Was It Wrong for the Lions to Mock Tebow?
I’ve lived in the Detroit media market for over a decade now, and believe it or not, I’ve grown fond of the Lions. My kid has Lions jerseys. We go to a game every season. I used to play and coach D-line, so I love watching Suh, Fairley, Vandenbosch, Avril, and Williams get after it week after week, and I’m loving the fact that they’re a resurgent football team with a little swagger.
Like the rest of America, I’ve also been subject to the strange made-for-television drama that is the life of Tim Tebow, Polarizing Figure, and almost as if on cue there has been controversy over the rightness of the Detroit Lions (Tulloch, Scheffler) mocking Tebow’s one-knee touchdown celebrations with their own ironic one-knee celebrations post-sack (Tulloch) and post-touchdown (Scheffler). If all of this sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is.
On one hand, we could write all of it off as bush league, and just be done with it. On the other hand – partly because my son (age 9) the Lions fan is asking about it – I think it’s worth thinking about.
Caveat #1: It’s never okay to mock the Lord.
Caveat #2: It’s never okay to mock prayer. It’s never in good taste, regardless of one’s religious persuasion, but this one hits close to home because Tebow is a Christian and so am I.
However: I don’t think the Lions players were mocking the Lord or prayer, per se. I think they were mocking an end zone celebration (prayer) that is a celebration just as much as Joe Horn cell-phoning his agent, T.O. grabbing pom-poms from a cheerleader, or Billy “White Shoes” Johnson doing the Funky Chicken after taking a punt return to the house in 1977. It’s a celebration that I also think is every bit as bush league as the celebrations I’ve mentioned above and while because it involves prayer it’s hard to ever defend mocking it, I think it probably deserves to be phased out (page down to find comment section and start killing me now.)
Why do I think it should be phased out? I think there are other ways (like privately) that a player can thank God before or after a play without making a spectacle of himself in front of a stadium full of people and countless viewers at home. There’s nothing humble or Matthew 6-ish about that. That’s also just my opinion, and I could be wrong.
However, I also know that Tebow and his family have been building this brand since high school and they’re savvy enough to know that that kind of branding comes with a price. Tebow, like him or not, is great televised entertainment. The NFL loves the kind of good vs. evil storyline that this weekend’s game generated. It sells tickets and jerseys.
And I also know that Tebow can take it. NFL football is a mercenary game for mercenary people. Tebow is as tough as they come, and he doesn’t need whiny evangelicals fighting his on-field battles for him. He has already succeeded as a figurehead and a celebrity pitchman, and we’ve helped him along marvelously in those roles.
But only Tebow can sink or swim on the field, and at the end of the day, to me, that’s the only Tebow story worth following.