Baffoe: Of Race, Religion And Tebow

By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS)  This is neither an examination of the appropriateness or accuracy of Tim Tebow’s religious beliefs nor whether they are relevant in the athletic arena. Fear not, my children weary of such topics. Your passage here will be safe.

I cannot promise that what follows won’t stir up some sort of emotion in you. I do hope it at least provokes thought.

The fact is, like it or not, there can hardly be a discussion of Tebow the athlete without a sidecar of or a juxtaposition of Tebow the religious figure. He himself has created that intrinsic relationship, both intentionally and unintentionally.

But is it all on him, this theosocioentertainment juggernaut?

Cassius famously said to Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves…” The Tebow Thing—the aura, the awe, the mystique, the skepticism, and the subsequent headaches—is only possible if given power by the public. The reason the man yelling on the street corner does not make the cover of the newspaper or exist as a topic of debate on talk radio is because nobody buys his stock or chooses to promote, advertise, debate, or expose him.

In his truest form, Tim Tebow, who looks to improve to 7-1 this season as a starter vs. the Chicago Bears on Sunday, is just a guy who loves to play football, is pretty good at it, and just so happens to be very religious. But he has become a poster child. For what depends on which philosophy and tenets every person aligns himself or herself with in regards to that long word I made up two graphs ago and don’t feel like retyping (or risking misspelling, as though one can misspell a made up word that is two minutes old). He is a prophet, a role model, a symbol of disgust, a mere athlete, and various shades of gray in between.

What has been gnawing at me lately, though, is why him? Why is he the stoplight at the intersection of sports and faith?

Tebow is certainly not the first athlete to pray after scoring on a play. He is definitely not the first to profess his faith, solicited or not, in press conferences or magazine interviews. Such a thing has been going on as long as I can remember in my sports-viewing lifetime. Awful athletes to great athletes to bad people in sports have thanked and touted their higher power in some public fashion seemingly since American sports have existed (I believe Mordecai Brown used to gesture to the heavens after each strikeout… or he was giving the batter the finger. Nobody could tell).

In most cases, though, nothing has ever resonated with the greater public. There wasn’t any extensive water cooler talk about a college basketball player thanking God after hitting a buzzer beater in the NCAA tournament. Can’t say I recall hearing anyone seriously debating a Carlos Zambrano sky point at the end of an inning. Tony Dungy often associated his faith with his playing and coaching profession, and yet he never received the scrutiny of Tebow.


The Tebow Thing was cultivated at the University of Florida, and America was Tebowed well before he was a Denver Bronco. But college sports celebrities—or at least their kitsch—come and go. Even after becoming professionals, fans views of a player change. That kid is no longer odd or fascinating or controversial in most cases because the public gets used to him or her or the media realizes the story only sells for so long. Yet this one will not die for some reason.

Something must be making the Tebow allure endure. Could it be… that he is… white? I would like to think today that a player’s race would have nothing to do with fans’ admiration—or even the media’s attention—but I’m not that naïve.

The lockout and being tucked away in Sacramento killed it, but remember Bieb- I mean, Jimmer Fever? Fredette lit up the college basketball world with his fantastic play. But there are several collegiate players every year who are as good or better than that. So why the hysteria for Jimmer?

Oh, yeah. He has religious beliefs that were not typical of the majority. And he is white.

The political climate in this country cannot be ignored when it comes to this situation either. We live in a very polarizing time in this country, and with the economy, health care, and that bleeping crab grass on my lawn all being issues that everyone is taking sides on, coupled with the first African American president we have ever had, it would be foolish to not believe that any positive racial climate in this country, even if private, even if unconscious, has taken a hit.

Tim Tebow is an Evangelical Christian, and his fellow Evangelical Christians tend to gravitate toward politically conservative ideals. I don’t know Tebow’s political ethos, nor do I want to, but at a time when so many are targeting their various disappointments and frustrations in America toward a politician who just so happens to be black, might it only make sense for those same people to choose an opiate for that negativity—in this case, sports— and more specifically a figure in sports that they see as much the opposite of that target of negativity?

