Keidel: Tim Tebow’s Wounded Knee

By Jason Keidel
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You’ve done the impossible. You’ve converted me from a Tim Tebow hater to a crusader, a full-throated devotee of the divinely coined quarterback.

I hated Tebow for the same reasons I hate all Golden Boys. In my lifetime, only Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan matched the hype. I didn’t want to hear that Tebow was the fuel in Florida’s empire when Urban Meyer won with Chris Leak just as easily. And, as I suspected, Tebow doesn’t have the chops to match his immaculate collegiate career.

But then a cowardly Lion (Wizard of Oz pun intended) in search of his heart mocked Tebow after a sack, falling into faux prayer, and you love the mock so much that you don’t even know why or whom you’re really mocking.

It seems that Tim Tebow’s crime against humanity is his humanity. The man has gone on missions – no, not inspired by those silly, rabid, rehearsed, “We must protect this house!” pre-game sermons, but real missionary work – to places we can’t pronounce. He’s also visited prisons, preaching the Gospel to inmates shackled to a place where faith is perhaps the only practice that allows them to see the world beyond their cells.

The NFL has employed Pacman Jones, Cedric Benson, and Michael Vick, whose rap sheets would make Marlo Stanfield blush, but were given myriad stays of execution under the guise of second chances. Big Ben, the QB of my beloved black & gold, played spin the bottle in a bathroom with a girl not old enough to be in the very bar where they, um, frolicked. And Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was recently arrested for groping a woman during a Halloween party.

But Tim Tebow thanking Jesus? Well, we just can’t have that.

And now, two NCAA titles and a Heisman Trophy later, still uncannily aware of this good fortune to be a football player, he has the gall to drop to a knee on the football field.

This is your beef with Tebow?

It’s the birthright of my birthplace – the Upper West Side, the epicenter of elitism – to think Religion was for Dummies long before a series of said books were published. Like most of you, I snickered at Josh Hamilton when he said God blessed his home run (vocally, no less), and at Bills receiver Steve Johnson, who Tweeted God in contemptuous tones after dropping an important pass last year. And I too question why a loving God allows the appalling paradoxes of mankind. And if we, just for five minutes, agree that God exists, we surely also agree that the deity has more important chores than game-fixing for his congregation on Sunday (or any other day).

But I never question Tim Tebow’s right to take a knee. Never will. Muhammad Ali, perhaps my greatest hero after my father, prayed to Allah, in the ring, in his corner, palms up to the sky, before his fights, and made infinite references to the Nation of Islam after his victories.

Where’s your outrage? Indeed, Elijah Muhammad’s movement was so synchronized with the Ku Klux Klan that the two fiefdoms met many times to arrange their strange brand of segregation. Ali even spoke at a Klan rally, where he developed some of his famous contempt concerning interracial marriage (“Blacks with blacks, whites with whites, bluebirds with bluebirds, and redbirds with redbirds.”) And the devout Muslim took his mistress, Veronica Porsche, to the “Thrilla in Manila,” rather than his wife, Belinda. And Ali’s grotesque (and grossly inaccurate) statements about Joe Frazier will haunt both men until they die. Yet I still love The Greatest. He’s just greatly and eternally flawed, like all of us.

I went to a school some of you would love (Walden, long since shuttered, whose only notable alum is Matthew Broderick), where God was a four-letter word, where I was spoon-fed the secular mantras of self-branded intellectuals and iconoclasts, who, really, were neither. Didn’t matter to me. I kind of agreed with them, but I don’t understand the hatred toward people who practice a fervent flavor of religion as long as they harm no one else.

When I came of age in the 1980s I was instructed by the irascible remnants of the counterculture, thirty-somethings whose ideas flew smoothly on Jefferson Airplane but became awkward and archaic on Jefferson Starship. My high school mentors were crippled by a time warp, and talked, walked, and dressed to an outdated soundtrack, with an echo audible only in the pretentious, scholastic nooks of nostalgia.

