Chuck Klosterman Says Tim Tebow Makes Blind Faith a ‘Viable Option’ December 11, 2011

Chuck Klosterman Says Tim Tebow Makes Blind Faith a ‘Viable Option’

I’m a big fan of Chuck Klosterman. He writes about pop culture and sports from a personal perspective, documenting what it truly feels like to participate in a media-saturated culture. But a recent column he wrote for Grantland about Tim Tebow didn’t impress me.

It starts with a promising thought experiment:

Imagine that you’re a detective, assigned to investigate a murder in a community of 1,000 people. There’s no established motive for this crime, and no one saw it happen. By the time you arrive, the body has already been cremated. There are no clues. There is no forensic evidence. You can’t find anything that sheds any light whatsoever on who committed this murder. But because there are only 1,000 people in town, you have the opportunity to interview everyone who lives there. And that process generates a bizarre consensus: Almost 800 of the 1,000 citizens believe the murderer is a local man named Timothy.

After six months of investigating, you return to your home office. Your supervisor asks what you unearthed. “Nothing,” you say. “I have no evidence of anything. I did not find a single clue.” The supervisor is flummoxed. He asks, “Well, do you have any leads?” You say, “Sort of. For reasons I cannot comprehend, 784 of the citizens believe the killer is a man named Timothy. But that’s all they have — their belief that Timothy is guilty.”

“That seems meaningful,” says your supervisor. “In the face of no evidence, the fact that 78.4 percent of the town strongly believes something seems like our best case. We can’t arrest him, but we can’t ignore that level of accord. It’s beyond a coincidence. Let’s keep the case open. I feel like we should continue investigating this Timothy fellow, even if our only reason for suspicion is the suspicion of other people.”

Do you agree with your supervisor’s argument?

78.4% is a significant figure — that’s how many Americans identify as Christian according to a survey by the Pew Forum. This problem that the detective faces — being failed by evidence and contending with massive assurance by those who claim none — is emblematic of large-scale societal conflict, and sheds light on what he deems “this Tebow Thing”

On one hand, he sees a group “who hate[s] him because he’s too much of an in-your-face good person” arguing with a group “who love[s] him because he succeeds at his job while being uniquely unskilled at its traditional requirements.” Both groups “see themselves as the oppressed minority who are fighting against dominant public opinion.”

Klosterman points out that it is very hard to argue against faith. In addition to the fact that it involves debating by different rules, he says there is no pejorative word for “faithful” — the closest phrase we have is “blind faith.” And the faith of Tebow fans seems to be paying off, because his recent success at winning games defies logic.

One of the things that makes Tebow a hard player to understand is that his personality (or at least his public persona) is inconsistent with his playing style. He is generally thought of as a good and decent person, but he is a tough player, whose wins are ugly. On the other hand, Ben Roethlisberger, who Klosterman calls “toughest quarterback in the NFL,“ is widely regarded as an awful person and is personally unpopular. But fans seem to be able to accept that his playing style matches his personality.

It is also difficult to make sense of Tebow’s current winning streak with statistics: he has only completed 47.5% of his passes this season.  But the Broncos have gone 6-1 with him as a starter, and were 1-4 at the beginning of the season when he was not starting.  Klosterman argues that, because of all this, Tebow “makes blind faith a viable option,” and that “he is making people wonder if they should try to believe things they don’t actually believe.”

I think the problem with Klosterman’s argument begins with his interpretation of what Tebow’s critics are actually annoyed about. I, for one, don’t care whether or not he wins games. I’ve never pored over his passing stats to determine whether or not he was overrated. I just object to his behavior and public statements.

I think the habit of kneeling in prayer after successful plays (leading to the “Tebowing” meme) is distasteful and irrational. It’s a very public statement, and it makes sense for me to express my disagreement. I disagree with his stance on abortion, too, but that’s not what makes me angry. What makes me angry is the Super Bowl ad he appeared in, which directed people the website of Focus on the Family, an organization with a vile and hateful agenda.

But maybe that’s just me. Are any of you Friendly Atheist readers also serious NFL fans having crises of skepticism as a result of the Broncos recent winning streak?

