No, I haven’t renounced my longstanding ressentiment and mistrust of football at any level of play, from Pop Warner through the NFL. It’s an appalling waste of money that pretty much sums up nearly everything that’s wrong with our culture, in universities and in the nation at large: profligacy, the wage gap, male supremacy, obsession with inconsequential trivia, anti-intellectualism, and the abuse of women. But, I’ve go no problem whatsoever with Tim Tebow. I don’t care about his public religiosity (although it’s not really my style). I’m impressed that a nice-looking, successful, and wealthy young man has taken a vow of chastity before marriage, not because I value chastity in particular, but because this is also effectively a vow not to abuse women sexually and not to rape them.
Even by comparison to most other professional or college athletes, football players have particularly poor records of abusing women, raping them, or even as we learned last year about Tebow’s teammate Perrish Cox, raping an unconscious woman, and denying it even after a DNA test of her fetus indicated that he was its father. Seriously–this happened! Last weekend, I was just fine with the fact Tebow and his team defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been three times charged with rape.
Conservative columnist Michael Medved–whose work usually makes me throw up a little in my mouth–wrote a perceptive column recently about the mysterious hatred that Tebow inspires. In it, he suggested that Tebow’s squeaky-clean gee-whiz perfection is what rankles other men: “In the same sense, most males look at Mr. Tebow and see a virtuous rebuke to our own limitations and imperfections. If we were 24, single, supremely athletic, enormously wealthy and adored by millions of young women, how many could still wear Tim Tebow’s ‘purity ring?’” It occured to me after reading Medved that Tebow offers a radically different yet clearly authentic masculinity that’s not built around “scoring” with women and treating women like consumer goods. This is a very different notion of masculinity than most American men inhabit, including Tebow’s opponent this afternoon, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. (Brady isn’t a rapist, but he seems to be a serial impregnator. Eeeww.)
So long as Tebow’s religious and moral commitments prevent him from raping or otherwise abusing women, it’s all good from my perspective. I might even change my mind about football if substantial numbers of other players followed his example and “tebowing” also became a synonym for treating women like human beings. Maybe Tim Tebow could make that cool.