This piece was included in the print version of the latest edition of Sportsweek.
Now that the Eagles are back on the endangered species list (my advice to management about Andy Reid? “Brigham down!”) I’m forced to root for another team as we head into playoff season. Despite my love for Lombardi, I refuse to jump on the Packers bandwagon. Detroit is filled with psychos off their meds like Ndamukong Suh. The Ravens were a possibility, until I realized that they’re just stand-ins for the real Baltimore team, the one that stole away to Indianapolis under the cover of darkness. And the Giants are whinier than any generic Occupy collective.
So the choice is relatively easy. I’m now a Broncos gal. That’s because they have Tebow on their side, which I’m convinced stands for “The Exceptional Blessing Of Winning.” Okay, perhaps that wasn’t as clever as some of the other bon mots tossed at young Tim. The Denver QB has inspired a biblical flood of ink, including some not-so-pleasant snark about his overt form of Christianity. It’s become quite the thing to attack him for being a religious hypocrite, a Jesus freak, a gridiron Elmer Gantry. (Have you heard the one about what happened when Tebow touched water? It turned into Gatorade.)
And while I don’t share Tebow’s evangelical brand of worship or his penchant for public genuflection (my 50 year old knees party like it’s 1899,) I am in awe of this amazing young man whose moral compass is permanently set at true north.
This seems to unnerve the hipsters among us. As I noted in a previous column, Matt Taibi of the hipster bible Rolling Stone ridiculed Tebow for being a really annoying player and pray-er. Readers loved it, because it reinforced their own sense of superiority, as in “Yo dude, I don’t need religion, I’m like totally spiritual…(sound of deep inhaling.)”
And there are numerous other writers who have used the Denver QB as an example of how not to act in the NFL spotlight if you want to be taken seriously, and they’ve even recruited some famously religious players like Kurt Warner to the cause. The former Cardinal QB has been quoted as saying “I’d tell him ‘put down the boldness in regards to the words…’” The skeptics can turn that into “Hey man, just shut up about the Jesus stuff already!”
I get that there are people who believe that faith is a private affair. I was, in fact, one of those Catholic kids embarrassed by the Ash Wednesday mark on my forehead (why do you think I’ve worn unfashionable bangs for most of the last five decades?) But the blowback Tebow gets has little to do with spiritual modesty. I don’t even think it’s a display of ‘anti-Christian’ animus, since there’s a good argument to be made that ladies in burqas and Hasidic Jews also tend to raise eyebrows.
No, this attack on Tebow is motivated primarily by our pop culture’s discomfort with anyone who is unapologetically straight, earnest, self-effacing and-this is important-lacks a sense of irony. David Foster of the National Review nailed it when he wrote that Tebow was “the last Boy Scout” whose conduct amounts to “way too much earnestness for the ironic…way too much idealism for the cynical…way too much selflessness for the self-absorbed.”
And there you have it. The reason so many hipsters don’t like overly religious people is the same reason Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are so popular with the “we’re in on the joke” crowd. Unless you can be snide and supremely arrogant, you’re just a nerdy exhibitionist who throws footballs like a girl and ruins the Superbowl with stupid commercials about how he was almost aborted.
It doesn’t matter that he runs a ministry in the Philippines, or that he spends most of his free time preaching to prisoners (yeah, those poor downtrodden sinners we’re all supposed to care about) and doesn’t end up in the gossip rags with the skank-du-jour. Actually, it’s annoying beyond belief to the kind of people who value redemption over not having gotten into trouble in the first place. Like I said, the people who think that Tebow is a target because he’s a Christian have it wrong. It’s much bigger than that. It’s the same mentality that motivated Barack Obama, in an unguarded moment, to talk about “clinging to guns and religion,” an accurate reflection of the hipster view of those who lack the irony gene. It’s not that hipsters hate Christians. It’s that they hate sincerity.