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  • I disagree that he is a “good person”

  • hackel

    Who the hell is this Tebow character anyway? I kind of pieced together after reading your post. Okay, he’s a sports player. So what? I think most people whose minds are satisfied by watching sporting events are already at too much of a disadvantage mentally to ever put any serious thought into religion or questioning what they were taught growing up. So really, who catew what some idiot sports player does? Not worth fighting or arguing over. Especially compared to all the crazy politicians out there!

  • honestly I would rather follow sports than politics.  both seem as mindless as each other, and people who are avid fans are  mindless either way.  I’m very satisfied watching sports events because I am stimulated by the mental aspects of the game, whether it is the history of a particular sport, the mathematics involved in statistics, the interesting biographies of different players, or the sometimes complex strategies employed by teams.  I never considered myself at a disadvantage mentally because I like sports, so before you go making sweeping generalizations, don’t forget you’re an atheist, and atheists might be one of the most reviled and generalized-against minorities.

    now, as a response to the original post.  Tim Tebow’s religion has nothing to do with his team playing extremely well.  he has a decent running game to build on, a defense that is playing well, a few good receivers, and a soft schedule.  his statistics are poor but show that in clutch moments he excels.  this just shows that he has the mentality to do so, not some god’s guiding hand helping him score and win.

  • Meh.  Defenses will figure him out within one season, rendering this all moot.

  • Newavocation

    He seems to think or appears to be an anointed one. And attributes his success as such. His “followers” seem to agree. So next year he is eligible to run for congress. In 6 years for the senate. And in nine years he could be President Tebow.

  • M G

    So really, who catew what some idiot sports player does? Not worth fighting or arguing over. Especially compared to all the crazy politicians out there!

    Far, far too many people do to be that dismissive.  I don’t happen to be one of them–sports are a tremendous bore, IMHO. But I also find it hard to ignore the fact that there are millions of people in this country who do not find it boring or meaningless. Especially as I live on the dividing line of a major NFL rivalry (Chicago-Green Bay). These people are everywhere.

  • I have to take serious issue with Klosterman.

    The notion it would at all be significant if 784 citizens of a town believed without evidence that one man, Timothy, was a murderer — apparently rests on a logical fallacy.  Yet, it not only apparently rests on a logical fallacy, but we have real life examples of huge majorities believing something and being quite wrong to believe  that thing.

    Most recently that I know of, there was a rape in a small Scandinavian town.   Over 2000 citizens — almost the entire community — rallied to the defense of the rapist and eventually forced his victim to flee the town.  Yet, the rapist at one point even confessed to the police that he had indeed raped his victim.   And still the town thought he was innocent!

    So there are both logical and evidential grounds for believing that the fact 78.4% of a population believes something is true is not good grounds for asserting it is true.

    In short, a group’s blind faith is a fool’s measure of truth.

  • I’m not much of a sports fan.  The last time I watched a game was over a year ago.  But I think it’s far from true that most people satisfied by watching sports are at a disadvantage mentally.   A taste for watching sports, like a taste for coffee, seems to have nothing to do with ones mental capabilities.  

  • Anonymous

    I’d love to have a link to that story you tell.  What makes the 74.8% thing largely meaningless to me is that we have a lot of insight into the psychology of belief, and there’s not much in it that’s flattering to truth.

  • Apart from whether it makes any sense, bowing in thankful prayer after a successful play is simply tacky.  It can easily be taken to suggest a god cares more about you than about your opponents.  What amazing egotism!

    Obviously, Tebow needs the emergency intervention  of a both a logician and a social secretary.

  • Good point.  Unfortunately, this country is politically insane enough to elect him all the way.

  • There’s a good English language article on the rape case here

  • Anonymous

    He’s annoying, but I don’t see where that makes him not a good person.

  • Stephen Cameron

    We do have a pejorative word for faith:  “faith.”

  • Abbie

    I read that whole article with HORROR! My goodness.

  • Anonymous

    I’d really caution claiming a mental disease or deficiency just because of one’s sports interests.

    I know several smart people that follow sports.  They get into it for the strategy and so on.  I do know some dumb people that follow sports too, but I’m not casting the entire group as an indicator that something is wrong with them.

  • I can understand your horror, Abbie.  It’s one of the ugliest things I’ve ever heard of. 

  • Anonymous

    If that many people thought it was Timothy in the absence of evidence, I would want to know who started that rumor–that would be your most likely suspect.