I’m not talking about the ignorant, blatant, need-to-be-eaten-by-badgers racists that live amongst us. Trying to delve into their minds is like walking into an empty warehouse with the walls covered in Brooks and Dunn posters.

But a good-looking, blue-eyed (they’re blue, right? I don’t even know, I swear), polite, charming, humble, God-loving white guy who also happens to play the most important position in sports and does so surprisingly better than most thought he could? You couldn’t script a better hero for thousands of Americans today.

He’s everything a large segment of society wishes they could be or be with. And with every action comes an equal and opposing reaction; thus, you get the backlash against him by many (for the record, I don’t hate the guy. I’m just not convinced he’s any good at his job, 6-1 record be damned).

Mix in egregious media slobbering, and you get The Tebow Thing.

It’s not just about religion, I don’t think, though that is a major part of it for some. I just cannot get past the feeling that if he was not white he would cease to exist as an incessant topic of conversation. I follow a lot of athletes on Twitter, most of them African American. Many of them use social media often to praise God and quote religious text. I haven’t seen any stories on major sports networks about them and their faiths, though. They aren’t individually plastered across sports news coverage daily and nightly.

Maybe I’m way off base here. Maybe I’m not aware of Jewish fans Amar’eing or other Christians Pujol… nevermind. Maybe The Tebow Thing is really just because all the guy does is win… like Pujols has. Kobe Bryant? Kobayashi?

Tim Tebow has received the same public cultish devotion as them, right? Those guys are as polarizing as him, right? Right?

More from Tim Baffoe
  • frank

    Well goldang there you have it. Them thar Tebow-lovers is jes a pack o’ raaaaacists! That’s what all the fuss is really about!

    Man, we really could use a good civil war about now.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    He became the face of college football…young, photogenic, articulate, outspoken.

  • James Trievel

    Yeah, people like Tebow because America is racist! You may not want to know Tebow’s political preference but we sure know yours! You’re a Liberal playing the race card in an attempt to shum Conservatives as racissts that only dislike Obama because of his race and not his inept policies. All the while using Tebow’s success as a vehicle to “prove” your political point. You suck! Please stick to SPORTS journalism and quit plugging your favorite politicians while engaging in hate speech towards all those that don’t agree with you or said politicians by blasting them as racists simply because your opinion differs from theirs. That’s called intolerance and that’s 100% unacceptable!

    • Meatless Meatball

      No one was intolerant. But agree or disagree with Baffoe, it seems legitimate to ask why Tebow, an average quarterback with a very good defense backing him up, doesn’t receive the accolades from the religious side of the spectrum that, say, Kurt Warner, an equally devout (and equally outspoken) evangelical Christian, got. I mean, Warner had his plaudits as well as his detractors during his likely Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, but he didn’t have either to the extent that Tebow does.

      I also would like to note that Baffoe is 100% correct about Evangelicals in sports. There are prayer circles before and after NFL games. Plenty of QBs point to the sky after throwing a touchdown. RBs kneel and cross themselves right after crossing the goal line. Many of them are no less affable than Tebow (and, in fact, Aaron Rodgers, one of the QBs who points to the sky (though I don’t know his religious preference), I find to be a lot better spoken, not to mention a better quarterback). The question that Baffoe asked remains even after your typical revert-to-blaming-Obama response: Why Tebow?

  • James Trievel

    By the way Baffoe…the slightly less than 9% Unemployment rate we are currently experiencing will rise back up to 9% once the Holiday season is over. The job market is ALWAYS temporarily inflated by the Christmas holiday season and some extra jobs are required to fill the needs of retailers and their suppliers and such. This is NOT a result of Obama’s policies…it’s a result of CHRISTMAS! Once the season is over so will the boost in jobs be as well. You can quote me on that.

    • George M

      James, you really need to shut your piehole, dude. No one made this political except you. Baffoe raised questions — YOU went after Obama. Nicely done.

