“Tebowing” Taunt Turns Good Into Evil

By John Lund

The NFL playing field has always been a verbal slaughterhouse where only the strong survive. Taunting on and off the field thrives throughout the season and gives teams and players intense rivalries from year to year. Most taunts are seemingly harmless, while others can strike a nerve with the target of such pokes. At the half-way point of this year’s NFL season, taunting has remained average, except with the new phenomenon deemed “Tebowing.”

No need to waste space explaining the skills of Tim Tebow and whether or not he should be the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos; ESPN has already bored us to death with that over the last several weeks. What is relevant to us however is the act of “Tebowing.” For those of you unfamiliar with this term, “Tebowing” was coined by Denver native Jared Kleinstein, and is defined as, “to get down on one knee and start praying, even if everyone around you is doing something completely different.” Fans can post up to the minute images of them “Tebowing” at http://www.tebowing.com.

Tim Tebow is a devout Catholic and is very open about his strong beliefs in God. He donned Bible verses on his eye black strips for his college games at Florida and can often be seen praying before, during, or after his games. Tebow was, and is, a leader on and off the field for his teams, fellow players, and his religion. Many players around the NFL and throughout professional sports are openly religious and often thank God publicly for their accomplishments. So, what seems to be the problem? Why does Tebow catch heat for this when others don’t?

The problem arose in this past week’s game between the Lions and Broncos, but stemmed from what happened in the Broncos tilt with the Dolphins the week before. Tebow led Denver on a ferocious two-touchdown fourth quarter comeback that tied the game, allowing the Broncos to win on a field goal in overtime. Immediately after the kick, amidst the celebration of his teammates, Tebow could be seen genuflecting in prayer, probably thanking God for his accomplishments. This act of gratitude was pegged as another example of “Tebowing”, and quickly became an internet sensation.

Flash-forward to this past Sunday, with Tebow’s performance as the headliner before the game. It was absolutely dreadful to say the least, and the Lions had no trouble manhandling him the entire game. Trash talking was rampant throughout, as expected. But what stuck out as a red flag for me was the actions of Lion’s linebacker Stephen Tulloch after one of the many sacks against Tebow. Tulloch proceeded to get down on a knee and genuflect, mocking Tebow for his past actions. Former Broncos Tight End Tony Scheffler did it too, along with a sarcastic Mile-High salute to the Denver crowd.

As a Denver fan, I’ll be the first to say that I have no problem with players mocking the Mile-High salute after scoring a touchdown. If you can’t take a taunt, you shouldn’t be dishing one out. Being a Broncos fan also makes me a fan of Tebow, but I can understand the taunts he receives for his performance on the field. But to make fun of someone for his religious beliefs, beliefs that Tebow never brings onto the field or forces upon his opponents, is classless. I am in total agreement with a taunt after someone makes a play, but a person should never attack a player for something that he believes in. Would someone taunt Troy Polamalu, who is also deeply religious, for his beliefs? Absolutely not. Should the phrase “Tebowing” be used to exemplify the act of praying? Probably not. So who’s to blame?

I think the media is solely responsible for the Tebow phenomenon. He is constantly put under the microscope for his play on the field and his actions off of it, forcing people to either love him or hate him. As for the Lions, who are they all of a sudden to be the bullies of the NFL? Not too long ago, the Lions couldn’t even win one game in the regular season, and now, after still not proving anything with a 6-2 record, after not making the playoffs since the 1990s, the Lions think that they have the right to proclaim their greatness in a showboating way to their opponents? This also stems from their head coach, who is as arrogant on the field as he is in his pre and post game interviews, as evidenced by his post game confrontation with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh a few weeks ago.

Regardless of your opinion of Tim Tebow on the field, there should be no discrepancy in how he should be viewed off of it. To disrespect Tebow’s abilities is one thing, but to disrespect him as a person is a classless act. As far as taunting goes, I’m all for it, but there certainly has to be a line that constitutes going too far, a line I think the Lions may have crossed on Sunday.

Follow John on Twitter @lundinbridge

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