  • D E

    There would appear to be a flaw in the thought experiment.  A murder with no evidence is called an “unexplained death”.  You would have to have SOMETHING to declare it a murder in the first place.  That something would be evidence (e.g. the coroner report states death resulted from a bullet wound to the head).

  • Semipermeable

    I doubt his recent wins are due to his convictions, clearly.
    There are several religious minded athletes, but he is in a highly visible field position and is successful at it, so he gets picked to be a spokesperson, so of course amps up the religious zeal in that role, he keeps winning, so he remains popular and known. 
    An equally religious athlete/s are not winning so they are not gaining spokesmen status and are not talked about. So it seems that he is winning due to his religious publicizing, but I think he is able to be so religiously flashy because he is currently winning.

  • Yeah. Saying “god has blessed me” to throw a pigskin around all day while little children starve to death is what a good person would do

  • Anonymous

    Good thing that we the detectives have a giant pile of evidence that the crime never occurred.

    I have a challenge for Tim Tebow. In order to raise money for a charity of his choice, how about he allow bidding on what bit of scripture ends up on his face every week? The winning verse can be prominently displayed on a website, and he can send the money wherever he pleases.

  • Jess

    In the town I work, a former mayor was accused of molesting his two granddaughters. His fellow church members rallied around him claiming he would never do that because he was a good Christian. It came out that he had been convicted of the EXACT SAME THING in another state several years prior. So what, they said. He’s in church every Sunday morning with his wife. It’s all lies. They all defended their “good Christian” and called the little girls liars and sluts. He was again convicted and is now a registered sex offender. They still defend him and more than a few have said if he were to run for mayor again, they’d rally to get him elected.

    Blind faith at work.

  • Donalbain

    My first thought on reading the story was that Timothy was the only black man in town.

  • Anonymous

    In that vein, is posting on the internet on empty prattle while children starve to death what good people do?

  • Frito Baggins
  • It doesn’t surprise me that he is a dick on the field (as the article says because I don’t watch football to know). It is classic passive/aggressive fundamentalist Christian behavior.

  • Anonymous

    Or for that matter, people paying to go to Skepticon while children starve to death.

  • Anonymous

    In the face of no evidence, the fact that 78.4 percent of the town strongly believes something seems like our best case. We can’t arrest him, but we can’t ignore that level of accord. It’s beyond a coincidence.

    Yeah, there’s no way that sort of thinking could lead to anything bad now is there? I’m sure the 2 black families in a Southern town in the 30s, the one Jewish family in a German town in 1940, the sole atheist widower in a Georgia town today think that there isn’t any problematic aspect at all of going by majority views in the absence of evidence.

    In fact, this sort of thing is incredibly dangerous, since it is ideally suited for bigotry to bloom. It’s one thing if the townspeople think one guy is the killer because he has a history of threats or assaults, or because there is a known feud between him and the murdered. All of that is evidence. But when people think someone is bad but can come up with exactly no rational reason to back it up, it means their reason is irrational and thus likely mistaken.

    I don’t know and don’t care very much about Tebow, but I’ll admit that the fact that one of his favorite hobbies is performing circumcisions creeps me the fuck out.

  • Anonymous

    Or if that isn’t explicit enough “gullible”.

  • Anonymous

    You missed the “god has blessed me” part. It’s not the pigskin throwing, it’s the notion that god is favouring him in his throwing because he’s so special, but the starving kids can go rot.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t buy that, because he is doing philanthropic works too, which I think negates your interpretation of his actions, at least as stated in your reply.

    “According to reports, Tebow has already blown through his $2.5
    million signing bonus on various worldwide charity organizations
    focusing on famine, education and home-building.”

    So while children are starving to death while he does his silly little things, it’s not like he’s not doing something about it.

  • Anonymous

    To make this thought experiment conform to reality, all the evidence (autopsy, time of death calculation, tox analysis, cctv footage, crime scene forensics, etc.) would actually point to the death being an accident. Despite that, 84% believe that it’s murder, of them 78.4% insist that it’s Timothy (aka Jesus) that did the killing.

  • Anonymous

    How about “sheep?” I think that fits pretty well.

  • Tebow would most likely (definitely) disagree as well, seeing that the Bible teaches: none is good but God.

  • The murder story left out one important detail.

    Is there any evidence that the “Timothy” person these people believe is guilty actually exists, and is he available for interviewing? 

  • what charity exactly is it going to? Or did he just fly to Africa and give it to someone personally?

