The New York Jewish Week finds both religious and political significance in this week’s game between Denver and New England:
Next Sunday, the Broncos host the New England Patriots in a game coveted so much by the networks that NBC and CBS sparred in unprecedented fashion over who would get to broadcast it. And why not? While the Patriots are adored by their fans (myself included), to many nationwide they are regarded as the Sons of Darkness, with their perfectly coiffed Hollywood quarterback and their brilliant – one might say diabolical – hoodie-clad coach. And, oh yes, the most identifiably Jewish owner in sports. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft are all upstanding citizens, moral exemplars in their home communities, but in this Oberammergau of the Rockies, they are playing the role of Pilate.
People are always looking for signs of God’s beneficence, and a victory by the Orange Crush over the blue-clad Patriots, from the bluest of blue states, will give fodder to a Christian revivalism that has already turned the Republican presidential race into a pander-thon to social conservatives, rekindling memories of those cultural icons of the ‘80s, the Moral Majority and “Hee Haw.” The culture wars are alive and well, and, if the current climate in Washington is any indicator, the motors are being revved up for what will undoubtedly be the most cantankerous Presidential campaign ever. When supposedly well-educated candidates publicly question overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change and evolution and then gain electoral traction by fabricating conspiracies about a war on Christmas, these are not rational times.
Into the middle of it all rides Tebow. Absolutely confident that God is on his side, he comes across as a humbler version of the biblical Joseph, who, in this week’s Torah portion, audaciously lays claim to being the Chosen One, and then goes out and proves it. Tebow’s sanctimonious God-talk has led even pious peers like Kurt Warner to suggest that he cool it. Joseph could have used the same coaching.
If Tebow wins the Super Bowl, against all odds, it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants. While America has become more inclusive since Jerry Falwell’s first political forays, a Tebow triumph could set those efforts back considerably.
This all makes it sound like a win by Tebow will be a win for the religious right, meaning bad news for the civilized world. Personally I think it is just a game and Tebow’s religious beliefs are not very important. There is a culture war, but it will not be fought on the football field. I’ll be rooting for Tom Brady and New England but not for any religious reasons. I’m rooting for Tom Brady because he is a Michigan man. Go Blue!