Tim Tebow made major headlines by doing something minor when he signed a minor league baseball contract with the New York Mets. Although the situation is quite different from when he played football, first at the University of Florida then in the NFL, one thing is universal when it comes to Tim Tebow: the reaction is always the same. Americans either love or hate Tebow passionately no matter what he does, and it has become apparent that much of this hatred has nothing to do with his athletic endeavors but rather his publicly professed Christian beliefs.
Last week after working out for several Major League teams, the 29-year-old former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback officially signed a minor league baseball contract. Even before the contract was inked, critics went out of their way to smear the whole process. The criticism came in two forms: First that this was nothing more than a publicity stunt done to generate revenues, and second that Tebow was “unfairly taking” a roster spot of a more deserving player, robbing that minor leaguer an opportunity to make the Major Leagues. Both of those criticisms fall flat on their face upon rational examination.
When it comes to his signing being nothing more than a publicity stunt, let me respond by asking, since when has it been wrong to try to generate publicity in professional sports? Major League Baseball, after all, is a business and, historically speaking, with characters like Bill Veeck and George Steinbrenner baseball has never been shy about trying to garner headlines. Even so, all the criticism that the Mets signed Tebow just for publicity and as a revenue boost is unwarranted. Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson summed it nicely by pointing out the obvious, “I have to tell you, the notion that we’re going to spend $100,000-plus on a player so we can sell a couple of hundred dollars worth of T-shirts in Kingsport, those economics don’t work.” Kingsport is one of the Mets minor league affiliates, and $100,000 was Tebow’s signing bonus.
As for Tebow robbing a more legitimate minor league player a spot on the rooster, I say hogwash. Only 10% of minor league players make the Majors, and with Tebow’s athleticism and power potential he will certainly be a better gamble than the worst minor leaguer in the Mets organization. Granted, the odds that Tebow plays in the Major Leagues are slim, and because he is starting his pro baseball career so late in life, even if he does get to the Majors the chances that he makes a meaningful impact is small. Statistically speaking he’s in a situation no different from that of the overwhelming majority of minor league baseball players who have had the opportunity to sign a professional contract.
If you need evidence that part of the reason some people are squawking about Tebow’s minor league venture is his religious beliefs, test it for yourself. Type “hate Tebow Christian” in Google and you’ll find about a half million searches. Type in other similar combinations and include other search engines and you can probably come up with millions and millions of such queries, with many of those sites that pop up being unabashedly proud of their bigotry.
Let me be clear, I’m no Hillary Clinton who recently and shamelessly cast negative aspersions on Trump supporters. Similarly, most people who dislike Tebow aren’t anti-Christian bigots. Sports inflame passions in people, and they may have a variety of reasons to dislike Tebow, some legitimate, some not. But even taking this into account one must ask what does this say about society when the knee-jerk reaction to anything Tebow is to complain vigorously?
Attacking Christianity is in vogue these days. In some regions of the world Christians have been exterminated right off the map with, at best, a barely audible tsk-tsk from our world leaders. At home in America it is good sport, and profitable as well, to mock and disparage Christianity in the public square, with people like the late Christopher Hitchens making a nice living out of it. And don’t dare display a cross in a non-sanctioned location or utter the word “Christ” on a public university’s property without being in a free speech zone unless you want the wrath of activists, lawyers, and the justice system on your back.
I have no special insight on whether Tebow’s baseball venture will succeed or fail, and it is certainly a person’s prerogative to root against him on and off the playing field. But if you’re in the I can’t stand Tebow no matter what crowd, perhaps it would be wise to reflect upon your own motivations. If so, you just might find your problem isn’t with really with Tebow at all.