The Tebow Haters

One’s opinion of Tim Tebow tells you much. The Denver Broncos quarterback is a human Rorschach test.

Thursday night, the Football Jesus engineered a last-minute miracle victory over the New York Jets. A twenty-yard bootleg touchdown put the exclamation point on the upset.

One might think winning would provide an effective rebuttal to Tebow’s vocal detractors. Alas, haters gonna hate.

Anonymous online message boards are a favorite gathering spot for Tebow’s anti-fans. “If God really favored him, he would’ve given him a QB’s arm,” one internet wit announced during Thursday’s game, while another proclaimed him “an overhyped fraud whose time is quickly running out.”

After the game, Denver’s alternative weekly paper labeled Tebow the “best awful QB in NFL history,” asking: “How can a QB this bad keep winning?” Cowboys assistant coach Rob Ryan labeled Tebow’s run-oriented play “horse$#!+” that caused him to vomit. “This is the NFL,” barked the brother of the Jets head coach. “Those teams don’t win.”

Just a few hours earlier, that particular team did win. Tim Tebow tends to have that effect on logic.

Good people make bad people uncomfortable. Their example nudges everyone to undertake the hard work to be better. Our faults are so much easier to tolerate when we stand next to Jerry Sandusky.

More impressive than the on-field dramatics is the off-field demeanor. Tebow exhibited an infectious aw-shucks enthusiasm in his postgame interview with the NFL network. His namedropping of Jesus came across as heartfelt rather than perfunctory. He mouthed empty sports clichés with a strange conviction. He put a target on his back by plainly stating he wants to be a role model. As the highlight of his week, he pointed to a hospital his foundation helped build in the Philippines rather than the victory over the Jets.

Tim Tebow doesn’t know his place. Homeschooled kids win spelling bees not Heisman trophies. Two-hundred-and-fifty-pound specimens are supposed to play quarterback of the defense not middle linebacker of the offense. Touchdown celebrations give glory to oneself not to one’s God. Even in the womb, when his mother’s dysentery, prescribed drugs, and comatose state compelled doctors to advise abortion, and later to predict a stillbirth, neither Tim Tebow nor his mom conformed to the low standards experts expected of them. And his antagonists hate him for it.

Sports fans (short for fanatics, remember) cheer a fleet-footed dog executioner in Philadelphia. They riot for a coach who took a hands-off approach to an alleged pederast assistant. They bought record numbers of pay-per-view broadcasts of a heavyweight rapist. They are a forgiving bunch for whom good play atones for bad behavior. But for some fans, the one unforgivable sin is avoiding sin. We like our heroes to be heels. They flatter our egalitarianism and sense of superiority at once.

There is something sick about sports culture that also afflicts the broader culture. America increasingly celebrates winning of the Charlie Sheen sort. We jeer a spectacle more than we cheer accomplishment. We award notoriety and not achievement. Bizarro, not Superman, is our national superhero.

Player hating transcends sport. The great have more to fear from the mediocre than the mediocre have to fear from the great. Occupy Wall Street, a movement predicated on the assumption that the most successful one percent must be inherently immoral, transforms envy into a virtue. We reward failures: General Motors, Fannie Mae, Greece, Kim Kardashian. We attack success. We wonder why we continue to fail.

You have to be upside down to look down on the people on top. That’s the topsy-turvy country which we are slowly emigrating to, the United States of Resentment.

Who hates a winner? A loser.