New York Times sports columnist Harvey Araton issued a snotty broadside (“Curtain Closes on Tebow’s Season, but His Sideshow Goes On") against Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, whose religious displays, unconventional style, and clutch performances have divided fans and popular culture. Araton went beyond admitting discomfort at Tebow’s overt religiosity to begrudge the quarterback for a good deed -- spending time with a brain-damaged visitor after the Broncos’ playoff loss to the New England Patriots.
A look into Araton’s history reveals his anti-Tebow rant as liberal hypocrisy. Araton took the opposite view in an April 2009 column, marking NFL television commentator John Madden’s retirement by excoriating the Hall of Fame coach for failing to speak out on issues beside football. But for Araton, speaking out means speaking out on liberal views, like Bob Costas, who he praised. In a May 2006 column Araton faulted the Duke women's lacrosse team for speaking out in defense of male colleagues being falsely accused of rape, even suggesting college officials should intervene to stop them.
From Araton’s Monday column:
Our story begins with the end, with Tim Tebow walking from the interview room into the off-season via a chilly corridor of Gillette Stadium, where 20-year-old Zachary McLeod was waiting with his family. Tebow, the southpaw quarterback with the scruffy beard and smiling eyes, was about to execute the postgame plan a whole lot better than he and the Denver Broncos had performed outside on the field against Tom Brady and New England.
Back in the interview room, Tebow had mentioned McLeod, of Cambridge, Mass., who four years ago sustained a traumatic brain injury in a high school football game that left him mentally disabled, unable to return to school or ever live on his own.
He spoke of spending time with McLeod before Saturday’s game in what has become part of the weekly routine for Tebow wherever he has traveled as part of his foundation’s Wish 15 program.
“Over all, it wasn’t a bad day,” he’d said after a 45-10 playoff drubbing by the Patriots. “It depends on what lens you look through.”
Tebow, as usual, was looking through the light of a devoutly religious life. In the corridor, he hugged the young man, whose parents, Pat and Tammy, called themselves devout Christians and said their son had been to South Africa on a mission months before his injury.
In football terms, this was a cheap shot:
Soon they were all praying together, while a protective cocoon of Tebow’s people formed around the pair, becoming huffy when a couple of reporters stopped to observe.
“Private family time,” one said, which was strange, because the scene was a hard-to-miss public spectacle, like so much of the Tebowing phenomenon, and it lasted considerably longer than any Denver drive.
Araton was in full smug condescension mode, deigning to give the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback adviceon both religious practice and athletic leadership.
He comes off as exceedingly earnest and sincere, though his religious invocations can have the same repetitive effect of those uttered during a Miss America pageant. Being uncomfortable with them doesn’t make one a hater or a heathen, just one of many who wonder if there is an appropriate time and place and if the football environment doesn’t always have to be one of them. Maybe as part of the growth process, Tebow will figure that out.
As he always does, he thanked his teammates for their support and effort immediately after praising God. But one was left to surmise that he, the Broncos’ purported leader, should have been with them late Saturday night instead of in the corridor tending to his personal business, no matter how giving it was.