By Jason Keidel
» More Columns
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: Keidel.Jason@gmail.com