  • Joey

    The truth is that Christians have been bullying the US culture with their insistence that this is a Christian nation for about 30 years now. I remember a time when Christians would be appalled at such a mean-spirited display of any religion. That was when the US Constitution was respected in this country. The disrespect of the US Constitution in our culture can be directly tied to undue Christian influence. It’s not a new phenomenon. What is new is that no one shouts these mean-spirited Christians down. That is what informs a Tim Tebow. I agree with the author that it is us NOT the ignorant ball player who demands deference to Christianity.

  • George M

    I think it’s rather unfair to criticize something we don’t know, i.e. what’s in a person’s heart. I don’t know if Tebow feels as pious in his heart as his displays, but that’s really not my place to judge, and I really don’t think it’s anybody else’s, either. And frankly, Tebow has every right by the U.S. Constitution to display his faith however he’d like.

    Where I take issue with Tebow and those like him is with their interpretation of scripture being not only rigid but insanely selective. Christ said not to pray publicly but privately, and that the Lord would hear us. Tebow and those like him, in my opinion, disrespect Christianity by being so outwardly pious — as much as the fire-and-brimstone Calvinists of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

    • Joey

      I remember the old people in my life when growing up during the 1960s who considered it rude and impolite to show any form of religion in public, George. It isn’t unfair to criticize what we do know which is that Tebow is revealing a selfish need to show off his religion. I find it troubling. And, I don’t like it that our culture stands for such ridiculous displays of religion. I have no problem with someone thanking God or Christ or Allah, or the blessed tomatoes publicly. But, Tebow is beyond the pale. And, the disrespect for all others is as plain as the nose on your face. If you want to compare it with what might or might not be in a person’s heart, it is your right. But, good and decent people won’t fall for such an implication. Intelligent people will recognize it for what it is: an attempt to suggest that not liking his behavior has something to do with guessing what a person thinks or believes.

  • Markie Maypo

    and fixed football games…don’t forget those

  • Byron Allen's street cred

    Uh Timmy, that column really displayed the ability and the reason you won a Score contest. Right? Right? Meh…
    //crickets chirping

  • James Trievel

    @ Joe and George. Here’s how I got what I did from the article. And yes HE DID mention politics and Conservatives and the fact that many Conservatives are white christians, and that white Christians who happen to be Conservatives are fans of Tebow. And of course he also mentions the fact that White Christian Conservatives don’t like Obama’s policies so he concludes that white chrisitian conservatives must like Tebow because he’s also a possibly a white christian conservative! Here’s the proof…

    “Tim Tebow is an Evangelical Christian, and his fellow Evangelical Christians tend to gravitate toward politically conservative ideals. I don’t know Tebow’s political ethos, nor do I want to, but at a time when so many are targeting their various disappointments and frustrations in America toward a politician who just so happens to be black, might it only make sense for those same people to choose an opiate for that negativity—in this case, sports— and more specifically a figure in sports that they see as much the opposite of that target of negativity?”

    If you don’t get where I got my comments from by reading this article then reading comprehension is NOT a forte of yours! As for why Tim Tebow? He answers his own question in the end of his own article!

    “He’s everything a large segment of society wishes they could be or be with.”

    “Maybe The Tebow Thing is really just because all the guy does is win.”

    Match, set, point Gentlemen…and I use the term loosely! As for the my Grandfparents didn’t like it when people praised God in public comment…King David drew criticism from other Jews for dancing and singing praises to God publicly too, but God never faulted it as sin to him or anyone else in the Bible that did so honestly. The text of which you speak is where it is mentioned how the rich give to charity while sounding a horn for attention or others fast and come to the market in rags to show they are fasting…in other words God doesn’t like it when you’re insincere in your praises and charity. Be sincere, do things for the right reasons not “treasure” here on Earth, instead do them for the right reasons and build up treasure in Heaven with your Father or else all the reward you’ll get will be empty praises from men here on Earth.

    I bid you ado! Oh, and…Merry Christmas!

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