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Brady, Manning worshippers: Football is our religion, Tebow. Don't mess with it.

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But it’s funny: Republican candidates have spent the fall saying the same things Tebow says – and on national television during a debate season that contained almost as many contests as there are game days in the NFL season. But while very few commentators seem troubled by the candidates’ very public displays of faith, hundreds of articles have been written during the same time criticizing Tebow’s evangelical behavior. And not just on ESPN.com but in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, too.

What is it that rankles so many football fans about Tim Tebow’s outspoken evangelicalism?  The answer, it seems to me, is that for millions of fans, football is our religion. And you can mess with our politics, but don’t mess with our religion. Americans have come to expect religious rhetoric from Republican candidates this season. But they’re not used to the same coming from their quarterbacks. That crosses a line. It’s not that football fans necessarily mind Tim Tebow’s missionary zeal; they just want to keep it out of the purity of their sacred Sunday ritual. 

Sunday, as Al Roker likes to say, is ”Football Day in America.”  It’s our national Sabbath.

Football brings people together. A Wall Street banker prays for a touchdown just as fervently as the construction worker standing next to him. And when it happens, they rejoice together. The 1 percent and the 99 percent.

Your denomination might be Giants or Patriots, but underneath the face paint, all fans are essentially the same. They practice the same type of game-day rituals: wearing the right colors or a special pair of socks, eating the same foods, watching the game at the same place. They believe the same things: that miracles can happen, that their voice can change the outcome of a game, that it’s not over till the Fat Lady sings. 

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