Tim Tebow and Jason Collins: A Tale of Two Athletes

How the media treated the two men reflects cultural treatment of Christians and homosexuals these days.

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Monday was a big day in professional sports, and for reasons that have little if anything to do with who won, who lost, or who made the play of the day. As everyone now knows, Washington Wizards backup center Jason Collins, who has travelled around the National Basketball Association for more than a decade, announced in a Sports Illustrated cover story that he was gay. At virtually the same time the New York Jets cut loose backup quarterback Tim Tebow, who had joined the team just about a year ago from the Denver Broncos.

He never got a chance to show what he could do in New York but Tebow was big news nonetheless. He's a talented – perhaps even gifted – quarterback who won the coveted Heisman Trophy. But the media in the Big Apple, probably the toughest in the nation, focused more on what he did on his knees rather than what he could do with his arm.

Tebow, you see, is a Christian – and is fairly open about. He seems to take the Biblical admonition not to hide one's faith under a bushel rather literally. He's used eye black to put scriptural citations on his face on game days. He prays in public and talks about God in an utterly respectful, even loving way. He and his mother appeared in a Superbowl Sunday television ad that talked about the virtues of life and directed people to a website where they could learn more about abortion.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

The secular crowd, New York sports writers included, have never forgiven him for any of that. When he arrived at the Meadowlands he was treated more like a circus freak than the guy who helped Denver make the playoffs the previous year and might just be the thing to get the Jets offense in line.

Collins, on the other hand, is essentially a journeyman player. He's had good numbers over the 12 years he's played the game but he's never been the kind of player the folks who casually follow basketball might have heard off. Yet he's the lauded for his "courage" in coming out, for standing up for what he believes in and becomes the overnight celebrity.

It's a study in contrasts. The fellow who represents what everyone seems to think is the cultural orthodoxy – Tebow – is practically chased off the field in a flurry of social media cat calls while Collins, who represents the outcasts and the unacceptable, gets the call from the president.

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Will Jason Collins Coming Out Make a Difference?]

Considering all that, it seems there's a little bit of cultural dishonesty being perpetrated on the American public by the New York-to-Washington mediaplex and the folks out in Hollywood. To hear them tell it, the country still perceives open homosexuals in the ways it did before Stonewall while Christians carry the day as they did in the days of Cotton Mather. And that's just not the case.

Look at the programs on broadcast television and basic cable, as my friend Janine Turner – formerly of "Friday Night Lights" and "Northern Exposure" and who now hosts a daily radio program on KPRC 950AM out of Houston if you use iHeartRadio – has suggested on more than one occasion.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should the Boy Scouts of America Lift Its Ban on Gay Members?]

There are more homosexual characters appearing regularly on television right now than those who hold openly conservative or Christian political views. More often than not, those who are the conservatives or the Christians – if they appear at all – are the butt of the joke in the comedy, the killer in the cop show, or the malefactors of environmental evil in the crusading lawyer dramas. This is not to suggest that there ought to be quotas or anything of the sort; it's just evidence that gays increasingly get cultural acceptance while conservatives and Christians are treated like invaders from another planet.

There is, of course no evidence that Tebow was let go from the team because of his commitment to Christ. Some have suggested it but the idea is widely dismissed. The Jets did just draft a quarterback and it was clear that, for whatever reason, Head Coach Rex Ryan did not see a future for him with the team. He will most assuredly find a way to serve in whatever role God has in mind for him. But consider Collins. He is a free agent and if his basketball career comes to an end after this season, it is almost an iron-clad guarantee that there will be a public discussion of what part his "coming out" had to do with it. Is this evidence of double standard? As former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin might say, "You betcha!"

  • Read Susan Milligan: Jason Collins Coming Out as Gay Can Change Sports for the Better
  • Read Peter Roff: How Baucus' Retirement Affects Tax Reform
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