Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tim Tebow and Symbol Drain

 It's astonishing the ways in which Sports and Faith intertwine.  The Biography section in Lifeway, where I work currently, is stocked full of books about the lives of Tony Dungy, Jeremy Lin, Kurt Warner...etc... These are men who have excelled in the highest levels of athletic competition, and yet they are quick to acknowledge Christ as the source of their strength.  They have tons of admirers, and the countless people who they may have helped convert to Christianity are more important than any championship they may have won. One could easily argue there is no greater symbol of the Christian Faith today, than that of former Florida Gator, and former Denver Bronco Quarterback Tim Tebow. In relation to my previous blog, Tebow has garnered the anti-religious group into a well constructed "symbol drain" to trivialize the praying warrior.

This isn't "Atheists against Tebow." If we are to put a religious context in the fate of Tebow Time, Satan works in subtle ways, as well.  The main threat that Tebow has toward those who are fans of football is that he brings forth numbers that make no sense. He is the opposite of every empirically derived statistic that has been formed about football.  How can a quarterback throw for only 2 passes, and somehow still win the game?  And when he wins his first Playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in a game that lasted 3:16, throwing for an amazing 316 yards (think John on this) it's impossible to think that some supernatural force is at work with his gameplay.  Tebow has done this all his playing career, and it will be interesting to see how he manages in New York (the parallel of sending Jonah to Nineveh.) Most sports fans, John Elway probably included, can't understand the skewing of numbers from what is normal to something totally out of the ordinary. It goes against every bit of sports science they knew. In fact, it goes against the idea that science, numbers, technology, is supposed to be the answer for everything. Tebow is a threat to the status quo so anyone who doesn't understand the work of God behind his play, wants to see him fail.

Again, this wasn't done by some direct assault, but rather   through what Neil Postman called Symbol Drain.  I call it "Symbol Inflation," but it's the same thing. You make the target funny, inconsequential, irrelevant.  And there were many ways of doing this. First, and most important, the idea of "Tebow Time," and the man itself must be clearly made into a symbol. Tebow himself gave them the answer as he prayed after each miraculous touchdown. In a pose that is now called "Tebowing," the kneeling stance became a symbol of everything Tebow stood for. But as it became a phenomenon, mostly through the usage of Youtube (one of the most influential Media ever created for instant manipulation of any Message), everyone started Tebowing. It became a fad, like "Planking," to kneel "as if praying" and record it in a photo or a Youtube video. The crucial part of this action, however, is that the meaning of the act, in reverence to God, was totally wiped away. It became just a motion, bereft of any prayerful attitudes. This culminated with the Jimmy Fallon impression of Ziggy Stardust/Tim Tebow singing a parody of "Major Tom". In the end, he sings, "Everyone out there Tebow," and Fallon, as Ziggy Stardust, "Tebows," and the crowd goes crazy. In this act, Tebow is trivialized, as are the principles by which he lives his life. Christianity goes by the wayside.

Fortunately, Tebow has refused to do very many talk shows, probably because he knows that any interview will further trivialize his message. But that doesn't stop the Paparazzi from taking pictures of Tebow whenever they can.  In New York, he was spotted having a manicure, and so they took a picture and spread it far and wide, comparing the new Jets QB to the arrogance of Joe Namath, but without the star playing power.  It will continue to happen, and Tebow will be ridiculed and trivialized all throughout the media. Let us hope that his Message is stronger than their Medium. Since it is God's Message, it has to be.

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