My friend Seth, an attorney and passionate defender of the First Amendment, is not fond of Tebow’s proclamations on national television. While Seth would be an eloquent defender of Tebow’s First Amendment rights if called upon, he cringes when Tebow thanks his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in an interview.
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.