There are two types of sports fans in 2012 America. Jim Jividen is in the group that dislikes Tim Tebow.
Here’s a good way to introduce myself.
There are two types of sports fans in 2012 America.
I’m in the group that dislikes Tim Tebow.
That was Tebow after beating the Bears last December. Some variation of that was said by and about Tebow after each of Denver’s late season wins. On ESPN, on talk radio, on Fox News, on the 700 Club – some variation of the discussion that Denver wins were building a case not just for Tebow’s ability to play quarterback but for the existence of a higher power. Here’s the general manager of the Chicago Bears – a man entrusted to make personnel decisions:
“I believe there is some divine intervention associated with what’s taking place.”
Here’s what you didn’t hear after Tebow threw 3 picks, 2 that were returned for touchdowns, and lost a fumble in a 26 point loss to the Bills just two weeks later:
“Well, guess there’s no God after all. My bad, dawg.”
That’s called confirmation bias and it’s the space Conservative Christianity has carved for it in our culture. Someone will win 125 million bucks in the Powerball drawing and will honestly tell some local TV reporter that he prayed for it to happen when he bought the ticket – and that will close the local news telecast. What won’t be part of that telecast – the anchor turning to the camera to say, “I prayed too when I my bought my ticket; and so did hundreds and hundreds of thousands of other people. We all lost. This wasn’t news. Our bad, dawg.”
The Detroit Lions went to the playoffs last season for the first time since 1999.
Which is weird, right — if you remember what happened in 2007:
The 9-7 record of 2000 was somewhat misleading. After starting out hot, winning five of their first seven games, the Lions were expected to make the playoffs. Instead, they lost three of their final four games, finished just over .500 and missed the postseason. When the team resumed play in 2001, the oozing wound tore wide open. They finished with a franchise-worst 14 losses, burned through three quarterbacks and closed the final season of the Pontiac Silverdome in less-than-memorable fashion. The Lions haven’t had a winning season since.
So much dissention created a catch 22. They couldn’t get along, so they couldn’t win. They couldn’t win because they couldn’t come to together.
“There was so much talent here my first year, but there wasn’t a team,” said Orlovsky, who was drafted by the Lions in 2005. “It was a lot more ‘me, me, me.’ There was so much of a losing concept.”
The wounded Lions weren’t fooling anybody. They were in trouble.
So what happened? How did the Detroit Lions, back in 2007, crawl out of that wreckage?
They turned to Jesus. They signed Jon Kitna, so devout he prayed as he walked to the line of scrimmage. They won 6 of their first 8 games in 2007. 20 teammates were said to have converted to Christianity within a year and a half of his signing. It was a team of overt, devout, Christians who proclaimed Kitna’s playing with a concussion to be not an act of medical negligence but instead an Act of God.:
“To me, a miracle is when I can’t explain something, and there is no explanation.” Kitna said. “The doctors can’t explain it. I can’t explain it. Nobody can explain it, and you cannot convince me that God wasn’t at work there for whatever reason. I don’t know why he did it. I don’t know why that happened, but all I know is I was out of it and then ended up being totally cognizant with no issues, no symptoms whatsoever.”
Bible studies replaced that old poisonous, losing Lions attitude that had submarined them previously. Here was Jemele Hill writing for ESPN.com:
“It’s hard not to note the impact spirituality has had on the team’s incredible resurgence.”
When the Lions lost 7 of their last 8 games of the season and then went winless in 2008, here’s what I didn’t read from Jemele Hill:
“It’s hard not to note that the most publicly Christian team in the NFL is also the worst, and has suffered a collapse that rivals any in recent sports history.”
At the same time Tebow’s overt religiosity was the focus of every episode of SportsCenter, Russell Hantz’s similarly devout nephew was eliminated in the final Redemption Island challenge on Survivor South Pacific when he lost a pole sitting contest to Ozzy. I would have bet you all of the money in my bank account this would be the result – not because Ozzy is maybe the best all time Survivor challenge competitor but instead due to the conspicuous absence of prayer from that episode to that point. If you watched Survivor South Pacific you saw the first half of the 2007 Detroit Lions season, a lot of “God’s on our side and that’s why we will win” talk – and if there was ever a ready-made storyline, it was here — two men perched atop a pole, the one who falls out of a million-dollar game. The cocky Ozzie who had wiped out opponent after opponent in these showdown challenges against the heavily outgunned Russell Hantz’s nephew, who had only his loudly, constantly, consistently proclaimed faith to keep him on that pole. What would the Bears general manager say about Russell Hantz’s nephew’s inexplicable win over Ozzie?
But no god talk at all. Maybe for the first time in a half dozen episodes.
I guarantee you there’s lost footage of Russell Hantz’s nephew and probably a few others saying, “Jesus will keep me on this pole.” I guarantee you if Russell Hantz’s nephew had won, that’s the storyline that would have been driven home all the way through the finale. If you believe, then unbelievable things can sometimes be possible.
But we didn’t see any of that. Because when Jon Kitna wins 6 of 8, it’s because of Jesus. And when the Lions lose 24 of 25, well, hey, look over there. Russell’s nephew fell off the pole and exited the game and nobody whispered a word about anyone’s god.
If Tim Tebow, on Christmas Eve, 2011 had thrown for 3 scores instead of 3 picks, his religion is all you would hear about on every pregame show. It’s praying over a winning lottery ticket. Jemele Hill probably has the piece buried on her hard drive. In the US, Conservative Christianity is institutionalized confirmation bias.
And that’s why I don’t like Tim Tebow.