimated that half the N.F.L. is similarly of faith. Yet while sports fans, as the retired player turned analyst Randy Cross noted, have “become numb to the first five seconds of an interview, only because it’s someone professing some form of faith,” Tebow seems to elicit scorn in a way that, say, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or Warner, or other religious athletes, did not.

What do Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kurt Warner's professional careers have that Tim Tebow's does not that might explain this scorn? Fans watch sport first, they get personal stuff second. The athlete must be respected before the athlete's views, religion, personality will be respected; especially if it's a big deal, like Tebow's. Not saying it's right, just that it is. 

Warner believes the difference lies in the level of exposure and expectation. While both used football as a platform, Warner said, fans identified with his story, from grocery bagger to Super Bowl M.V.P., more than they identified with Tebow, who garnered a greater following and greater backlash, so much so that Warner felt compelled to reach out to his friend in recent weeks.

I think the moral of this story is that if you try to use something you are not good at as a platform to promote your beliefs, people will not listen. Again, Tebow is a good guy, and he believes many things that I do, but as a sales pitch, this is not going to work. 

Reactions toward Tebow can seem polarized between those who lionize him as a mythological athlete and those who perhaps resent the idea that Tebow taps into some higher power on the field.

Wait sorry my choices are a) lionize and b) resentment at Tebow tapping into higher powers against the Dolphins? Come again? Reactions toward Tebow are polarized along the lines of people who think Tebow is a great guy despite being a bad quarterback and people who think Tebow is a douche and a bad quarterback. No one considers Tebow a mythological athlete in the NFL and if he's tapping into powers to generate this performance, those powers are not higher. 

“I feel like it’s a little much,” Hasselbeck said. “At ESPN, with so many different outlets, you feel like you’re having the same conversation over and over again.

It does feel like that; but that's for another time. 

There’s a lot of talk about him. You can’t say it’s just religion. At the same time, you hear a lot of things that sound like an attack on his beliefs.”

We live in the United States of America for God's sake. We have never elected a non-Christian President. Our money says "In God we Trust." Everyone prays before football games. But when you take it outside normal social limits, and you're a bad quarterback, you're going to get ripped. 

To Rich Gannon, the SiriusXM radio host and former N.F.L. quarterback, the religious overtones overshadow other possible reasons that Tebow is struggling: he did not get to spend the off-season around his teammates because of the N.F.L. lockout; the Broncos’ roster is largely bereft of talent; a new offensive system was installed before this season; and the top receiver was traded — the normal factors used to judge a quarterback.

You call me when Tebow get's an NFL offense going. 

Gannon said there should be a separation between Tebow the football player and Tebow the Christian athlete.

Hey, it's impossible for something to be both one and many....oh, ok then. Well let's separate the douchiness and make him the Tebow trinity.

On Sunday, with his job hanging in the balance, Tebow propelled the Broncos to one game outside first place in the muddled A.F.C. West.

That's also known as last place but you're right. 

His message: Keep the faith.

Equally appropriate, the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.

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