  • Rich Wilson

    Oh, that’s devilishly brilliant 🙂

    Although, I’m pretty sure Justin Beiber never went to N. Koria.

  • Anonymous

    That’s an excerpt. The “…” between the first and second paragraph I quoted is the part where he interviews Timothy. If I had included the whole thing, I think it would have overwhelmed the post. You should read the entire article if you’re curious. He manages to make idiotic conclusions in thought-provoking ways.

  • And these wouldn’t be religious charities that withhold aid unless the local heathens pray to Jesus, would they? Because that’s not charity. That’s an agenda.

    (Yes, “charitable” organizations like that do exist. I have family members who have personally encountered them.)

  • I’m not sure you can legitimately make that comparison. Politics affect my life. Sports don’t.

  • Cd1809

    Watch any college football game… That is the style the broncos are using.

  • I live in Colorado.  The only reason I care about whether the Broncos go to the Super Bowl is because it’s a good time to go grocery shopping.  That is the only relevance Tim Tebow has in my life.  I don’t watch Denver news, so I almost never have to think about him.

  • And they supported him after he raped a second victim, too?? That’s just… Damn. 

    Thank you for the link.

  • Tinker

    Yea, Bama 32:13 is my favortite verse in the bible. Watching Tebow cry after that game was one of my favorite moments in sports. You could see him wondering why his god had forsaken him.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a valid question to ask, I honestly don’t know.  I’ve heard of that kind of organization too.

    I think it’s much better to ask those questions than to make off-the-cuff statements that Tebow is a bad person.  If he’s a bad person, I’d be willing to entertain a good argument.  At least, one that’s better than someone that says words we disagree with.

  • I would certainly hope that the winner is Matthew 6:5

  • Kwieser


  • Kwieser

    That’s so true. I can’t help but see any display like this as pure self-aggrandizement, whether the display-er is self-deluded about that or not is another issue.

  • Marcus Letz

    What blows my mind is the idea that his wins might, just maybe, validate his faith.  Considering the religious demographics of this country, are we to believe that God favored Tebow over all of his opponents, including those who were also Christians?  Perhaps Tebow is simply the most devout NFL player, and thus receives God’s full backing on the field?

    Of course this does nothing to explain why so many devout Christians fail miserably in other endeavors.  This attribution of divine favor is the same disgusting idea that leads survivors of catastrophes like 9/11 to believe that God “held up the towers” just long enough for them to escape, but not long enough to save thousands of their coworkers.  What an insult to God and believers this should be.

    In reality, this is exactly what we would should expect if atheism (or even just deism) is true: some religious people excel, some do not.  There is no divine rhyme or reason to it, it simply demonstrates the “random” (as much as anything can truly be in a deterministic universe) distribution of skills and fortunate circumstances among our diverse populace.

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t god specifically brag about how good Job is?

  • Anonymous

     “If you’re married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only tell your wife that you love her on the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and have the opportunity? ”
    I don’t want to hear or see someone going on and on about their wife either. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure how many of you watch football, but I do.  Tebow is simply not that great.  I don’t understand why the media is going crazy over him because his team has won a few games recently.  SO WHAT?  Professional quarterbacks are SUPPOSED to win games.  It’s still very much up in the air as to whether the Broncos will even be in the playoffs.

    There are plenty of other quarterbacks in the NFL who have much better records than Tebow right now, and who are frankly more interesting to watch than Tebow.  Aaron Rodgers is relatively secular, is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, and he’s having an amazing season.  Does that mean god likes him better than Tebow?

  • Jolly Banker

    “I, for one, don’t care whether or not he wins games. I’ve never pored over his
    passing stats to determine whether or not he was overrated. I just object to his behavior and public statements.

    I think the habit of kneeling in prayer after successful plays (leading to the “Tebowing” meme) is distasteful and irrational.”

    Your closing objections are ridiculous.
    You object to him having a different viewpoint that yourself? You object to him
    holding to a different view on abortion than you? Even more so, displaying that
    viewpoint publically? That’s ridiculous. We live in a country that lets a person freely express his or her own views, regardless of others’ objection. He does the same thing this blog does: promote a viewpoint. If Tebow is not allowed to take a knee after a touchdown, should Richard Dawkins be allowed to produce and distribute abrasive documentaries supporting his viewpoints on evolution? Should the Friendly Atheist be allowed to post blogs that are in favor of a certain worldview?

