(above : rare recent image of Tim Tebow, neither on his back or one knee).
The “Tebowing” craze/meme was noted in this space last week, and during Detroit’s thorough humiliation of Denver QB Tim Tebow last Sunday, some of the Lions couldn’t resist jumping on the bandwagon. For ESPN.com’s Jemele Hill, such parodies of the 24-year-old virgin are tantamount to religious persecution (“I don’t care if Tebow is cemented as a NFL failure, that doesn’t give people license to mock his faith”).
Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch and Tony Scheffler probably didn’t intend to disrespect Tebow’s faith with their celebrations. But if Tebow were Muslim or Jewish, would Tulloch and Scheffler have been so quick to execute a prayer parody? Would columnists, such as my friend Dan Wetzel — whom I respect a great deal — encourage those who were offended by Tulloch’s and Scheffler’s Tebowing to just lighten up?
“I think the linebacker for the Lions was attempting to not mock God, but to mock Tebow and have fun with it,” said Gordon Thiessen, the director for training and resources for the Nebraska Fellowship of Christian Athletes, “but it was still in bad taste and inappropriate, at best.”
Tulloch’s and Scheffler’s actions represent an undercurrent of jealousy that some NFL players feel toward Tebow because of the publicity he receives. Several of ESPN’s NFL analysts have been quick to point out the other successful college quarterbacks with Tebow’s limitations who never received an NFL start and certainly weren’t drafted in the first round.
Tebow is a juicy target because he receives so much media coverage and he’s often depicted as a Goody Two-Shoes. It’s not Tebow’s fault, but it makes it that much easier for his critics to revel in his failures and give extra motivation to his opponents.
At least Hill took the time in her ESPN piece — unlike Darren Rovell — to acknowledge those who dislike Tebow might have a reason beyond jealousy. But as for the question, “what if Tebow were Muslim or Jewish?”, I’m gonna take a wild guess that he’d not find nearly as much acceptance for public demonstrations of his faith — assuming they were taking place on an NFL sideline. Tebow’s ability to worship freely has not, to my knowledge, been threatened by anyone. By contrast, how tolerant were fans or media when Mahmoud Abdul- Rauf wore his religious beliefs on his sleeve?