For at least the last 15 years, athletes of faith have openly shared their belief on the football field, praying at midfield after games. Why is Tim Tebow’s faith in God so much special and different than from any other athlete, particularly those professional football players who have been kneeling down and saying a word of thanks and prayers to their God long before the University of Florida Heisman Trophy winner entered the league?
This is nothing new. The born-again phenom sort of caught fire for a brief minute or two when black quarterback Randall Cunningham(1997-1999), going through his professional football resurgence with the Minnesota Vikings, started openly giving thanks to God.
Then again, male and female athletes, in brief, suggestive ways, have historically mentioned their religious beliefs at sporting events, whether it’s some international stage like the Olympics or basketball game. When Cunningham’s breakthrough-both professionally and personally-caught wind with the national media, the religious debate about and faith and sports heated up.
Before the Tebow fixation caught fire, athletes speaking about their faith were generally scoffed at or had their religious beliefs mentioned as a small subtext of a larger story note by the media. The kneel downs in prayers between professional football players from opposing teams took off from there.
It is still going on this day, but TV cameras either vaguely cover it or delete the scene altogether, except to hone in on Tebow.
“I’m quite sure I’m not the first athlete to have gotten on their knees and prayed,” Tebow told reporters at a press conference introducing him as the newest member of the New York Jets after being traded by the Denver Broncos.
This raises the question of whether or not other athletes who believe in their faith as much as Tebow resent the selective treatment given to Tebow? Do Christians or other people of faith share in the absurdity of Tebowmania or do they believe the media has been hypocrites and biased in the coverage of one athlete who loudly announces praises to his God?
Does an athlete’s religious belief translate into success in the athletic arena or on the football field or does merely mean that individual is spiritually and emotionally strengthened to better handle the high-profile pressure of sports?
Athletes, like Tebow and former St. Louis Rams QB Kurt Warner are quick to praise God when they endure success like a touchdown throw to win a game with a pump chest or finger held to the sky…but do not show that same faith when they throw an interception that causes their team to lose.
It appears to be a dual message being conveyed to consumers. Is the message that Tebow conveys God is only God when things are good and not worthy of praise when things are bad? Does Tebowmaina step over the boundaries of religious freedom to those people who do not share in what he and some athletes believe in?
How much of Tebow’s overzealous following is race-based? After all, Tebow is playing in a league where African Americans make up 70 percent of all players. How much of Tebowmania is simply just sports hero worship?
This leads to another burning question: If Tebow falls on his face and does not pan out as an NFL quarterback-will the discussion about God and faith covered now by the media, cease or gets dropped to the ground the way a pissed off defensive lineman knocks the charismatic signal-caller on his rear end?
Tebowmania is the hottest sports discussion of the day. It has become a phenomenon. And like any phenomenon, Tebowmania, unless Tebow develops into a quality quarterback instead of being a short-fix novelty will eventually fade out and give way to another trend.