I wish I could resist chiming in on this Tebowmania business, but I can't. Not after seeing him garner the lead story on not only ESPN's, but also the New York Times' website this week. All in anticipation of a season-ending drubbing that everyone who knows football easily predicted. As I watch in my Tom Brady jersey a thousand and a half miles from New England, I can't help but take a great deal of pleasure in my hometown boys beating up on America's Most Popular Athlete (according to an ESPN poll) for the second time this season.
We're all getting a little carried away with the Tebow mystique. His David Ortiz-like knack for late-game heroics is undeniably compelling, and I honestly appreciate that such a wholesome, selfless guy has drawn some of the spotlight away from the poor role models that litter professional sports. But this “Mile-High Messiah” talk is what drives me nuts. It's one thing for religion to mix with sports on an individual level. Ballplayers are constantly pointing skyward after a home run trot, and in Tebow's case, his faith-based composure surely helps him overcome those fourth-quarter deficits. It's another to talk of divine intervention in football games or a 24-year old who happens to be very pious and pretty good at his job converting the masses. Tebow's spirituality, like the rest of ours, should be a personal matter, not a magnet for cameramen and nosy reporters (was there anything more sickening than the footage of Tebow performing his now-iconic knee-drop after last week's winning touchdown only to have an overweight cameraman scurry up and shove a huge lens within inches of his face?).
The problem is that Tebow, humble as he is, doesn't seem to want any privacy. It's hard to imagine that his version of God demands instant midfield groveling after a score or Bible verses on one's eye-black. And the John 3:16 ad which Tebow-supported Evangelical group Focus on Family unveiled to the national viewing audience tonight was more than a little sanctimonious. If he's such a good guy, shouldn't he respect our right to make our own spiritual choices rather than using his celebrity as a preaching platform? I admire the charity he performs, devoting great portions of his time to visiting the downtrodden, but let's not forget that there are countless others, both Christian and non, performing extraordinary good deeds every day. Being a playoff quarterback doesn't qualify you for sainthood last time I checked.
But now, thanks to the brutal efficiency of Belichick, Brady, & Co., our beloved Timothy won't take the field again until autumn, and his throngs of worshipers will have some time to cool off. Now, hopefully, we can get back to watching sports for the reasons we always have: for the poetry of great games (this post should really be about the instant classic between the Saints and Niners that preceded The Brady Show), and for the connections that it fosters to the people with whom we cheer and the places from which we hail.
Those are the bonds you'd find me praising in a postgame interview.