Tim Tebow, the New York Jets, and the Coming Culture War

Tim Tebow is a "red state" phenomenon who will suddenly be in a "blue state" spotlight.


Oh my beloved Jets, what have you wrought? Tim Tebow in green and white? I suppose this can't be written off as a very costly way to make Mark Sanchez look like an accurate passer. As a Jets fan, I see in this trade the kind of puzzling, reactive, too clever, overreach that this franchise specializes in (hello Mike Nugent). But as a native New Yorker (transplanted to suburban Virginia), I'm kind of fascinated to see what happens when holy Tim comes to, as a National Review Online headline put it, Gomorrah.

As my friend (and New York Post columnist) Robert George tweeted yesterday, when the trade was in doubt: "@rschles Not sure how my prayers should go. As Jets fan, I'd be happy to see trade die. As tabloid journalist, I WANT THIS!!"

[Slide Show: When Sports and Politics Collide.]

On the purely football aspects, this trade is, as ESPN New York's Rich Cimini put it yesterday, "logic-defying." It's not like the Jets are a near championship team with few holes to fill that can afford to flush draft picks for an expensive role player. And after trying to prop up their embattled franchise quarterback with a contract extension, the Jets have turned around and created a quarterback controversy. As Cimini writes:

It won't be an every-so-often thing. It will become the soundtrack of the Jets' season. Sanchez will have to be Tom Brady to keep the crowd on his side. Change isn't a bad thing if the new guy is better, but Tebow doesn't have the passing skills to be a long-term answer.

And that hardly scratches the off-the-field stuff, including the fact that Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie was lobbying against the trade on Twitter even as it was being transacted.

[Read Susan Milligan: God Has Better Things to Do than to Worry about Tim Tebow]

But what really fascinates me is the really nonfootball, cultural side of the equation. A significant part of Tim Tebow's appeal stems from his deep faith and his willingness to (some would say insistence on) publicly display that faith. And it goes without saying that his legend is rooted in his great college football career. On their face neither of these factors seem likely to resonate as strongly in the New York City metro area (known neither for its evangelical fervor nor its passion for college football) as it does in Florida or Colorado. To put it in crude, political terms, Tim Tebow is a "red state" phenomenon who will suddenly be in a "blue state" spotlight. (As National Review's Daniel Foster writes, "Does anyone think the New York media will take an interest in Tebow's social life? They are going to eat the kid alive.")

If you thought that Tebow was a nationally polarizing figure already, wait until he becomes the symbol of small town versus big city, real America versus Gomorrah, and so forth.

Let the games begin.

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