I’d have been rooting for the Patriots last night even if they’d been playing Pittsburgh, and not because I think Big Ben is a creep of the first water. I rooted for the Steelers against the Broncos, but not because I was rooting against Tim Tebow. It’s a question of longstanding loyalties. I went to college in Boston. The Steelers drafted the first college player I was aware of as a great football player and I knew who he was because he played for Notre Dame, the only college team that mattered to me as a kid because I was Catholic and Irish and assumed that as such I was required to go there for college when I grew up. (Which would explain why this painting hung on the wall of my bedroom when I was growing up, even though I was a Colts fan first and then a Packers fan, because of Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr and Jerry Kramer.) If the Pats had played the Steelers, the loyalties of the college kid I was would’ve trumped the loyalties of the college kid I outgrew wanting to be, that’s all. In games the Steelers play against teams towards which I am indifferent, the latter’s loyalties win out.
I’ve never cared about the Broncos one way or another, except when they played the Giants in Super Bowl XXI and the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV and then I cared about them only enough to root against them, although it’s more accurate to say I was rooting for the Giants and the 49ers because they were two of my favorite teams and still are and I wonder who I’ll be rooting for next week if the Giants beat the Packers this afternoon. I expect it will be New York, but I don’t know. When I see those red and gold uniforms, I can’t help it. I flashback twenty-five years and start rooting for Montana to throw long to Rice.
If the Packers win, the choice’ll be easy. Green Bay. As I mentioned, very longstanding loyalties there.
I’m taking the long way to say I didn’t root against Tim Tebow yesterday and I wouldn’t have rooted against Ben Roethlisberger.
I don’t think it’s fair to root against a whole team because of one player. Big Ben may not deserve another Super Bowl ring in some “If the universe was just and God really exists” kind of way, but there are nearly fifty other guys on the team and a lot of them are deserving. Even if I was inclined to want to see Tim Tebow smacked down for his unfortunate habit of praying in public, he has a lot of teammates who keep their faiths to themselves, some of whom are good guys, some of whom definitely aren’t. Every pro football team’s roster includes more thugs than saints.
Well, except New Orleans’.
I crack myself up.
Tim Tebow strikes me as an amiable kid who might grow up to be an NFL-level quarterback some day, if his coaches let him. He’s far from the only professional athlete who makes a show of his religion, but then, what do I care? I have to admit to being reflexively annoyed whenever some baseball player points to heaven or kisses the cross around his neck as he crosses the plate. But most of them think of what they’re doing as an act of humility. They’re not boasting that God is on their side. They’re not saying God hit the home run for them. They’re thanking Him for the talent that put them in the position to enjoy a moment like this. One thing I’ve read about Tebow that made me feel fondly towards him is that he gets a kick out of it when opposing players Tebow after sacking him.
Shows he has a sense of humor and a healthy dose of humility, qualities sadly lacking in a great many people, including a lot of the people who are annoyed by his religiosity.
I have to admit, though, I’ve made my share of jokes, in the analog world and on Twitter and Facebook, about which side God’s on.
But I don’t really mean the jokes to be at Tebow’s expense.
In fact, I think it’s the case for a lot of people who seem to have been rooting for Tebow to fail. I’m sure there are plenty who plain don’t like the guy because of his praying in public. But I think much of the animosity is actually directed towards the Right Wing Christians who have made Tebow their saint of the moment and towards the fawning media who hype him in order to attract that market.
These are people who believe that God takes sides, not just in football games, but everywhere, all the time, and the side He takes is their side.
In rooting for Tebow, they are rooting for themselves and against the rest of us. They are declaring in another way what they’re always declaring, “God is on our side and not on yours. God is with us and against you.”
Which of course provokes a reaction.
It’s not the case that we’re rooting against Denver or against Tim Tebow. We are rooting against living in a country in which women are required to spend their youth either pregnant or nursing, in which gay people go back to being ashamed of themselves and hiding who they are in closets (For you Right Wing Christians: go back to hiding their lights under bushels.), in which brown-skinned and Spanish-speaking immigrants are worse than vermin, in which our children are taught that the earth is a few thousand years old and people were created by magic out of dust, in which the poor and the sick and weak and the oppressed are left to fend for themselves, and in which the ultimate goal of our foreign policy is all out war against the entire Muslim world so Jay-sus returns that much sooner.
And we’re rooting against a craven and opportunistic media that for the sake of a few more hits on their websites flatter and fawn over the Right, pretending they are just good old-fashioned God-fearin’ folk and refusing to acknowledge who they are, what kind of people they are, what they believe, and the kind of country they want to force the rest of us to live in.