    While I do not agree with you that there is no God, I don’t expect you to keep your beliefs quiet. I encourage it, even. I don’t believe in co-ercion or some sort of McCarthyism for religious (or non religious) viewpoints. But for you to expect one man with public
    platform to publically express his faith is beyond inane.

  • Ridiculous.  All games are games of chance and probability.  It doesn’t even matter if a team wins or loses.  Whenever someone wants to use faith as a factor their just dumbing down the people.

  • Anonymous

    Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees are the top performing quarterbacks this year statistically, and none of them are particularly religious.  At least if they are they don’t talk about it publicly, and certainly don’t showboat like Tim Tebow does.  Tim Tebow is not even on the list of top quarterbacks this year.

    Aaron Rodgers’ team in particular are undefeated so far this season, have clinched their spot in the playoffs already, and have a very good shot at winning the Super Bowl.

    On the other hand, Tebow’s team is 7-5-0, and their division is up for grabs at this point.   It’s questionable if they will even make it to the playoffs at all. 

    If god is a Broncos fan, and he wants them to win this season, he’s sure being awfully half-assed about it.

  • Anonymous

    I never said he wasn’t allowed to take a knee. It’s the implication behind it that bugs me. He seems to suggest that God is personally favoring him, at the exclusion of others. Of course he’s allowed to do that just as much as I’m allowed to say it’s “irrational.” I would not want the league, or his team, and certainly not the government to make him do otherwise. 

    I also said it was “distasteful,” but it isn’t distasteful for anyone to ever express a public viewpoint about religion (though I now realize I didn’t clarify this point well). I find people who tell an interviewer after the game that God was responsible for their victory to be making an irrational statement, but they’re not being distasteful- they’re answering a question. The very blatant, center-of-attention manner of Tebow’s on field prayers bug me. There was a video Hemant posted here not too long ago of a man confronting a street preacher, and I thought he was doing it in a rude and, yes,distasteful way. He was making rational statements, but his behavior was unpleasant. 

    Does that explain things better?

  • LOL. It was too funny. Along with the cut-scenes to the Alabama side mocking the Gator chomp

  • IMO, I think he’s more of a Rodgers fan LOL

  • Anonymous

    Your argument is totally incoherent, and simply wrong on multiple levels.  You also seem to be suffering from an extreme case of Christian Privilege (look it up)

    Tim Tebow is a professional football player, not a blogger, or journalist, or writer.  He is paid a fantastic amount of money to play football, not to be a mobile billboard for Jesus.

    What he does in his personal time is his business (within reason), but he is still a public figure.  When you become a public figure, especially when you do so voluntarily and weekly on national TV, you open yourself to a different level of criticism and ridicule than a normal private citizen might to endure.

    The NFL is a business not a political platform, and it is certainly not
    Tim Tebow’s personal platform for promoting whatever foolish religious beliefs he
    may have.  As a professional quarterback in the NFL, Tim Tebow has signed a legal contract with the NFL which restricts him from engaging in activities which distract him or his fans from football, or which might embarrass the NFL, or which might alienate fans of the NFL.

    Just because you love Jesus does not give you an unrestricted right to be obnoxious about it in any situation and at any time.

  • Michael Appleman

    You can’t just throw money at a problem like that and fix it.  However, if god were real…

  • Anonymous

    Tim Tebow and his fellow religious exhibitionists would benefit from reading and following the instructions in their own bibles.

    Particularly Matthew 6:5 and 6:6:

    “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to
    stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they
    may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6“But
    you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray
    to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

  • Wendel

    A big problem with thisTimothy analogy is there presumably actually was a murder and a body.

    78% of people believing something with no murder, no body and no evidence is still stupid.

  • The Captain

    Yea, you beat me to it. 

    Tebow is an average quarterback on an average team that’s beat out a bunch of other average teams and has been praised like he’s the next coming of Elway himself.

    I actually heard some talking heads praise him for “hitting wide open receivers” and “winning a game further north than he ever has”. I mean what the fuck! what other quarterbacks get held to that low of a standard?!

  • Anonymous

    Six in a row, though. . . where’s that Bible?