My teachers were in tie-dyed shirts, reliving the revolution, looking for fresh, malleable meat in my classmates and me. They even had a smoking room, where pupil and professor squatted together and tugged on Marlboros (and who knows what else), talking about The Movement while nodding to Bob Dylan, all of them unaware that whatever war they thought they were fighting ended shortly after Altamont.

I was raised an atheist (neither of my parents believed in anything like an Almighty) though I’d say I’m more on the agnostic side these days. I’m not smart enough to identify a deity’s existence or lack thereof. And if neither Einstein nor Hawking can prove one way or another, I feel foolish making any assertion. In fact, I very much admire the ardently and peacefully religious folks of all faith. There’s a glow and serenity to them that I’ll never have. Tim Tebow loves his God, even if you hate it, him, or both. Making it worse for you, he’d still pray for you.

I’ve never been in a church, temple, or mosque that I recall unless it was to witness a friend’s marriage or similar celebration. I’ve never prayed in my life. Maybe I will now. Maybe I’ll go Friar Tuck Tebow with my beard, maybe even buy his jersey. Just to tick you off a little more, I literally took a knee while I fired this missive to my boss.

Feel free to email me:

  • gwenEvere

    I loved this article. Enough Said.

  • Jonas Altman-Kurosaki

    Great article, Jason. I admire how eloquently you were able to address this touchy – and very, very pointless – subject. Athletes worldwide point to the sky after a great play, or even a mediocre one, or in many a closer’s case, after their miserable performance gets rescued by a diving catch so that they can still get a save. On occasion, they are perhaps honoring a late relative or friend, but most of the time, they are thanking the big guy in the sky – and regardless, it shows belief either way. Very rarely does anyone take the time to take issue with said gestures.

    People are taking issue with Tebow because he presents something rather foreign to the sports community – actual, full-on, not-self-serving belief. Mariano Rivera carries that as well, but the man is so contained, collected and downright dominant that no one could possibly take issue with a single thing the man does. But because Tebow plays football and has been on the center stage seemingly his whole life, his faith goes quite the opposite of unnoticed. It therefore becomes a mocking point for someone to be a “good boy” in a “tough guy” sport. Football players are revered for being monsters and condemned for being nice guys – especially if those in the latter category don’t produce otherworldly results.

    As we’ve discussed before, I admire those that can have the kind of faith that Tebow has, that Mo has, that J.R. Richard found, and so on. Fans need to hate Tebow for his performance, not for his personality or “antics,” There are a plethora of football players who really ought to be hated – or even, at least, penalized – for that but aren’t. Tebow’s not trying to convert anyone. He’s just doing his own thing. Let him.

  • Bob Medlin

    Jason, I really appreciated the sincerity and humility of your article about Tim Tebow. Thank you!!! I too was an agnostic/atheist with a scientific background and philosophical mindset, even though I was raised in a Christian home. I was thirty-seven when I fell in love and married. My wife was a Christian, and I was an avid reader. I had been reading books about paranormal phenomenon that apparently violated the laws of nature, and I picked up and read a book that my wife brought with her about biblical prophecies (The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey). At about the same time, my dad developed terminal cancer. When we found out, my wife said, “Why don’t we pray and ask God to heal him?” It was like I was sitting in a black dark room that was suddenly filled with light. I knew immediately that I was the worst sinner that ever lived and that Jesus really was the Lord. That was the beginning of my Christian journey. My wife and I ended up in the ministry serving as pastors and evangelists. We’ve witnessed thousands of miracles first hand, many of biblical proportion. I’ve just completed a book to summarize my journey of faith over the past thirty years. Your unbiased sincerity and transparency about your life reminded me of the beginning of my own journey of faith. I hope your journey will be even more exciting than mine has been. Your ability as a writer to share your own heart in such a thoughtful and insightful way is truly a gift from the Lord.

  • mass transit

    Well-written piece. I hope you continue your introspection. There’s nothing about Tebow’s faith which is inherently alien to any of us. He just openly accepts the natural inclination we all have to posit the all knowing. Everyone has the same courage as well, though some have more fear.

