And Rabbi Joshua Hammerman thought he had a “Tebow Problem” before. Back in 2011, the columnist at The Jewish Week fretted that the Tim Tebow-led Denver Broncos might beat his “beloved” New England Patriots in the upcoming AFC championship game. But his wasn’t a fan’s normal pre-game nervousness. It was the hand-wringing of a liberal bigot.
Hammerman imagined that the rubes in fly-over country regarded the “blue-clad Patriots, from the bluest of blue states” as the “Sons of Darkness, with their perfectly coiffed Hollywood quarter back” their “diabolical hoodie-clad coach” and “the most identifiably Jewish owner in sports.” Against Tebow, the “poster boy of the Christian right,” they’d be “playing the role of Pilate.” (In the event, the Broncos lost, forestalling Tebow’s Christian fans from “burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants” in celebration, as Hammerman had warned.)
But now Tim Tebow is a Patriot, signed by Jewish owner Bob Kraft and hoodie-wearing coach Bill Belichick to play behind Tom Brady’s expensive haircut. Will a Tebow triumph still set back America’s efforts to “become more inclusive,” as it would have two years ago?
Hammerman was just an extreme example of the Christian QB’s effect on liberals. However Tebow’s turn with the Pats goes, as long as he remains unapologetic about his faith he’ll be a target for the secular left. So we can expect a repeat of the reactions when he joined the New Your Jets last year.
That was when Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation, magazine, told MSNBC, “There are a lot of LGBT people that live in New York City who are also football fans and they might want to know why the new, possibly, starting quarterback for the New York Jets wants them to move backwards 30 or 40 years.” (Funny that liberals seem to think a guy who critics claim can’t even get his drop-back foot work right has the power to alter history.) CBSChicago.com writer Dan Bernstein dismissed Tebow as “little more than an affable simpleton” and slammed his fans as “lunatic-fringe cultists.”
And before the Jets, Tebow drove them around the bend in Denver. When he found himself as a back-up QB and serious questions about his ability to play NFL-style football, Tebow told a reporter, “I’m relying, as always on my faith,” to see him through. CBS Sports.com’s Gregg Doyel couldn’t let that public display of piety go unsneered at, and fired off a column titled, "Unbelievable - Tebow believes faith equates to starting in NFL." In it, Doyel willfully misinterpreted Tebow’s beliefs. “Tebow has basically said, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘I’ll be a starter in this league because God loves me that much.’”
Such attacks on Tebow and other athletes who dare credit something other than themselves for their success are usually made with the caveat: “I have nothing against religion or religious people.” But to honest observers like “Inside the NFL’s” Chris Collinsworth, anti-Christian animus clearly drives Tebow’s detractors. In 2011 he said of Tebow, “It’s unbelievable, though, JB, that one of the best kids – just pure kids that’s ever come into the NFL – is hated because of his faith, because of his mission work, because of the fact that he wears it on his sleeve, because of the fact that he lives his life that he talks about.”