Gary Shelton, a veteran sports writer, wrote an article in today’s St. Pete Times entitled “Misplaced Distaste.” In it, he asks why so many people are rooting for Tim Tebow to fail in the NFL. In fact, why does anyone outside Florida or Colorado even care how the 25th pick of the 2010 draft performs? Few of the Tebow haters would recognize the name Demaryius Thomas, much less care about his recovery from an Achilles tendon injury. (The Broncos picked him three places ahead of Tebow in the 2010 draft.)
I do not write as a Gator fan or assume that Tebow needs my defense. That’s what an offensive line is for. However, when so many spew venom and hatred toward a backup quarterback in Denver, I agree that something strange is afoot. Shelton offers no definitive answer for what motivates the hatred. I think I can offer a reasonable suggestion. Two, in fact.
The first factor is schadenfreude - the concept of pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. Our society continues to cultivate a hyper-competitive attitude in every aspect of life. No longer is the other team a rival or opponent. Now they must be an enemy. Beyond even that spirit is a growing desire to see the successful fail. It makes us feel better about our personal inadequacies or failures. Perhaps it began during grade school recess. That’s when you first realized that if you couldn’t make yourself look better, you could always make fun of or draw attention to someone else’s weakness to level the playing field. So every time Tebow throws an interception the armchair quarterbacks of the world scoff, “See, he’s not so good.”
That same statement points to a second motive for the hatred. Mention Tim Tebow and hearers think first of his success leading the Gators’ football team. However, inseparably linked to his name are missionary efforts, a firm stand against abortion, Bible verses written on his eyeblack, and a testimony of salvation through Christ alone. Tebow is considered a spiritual person; specifically, the born-again Christian type.
Nobody gives a second thought to an athlete who points heavenward after a touchdown or thanks God in a winning locker room. After all, it cost him nothing and may mean even less. The same applies to actors and musicians when they speak with an award trophy in their hands. Everyone knows it is much more difficult and likely more genuine when one acknowledges God after a loss. Yet, Tebow seems to be in a different category, where one’s faith matters on and off the field.
I’ve never met him, so like everyone else, I must rely on what I read and watch in the media. Shelton, like many sports writers, points out that Tebow is genuinely what society claims to expect from its true heroes; “humble, charitable, hard-working, scandal-free.” On top of that, he is quick to credit Jesus Christ as the source for whatever may be good and right in his life. An unbelieving world can’t wait for him to fall.
The more genuine someone appears, the more others want it exposed as something less. The more devout the claims, the more intense the scrutiny. When the hidden sins of a pastor, athlete, or politician who professes salvation are exposed some celebrate. They sit in the same armchair and pronounce, “See, he’s not so good. I told you it was all a scam.” For that moment, their accountability to God feels less imposing. After all, if a professing Christian is less than genuine, perhaps Christianity itself is. This should serve as a solemn reminder to every child of God that our testimony matters far more than we realize. Certainly, we live for the Lord, but we do so before others.
Again, I am no rabid Gator/Bronco fan. However, I will root for any genuine believer to have an expanded platform from which to share the Gospel, display a consistent testimony, and advance the cause of Christ. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on the gridiron, in an office, or a classroom full of school desks.