    • JK

      Thanks. If you were raised as many of us were in Manhattan in the 1970’s and ’80s, Tebow’s faith is alien to you. But that’s not to say I don’t admire his convictions. I do.

  • Wendi Maertens

    “I went to a school some of you would love (Walden, long since shuttered, whose only notable alum is Matthew Broderick)” Are you kidding or just ignorant. What about Andrew Goodman (November 23, 1943, – June 21, 1964)?

    • JK

      The Andrew Goodman Building is now Trevor Day School, Wendi. Are you ignorant? And how many Americans know Andrew Goodman better than Matthew Broderick?

    • Robert Richardson

      Andrew Goodman was a hero and a testament to what we all should strive for. He definitely “walked the walk”. A fine human being and a great New Yorker. A tragedy that his demise came at such a young age.

      • JK

        I suspect, Robert, that Wendi worships the severely secular education Walden delivered and would hate everything about Tim Tebow. Notice she didn’t mention those who were killed with Goodman…

  • Ysais A Martinez

    I must say that this is the best piece written on Tebow that I have read since he was drafted. I was also very pleased that you mentioned The Greatest in your article. Mohammed Ali was the best at the sport he mastered. Timmy is far from being as good in Football as Ali was at boxing, however Tebow does not hurt anybody or is preachy. I am a devout Catholic who despises hypocrisies or people looking down on others. I am a great sinner and a man deeply flawed. I do not see the problem with Tebow or why is there such a media madness with the man. That says more about us than Tebow himself. A big arm of his supporters fuel the anti-Tebow sentiments, but let’s be real, from a politically correct angle, Tebow is a very easy target. And after writing such a brilliant piece, I don’t need to explain to the author why. You know exactly what I mean. I hope Tebow succeeds. We need heroes like him. Am I crazy to be reminded of Batman in the Dark Knight when I read all the anti-Tebow non sense?

    • JK

      Very kind of you, Ysais. I hope readers understand that I mentioned Ali specifically because he was my hero yet so thoroughly conflicted. No matter our stars or stripes, we are hopelessly flawed. And Tebow should be celebrated, not hated, for understanding this at such a young age.

    • Your Boss

      Get back to work.

  • Robert Richardson

    He should be the first hit in Google when searching for “Keeping It Real”

    • JK

      And it’s the hypocrisy that kills me, dude. I think you know what I mean.

      • Robert Richardson

        All kinds of layers to this, it can go all kinds of ways. I bemoan our future.

  • Kurt Spitzner

    From both your mouths to Gods ears!

  • Robert Richardson

    I follow college football as a result of living for too many years in South Florida. There “you must choose” sides in the intra state warfare of the NCAA. I am blessed to be a CANES fan thirty years and counting. Yet most of my Miami family are Gator fans and I became a student of their program by default. As a result I saw Tim Tebow’s development as a Division I QB. By the time he graduated and had achieved his accolades, I knew one thing; he could never be a starting NFL quarterback. It doesn’t make him less of a person, less of an athlete. I have the utmost respect for him however (despite leading an arch enemy) because he walks his walk. It’s so refreshing to have a celeb, a prominent sports figure that adheres to a strict self imposed moral code. I remember when was ridiculed after winning his first title and stated in an interview he was a virgin and preached abstinence. You’re right JK, this man goes out there leads by example with his “missions”. I’m one of his biggest fans and hopes he proves me wrong my succeeding at the NFL level. It’s a sad commentary of our society that he is not regarded as a role model and is actually disdained at some level. We are so lacking in public figures of high moral caliber and actually venerate some of the worst people.

    • JK

      Much appreciated, Robert. Not only do I share your respect for Tebow, but also your love for The U – which perhaps has produced more miscreants than all other schools combined. In an odd way, it gives me a greater appreciation for Tebow. I probably don’t have anything in common with the man, but I never doubt his sincerity.

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