I don’t like Tim Tebow.

Because I don’t watch much football, my dislike of Tim Tebow is based on specious evidence, namely that I occasionally watched Tebow play in college, and that it took me approximately two plays from scrimmage to pick up on his “thing.”

The religious thing, I mean.

And that thing was enough to make me not like him.

But a discussion of why I don’t like Tim Tebow would be, at best, dull and, at worst, parrot-like. Many people don’t like Tim Tebow. Notable exceptions include Broncos fans, regular church-goers, people who like his style of play, people who participate in the backlash to the backlash, and Rosicky Jones.

So maybe only 40% of people actively dislike Tim Tebow.

But these 40% make no secret of their dislike of Tim Tebow. People who don’t like Tim Tebow really don’t like Tim Tebow. And they aren’t afraid to say it.

Why do they feel so comfortable doing this?

Because it’s okay to hate Tim Tebow. Because Tim Tebow is white.

Athletes have been obnoxious about religion since Red Grange gave his famous sermon on the goal line.

The preceding was made up, of course, but I think you know what I mean: athletes are prone to God-aggrandizement, and this trait isn’t a new one. From Reggie White to Kurt Warner to Sammy Sosa’s post-home run sky points, religion prances around the fringes of sports like a spiritual dance team.

It doesn’t take a demographics guru to note that most professional and/or high level athletes are black. Nor does it take a degree in religious studies to note that most people are religious, or at least say they believe in a higher being. The result: lots of black dudes scoring touchdowns and pointing at the sky and Jamal Crawford saying that God had something to do with the banked-in three-pointer he just made. Because as everyone knows, the Big Guy loves Him some Atlanta Hawks.

As a society, we are not yet comfortable discussing race. We’ve been programmed to think that criticism of another man, if that man is of another race, is wrong. Or worse, racist. As such, when a white man in Missouri watches Chad Ochocinco praise God in the end zone, he pens up his dislike for Ochocinco’s religious showiness and criticizes something safer about Ochocinco: that he’s selfish (which is questionable, considering that Ochocinco is sharing the glory with God, as it were) or that Ochocinco has that thing that white people have loved to diagnose since I was a child – an “attitude.”

This resentment of black athletes and their religiosity festers quietly, masked by safer criticisms.

And then, along comes Tim Tebow, kneeling in the end zone of Mile-High Stadium and the pus is released.

Of course, this wouldn’t happen if Tim Tebow weren’t good; Tebow’s goodness (at football, arguably) thrusts his Goodness (as a person, theoretically) into the public spotlight, and fans are given a chance to pass judgment (or Judgment, perhaps).

Finally, a white guy! If I say that Tim Tebow annoys the hell out of me, no one will accuse me of being racist!

Pretty soon, Tim Tebow becomes the poster boy for controversial religious athletes, even though Amar’e Stoudemire has been doing it for years. (Black Jesus, anyone?)

Black athletes who wax poetic about their religion aren’t obnoxious because they’re black. They’re obnoxious because they wax poetic about their religion. They are no more or no less obnoxious than Tim Tebow; Tim Tebow is no more or less obnoxious than they.

They’re all obnoxious.

So, what to do?

Well, for one thing, we shouldn’t feel bad for Tim Tebow. The man is going to heaven, after all.

Instead, we should seek to feel comfortable criticizing anyone who thanks God for whatever athletic feat he just performed, regardless of his race. Because, if someone thinks there exists a God who gives a damn about the result of the Broncos/Chargers game while hundreds of thousands suffer near-starvation on the horn of Africa, that person is an asshole.

And unfettered criticism of assholes, regardless of their race, is another big step toward the world of equality we’d all like to see.

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