  • Demonhype

    Sure, he has a right to be obnoxiously pimptastic about his religious beliefs.  And we have the right to find it obnoxiously pimptastic.  His right to tout his beliefs in all forums in whatever way he wants no matter how appropriate or not does not include any right to never be criticized for it.  No one has the right to be agreed with all the time and always have any dissenters stay quiet.  You won’t find a lot of atheists saying he has no right to ever express his faith, just that they find it inappropriate or distasteful or overdone or that he seems to be less expressing faith than pimping it.  None of those ideas is tantamount to racing into the field and dragging him off his knees in an offended huff–or even suggesting someone in charge ought to be doing that.

    It’s an excellent example of christian privilege to think that your right to your beliefs or even to the overshare of your beliefs extends to never being criticized.  You speak, people respond, and they have an equal right to respond.  And you can respond back.  It’s called “having a discussion”.

    It’s also an excellent example of christian privilege to think that the only people who could possibly find religious grandstanding distasteful or obnoxious or inappropriate are atheists, but guess what?  Many religious people find it distasteful, obnoxious and inappropriate too and consider it actually disrespectful to faith–reducing their deeply held beliefs to a low-minded, attention whoring commercial level with McDonald’s or Paris Hilton or something.  I have known many religious people who get that sick look when someone starts falling to their knees or making a spectacle of their faith.  To them, you may love your wife but that doesn’t mean you make love to her on the front lawn in a spectacle for all to see, and the same goes for God.

    Also, with all the atheist signs going up and all the religious caterwauling about it, how often do atheists get angry that the religious are *gasp!* responding to our signage and criticizing our views?  If we are discriminated against, refused equal access to public services that cater to religious groups, we fight and even invoke the law.  But if people say things about our message, we respond back, sometimes angrily if someone responds in a particularly violent or repressive way such as putting us on a level with murderers or saying we ought to be locked up for the crime of existing openly without apology, but we don’t say “we have the right to express ourselves, so your criticizing of our position and responding to our public message is depriving us of our free speech rights!”  If you don’t like what we’re saying, go ahead and respond!  If you like it, respond!  That’s what free speech is all about!  If you want to make your opinion publicly known then there will be as many people taking a shot at it as agreeing with you, and the more public a figure you are the more people are going to notice and respond, and it’s childish to start crying because not everyone clapped their hands and congratulated your beliefs or opinions, that some people had the audacity to not agree with you and say so–the nerve!  It comes with the territory, so get used to it.

    Rather than whining that our exercise of our free expression is somehow infringing on Tebow’s rights to free expression–to the point where we’re saying he’s “not allowed” to do anything religious, which no one said–you’d probably do better to stick with explaining why you don’t find it obnoxious or inappropriate or disrespectful, and try not to misrepresent what people say (like turning “I find his religious grandstanding obnoxious and distasteful” into “I think he should be prohibited from expressing his religious beliefs EVAR!!!!1!!!”.  But if you do, be ready to have a discussion because there might be someone who disagrees with you.

  • Bob

    If I had a deep and meaningful relationship with the divine, such that I could count on their assistance with one thing …

    … it wouldn’t be throwing a damn football. Just saying.

    Other than that, Tebow’s problem seems to be the ‘I’m special because I believe’ hobby horse. Pam Tebow chose life, we’re told – but so do thousands of women, around the globe, every single day. Plenty of stars in the NFL, even college ball – and most of them don’t have to drive the Jesusmobile onto the field at every opportunity.

  • NickDB

    I often use the example that at one stage of human history 100% of the earth’s population believed the world to be flat.

    Just because everyone believes something doesn’t make it true. At least in that stage of history, before we knew about gravity etc, thinking the earth was flat was logical.

  • Anonymous

    “Killing Yourself To Live” is my favorite of the Klosterman books.

    As for the Tebow/God connection for his recent success, I’m going to have to give full credit to Denver’s coaching staff for reaming his ass out and telling him he needed to play better and giving him actual tips on how to execute plays better.  God or anything mythical had nothing to do with his 4th quarter saves/wins.

  • I don’t think a good person supports the kind of pure hate coming from Focus on the Family.

  • Whether or not you personally like sports, the fact remains that they are a part of life for millions of Americans, and thus worthy and valid subjects of discussion for anyone interested in cultural analysis. I personally think religions are stupid, but I also see the value in staying informed on religious news in my country, because I know it impacts the culture around me.

