This past Sunday I got a first-hand glimpse of one of the hottest phenomena in
American pop culture and sports.
The venue was Metlife Stadium in New
Jersey, the occasion was the first round of the National Football League
Just prior to the start of the game between the New York Giants
and the Atlanta Falcons, after the Giants had come onto the field, eight of
their players headed toward the end zone, where they did something entirely
These hulking and intimidating behemoths, who make their
living by strapping on layers of protective body gear and pummelling their
opponents, each knelt down on one knee, bowed their heads, and offered a silent
This act has come to be known as “Tebowing,” after Tim Tebow, the
quarterback of the Denver Broncos, whose signature prayerful genuflections have
become a popular and internet sensation.
Tebow, who has led his team to
some stunning comeback victories, including this past weekend when he tossed an
80-yard touchdown pass in overtime to defeat the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers, is
an unabashed fan of his Christian faith. He talks about it in interviews and
does not shy away from publicly thanking God for his team’s success.
growing number of athletes have begun to follow suit, offering thanks to the
Creator for their triumphs on the field as well.
WATCHING THE Giants
kneel filled me with a sense of awe. What humility! Surrounded by 80,000
screaming admirers, with millions more watching on television, these grandees of
the gridiron had no qualms about engaging in a public act of such profound
Like anyone about to undertake a monumental and daunting
task, they sought solace in spirituality, acknowledging that we humans
ultimately owe everything to the Head Coach in heaven.
At a time when
society so badly lacks positive role models, it is refreshing to see some of
America’s top athletes setting such an excellent example for the countless
number of kids who look up to them.
Indeed, as Jews, we should welcome
and encourage this development because it can only help to restore a healthy
sense of perspective, one that can serve to counterbalance the West’s
increasingly materialistic mores.
But not everyone, it seems, shares this
point of view.
Last month, the New York Jewish Week
ran a vile and
hateful column by one Rabbi Joshua Hammerman entitled “My problem with Tim
Hammerman had the gall to claim that should Tebow lead his team
to the championship, it could incite people to torch mosques and attack
Yes, you read that correctly.
“If Tebow wins the Super Bowl,
against all odds,” he wrote, “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
Huh? Is this guy serious?
After Hammerman’s screed
provoked widespread outrage, the Jewish Week
was quick to take his article off
its website and offer an apology, stating that his column “was more inciting
than insightful, and we erred in posting it, which we deeply regret.”
his credit, Hammerman also said he was sorry, acknowledging that what he wrote
was “clumsy and inappropriate, calling to mind the kind of intolerance and
extremism my article was intended to disparage.”
You can say that
But the imbroglio does highlight an important and troubling truth:
many Jews just are not comfortable with public displays of religion.
look askance at those who invoke the Divine, as though there is something
inappropriate or unseemly in doing so. For many Jews, it is legitimate to
demonstrate loudly on behalf of animal rights, global warming or to be an
assertive atheist who insists that we are all descended from apes.
you get down on one knee and thank the good Lord for your achievements, well,
that is somehow out of bounds.
The fact that Tebow is a Christian driven
by evangelical fervor only seems to add further fuel to the fire in the eyes of
his Jewish critics.
But this is as wrong-headed as it is small-minded,
and it says far more about his detractors than it does about
Personally, I am neither threatened nor intimidated when Christians
such as Tebow flaunt their faith in public, whether on or off the football
As an observant Jew, I am confident enough in my own belief system
not to feel jeopardized or vulnerable.
I am comfortable wearing a
yarmulke at all times and putting on tefillin in a busy airport. Neither I nor
anyone else should be made to feel that their expressions of faith ought to be
kept from public view.
Those Jews who share Hammerman’s sentiments and
identify with his discomfort are merely giving voice to their own insecurity,
spiritual and otherwise. Rather than hurling insults at others, they should look
within and ponder why someone else’s devotion could possibly irk them as much as
So while I am most certainly not a Denver Broncos fan, I do
believe it is time that we all catch a case of Tebow fever and give God His
After all, saying thanks to a Higher Power can only elevate
us to new heights and enrich our lives.
Even in the end zone.
writer is Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which assists lost tribes
and hidden Jewish communities to return to the Jewish people.