[Op Ed] The Tim Tebow Affect or Celebrating Whiteness?
1 year ago
The hype behind the NFL rookie runs deeper than touchdowns
The commentary surrounding Tim Tebow is equally emblematic of the hegemony of white masculine discourses. Notwithstanding the fact that he has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice during the 2011 NFL season, pundits and fans alike imagine Tebow as a player who is denied respect and appreciation. Notwithstanding the fact that ESPN might as well be renamed ETSN – Everyday Tebow Sport Network – the discourse has continually represented Tebow as a victim of unfair media criticism.
For example, in “Tim Tebow Unfairly Bashed by Media Following Denver Broncos Loss,” West O’Connell writes that “Tebow deserves plenty of blame for the Week 8 loss, but it's not all on him. Saying he's the ‘worst quarterback in the NFL’ is not only absurd, but unjust as well.” Others have been less diplomatic, ostensibly denouncing sports media for unfairly demonizing Tebow. While the level of criticism has been limited, to deny some of the on-the-field questions is disengenuous. Questions about his mechanics, his skills as a quarterback, and his overall readiness are legitimate sports questions. Yet, the Tebow defenders have dismissed the sports-basis of these criticisms, instead arguing that the purported unfair criticism stems from Tebow’s religion and politics. For example, Jen Floyd Engel describes the vitriol directed at Tebow as being about politics and religion rather than football:
His religious fervor is an easy target for the vitriol spewed from those who dislike him, but the reasons are much deeper than that. From his advocacy of abstinence to his infamous “You will never see another team play this hard” speech at Florida, it is like he is too good to be true. He is too nice, and thereby we want him to trip up so we can feel better. We want him to be revealed as a hypocrite, and when that fails to happen, we settle for gleefully celebrating his failures on the football field. And why? Because he dares to say thanks?
Overstated and connected to anti-Christian/anti-conservative politics, much of the Tebow discourse replicates the hegemonic claims about anti-white male politics in the post-civil rights era. As noted by Kyle Kusz, “this new, new cultural racism involves the production and dissemination of a number of affectively appealing stories of white people who authentically come from, and/or exist within, the social margins; or whites portrayed as victims (of affirmative action, black athletic superiority, etc.); or white groups or individuals who appear to be disaffiliated from white privilege. “ Tim Tebow fills this role as athletic, religious and racial signifiers. According to his defenders, the purported criticism of him reflects an anti-Christian bias and a general contempt for his support of conservative causes. Equally important, the discourse seems to imagine Tebow as a victim of a multiracial media, particularly former black players, who are intent on tearing Tebow down. With “Dogtown and Z-Boys, white particularity, and the new, new cultural racism,” Kusz writes,