    There are many reasons intelligent people like sports. I’ve always been fond of this top ten list put together by Anna Clark: She was doing her analysis from a feminist perspective, but the arguments apply beyond that. I encourage you to read the full article, but I’ll also recreate her list here:

    #10: Sports are community-building

    #9: Sports celebrate physical intelligence

    #8: Sports are one of the few realms where adults play

    #7: Sports are inherently optimistic

    #6: Sports honor their history

    #5: Sports are aesthetically beautiful

    #4: Sports carry the power of stories and storytelling

    #3: Sports are a venue to connect with people very different than you

    #2: Sports are visionary

    #1: Sports are joyful

  • Tim Tebow bugs the shit out of me, but in the interest of fairness I should say that, from what I can tell, he does not attribute his wins to divine intervention (though he does *thank* god for them). 

    At least according to Bob Costas:

  • Anonymous

    You again missed the point. Tebow is making a statement about his god that’s repugnant.  Anyone who conjures up and worships a god that makes sure Tim Tebow throws a good game while letting children suffer is *not* a good person, and that includes Tim Tebow.

  • sni2000

    Bentley, I wonder if you might be mistaking the point of the public post-touchdown prayer.  I think the public prayer is a response to public praise, not to athletic success.  The fact that athletic success and public praise occur at the same time produces the confusion.  We are used to an athlete using the post-touchdown celebration to say “praise me” and we assume Tebow has merely added a religious component and is therefore saying “praise me for two reasons.”  In fact, I think the prayer is intended to, and does, deflect praise away from Tebow.  
            Tebow has a core Christian belief that everything he has (skill, opportunity, courage etc.) is a gift from God. The public’s default view is the direct opposite–the athlete is the source of these gifts.  Consistent with their view, the public praises the athlete (screams his name/cheers) when the touchdown occurs. At that moment, the Christian athlete is immersed in an environment shouting a message about the athlete that directly contradicts the athlete’s core belief about himself.  To the athlete, doing nothing has two effects: 1) it allows the public to continue in a mistaken view about him; 2) it eventually can cause the athlete to forget his belief and adopt the public’s mistaken view about who he is.  

    In this view, the public message of Tebow’s act of prayer is not “thank you God for making me a winner,” but is instead “I am not the source of my athletic ability.”  This is rationale whether that message is a reminder for himself or a message to the fans.  He is rebutting a mistaken view of himself that is being expressed in his presence.  I have trouble seeing how this is distasteful. The location is not distasteful.  A post-touchdown celebration is a traditional forum for assigning praise (i.e. many players bang on their chest, likely to affirm the public’s belief that the player is an appropriate object of praise). The topic cannot be distasteful since the public and other players already express a view on where to attribute praise.  The degree of his expression is less dramatic than the level of praise expressed by the fans, and is more restrained than many celebrations used by players to draw attention to themselves.    His prayer does not exalt himself over others.  The act of prayer affirms the belief that everyone on the field has a common source and is equally indebted to God for their athletic gifts.  Because of this, his definition of himself is actually more unifying and more inclusive than the definition held by an athlete who bangs his chest and says “praise me” (and not others).  The fact that Tebow’s prayer occurs publicly after success, but after failure occurs (likely) privately, merely indicates that there is no need to deflect praise through an act of publicly attributing one’s gifts to God when a person is not being publicly praised. 

    It certainly can be believed that Tebow is wrong–that the explanation of who Tebow is extends no farther than work ethic, parents, and unexplained circumstance.  But I think it’s an unsupported leap to conclude that Tebow should accept this definition and remain silent at the moment when the surrounding environment defines him. 

  • Bill

    You might want to rethink that “implication” behind the kneeling.   Tebow kneeling does not imply that he thinks he is special or annointed.  To say so shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the religious impluse, at least as it expresses itself in the context of Christianity.  Mainstream Christianity teaches that its adherents remain inherently flawed, and in need of a forgivness that is freely offered through grace, not based on the merit of the individual.  This is the complete opposite of the “I’m special” accusation leveled by BentleyOwen. 

    In fact, I have recently seen numerous interviews related to Christmas displays where athiests claim the nativity scene is insulting to human dignity because the scene plays into the Christian narrative that we’re *all* sinners in need of redemption.

    Either Christianity is insulting because it degrades *all* people  as sinners, or it’s insulting because it exalts some people as favored of God, but you can’t have it both ways.

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