I don’t know if Tim Tebow is the most outspoken professional athlete in the country when it comes to religion, but when you consider his level of fame, he has most certainly become the Western world’s most prominent link between church and stadium.
Now, thanking God publicly is not uncommon in any of our pro sports leagues, and post-game prayers are accepted as conventional and generally uncontroversial events. But early in his career — heck, early in his life — Tebow has probably made more nationally-televised references to his lord and savior than any other athlete in America, which is why he’s become such a lightning rod in a society that tends to celebrate its secularity.
Tebow’s most recent critic: Jake Plummer, who apparently is still alive and well and living with his former cheerleader wife and their infant child. Fun facts, those are. And Plummer apparently still does interviews with radio stations. In the most recent one — with 910-AM in Phoenix — Plummer took exception with Tebow’s constant God talk:
“Tebow, regardless of whether I wish he’d just shut up after a game and go hug his teammates, I think he’s a winner and I respect that about him. I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ then I think I’ll like him a little better. I don’t hate him because of that, I just would rather not have to hear that every single time he takes a good snap or makes a good handoff…”
Tebow defended himself this morning in an appearance on ESPN:
“…If you’re married and you’re a [husband] is it good enough to only say you love her on the day you get married or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and have an opportunity? And that’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the most important thing in my life so anytime I get an opportunity to tell him that I love him or give him an opportunity to shout him out on national TV, I’m gonna take that opportunity. So I look at that as a relationship that I have with him that I want to give him honor and glory anytime I have the opportunity…”
That, of course, sounds a lot like preaching. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, Tebow had better be aware that he’ll continue to be a controversial figure so long as he preaches to football fans, many of whom share his love for God and Christianity and many of whom don’t (and many of whom simply don’t care to have their football broadcasts infiltrated with what some might consider to be gospel).
ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio pokes a rather large hole in Tebow’s defense:
There’s a distinction, however, between what Plummer criticized Tebow for and what Tebow responded to. Plummer wasn’t objecting to Tebow saying “I love you” to Jesus. Plummer was objecting to Tebow saying “I love Jesus” to the public, and saying it in just about every public appearance he makes. There’s nothing wrong with a man saying “I love you” to his wife every day, and there’s nothing wrong with a man saying “I love you” when he prays every day. What Plummer was saying is that he doesn’t think Tebow should inject his religious beliefs into a football discussion. Just as Plummer would, presumably, think it a little weird if an NFL player mentioned that he loves his wife in every interview.
Of course, Tebow didn’t have to defend himself in the first place. So long as he’s prepared and willing to deal with the consequences of being a likable yet controversial and somewhat fanatical figure, then he can continue to publicly declare his love for and devotion to Jesus Christ.
And as long as he keeps winning, he’ll continue to have plenty of opportunities to do so.