It’s funny how a bit of fame can turn the most trivial of statements into full-blown scandal. Former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer, best known for his one good year with the Denver Broncos (13-3 in 2005), had some disparaging things to say about controversial pseudo-quarterback Tim Tebow:
“Tebow, regardless of whether I wish he’d just shut up after a game and go hug his teammates, I think he’s a winner and I respect that about him,” Plummer said. “I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ then I think I’ll like him a little better. I don’t hate him because of that, I just would rather not have to hear that every single time he takes a good snap or makes a good handoff.” (LINK)
For anyone who’s lived under a rock for the past five years, Tim Tebow is widely thought to be the best quarterback in the history of the University of Florida Gators, and his name is tossed around in debates over the best college player ever. His NFL career, however, has been mediocre at best. He has received what many believe to be an inordinate amount of coverage for poor statistical performances that have nonetheless led to victories for the foundering Denver Broncos.
More to the subject matter at hand, Tebow is also very, very well known for being a devoted Christian. Whether he’s tackling his mother to end abortion (no… really!) or tweeting Bible verses before games to his starry-eyed fans, or evangelizing to teammates (or anyone else who will listen), Tebow is definitely a Christian. No doubt about it. For anyone. Ever. He makes sure of it. Every chance he gets.
Jake Plummer’s remarks are sure to provoke some harsh backlash. Plummer did have one good season — of that, there’s no argument. Even so, his career was lackluster, and many will say that his comments are nothing more than sour grapes from the green eyed monster. This might be true, of course, but there’s likely to be a bit more to it.
Plummer was very good friends with Pat Tillman. If you didn’t know who Tim Tebow is, you probably didn’t know that Pat Tillman was an atheist player who lost his life after leaving the NFL to join the Army Rangers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Despite attempts by Maria Shriver and John McCain to smooth over the fact during the funeral, Tillman was outspokenly atheist, as are other surviving members of his family. His brother Richard famously retorted: “He’s not with God, he’s f*****g dead. He’s not religious.” Richard added, “Thanks for your thoughts, but he’s f*****g dead.” (LINK)
Based on the close friendship between Plummer and Tillman, there’s a decent chance that Plummer shares non-religious sentiments to some degree, and the sour grapes have more to do with the constant intrusion of religion into professional sports than with stat comparisons. Tillman’s story was a difficult one for the media because it could not be ignored, and his atheism could not be reasonably denied. The subsequent accusations of a military cover-up surrounding his death (LINK) perpetuated the chatter. Tillman represents a foil for the “God-and-Country” crowd. He was a very good man, according to all who knew him. He was highly decorated (LINK) and died while serving his country.
With this perspective in mind, it is easier to understand why Jake Plummer might be a bit upset about all the media smoke blowing up Tebow’s skirt. Tebow has done little of statistical worth in the NFL, and the Broncos are actively “exploring their options” to try to find a long-term quarterback to replace him. His biggest claims to fame are that he’s really intense and that he’s a Christian. Also, he’s a Christian. And by the way, he loves Jesus. And he’s a Christian. And God helped him win that last game. And the one before that. Also, he’s a Christian, and he loves Jesus.
Some people might try to make this into some sort of a free speech issue, but I don’t believe that’s what it’s about. Nobody is denying Tebow’s right to believe any sort of nonsense he wants, or to thank Jesus after a game, or to do anything at all that’s his right to do. It’s more about the fact that the media brushed aside, covered up, and lied about the non-religious beliefs held by a very good man who tried to do real good in the universe. Now they’re prattling on and on about Tebow, and giving him every chance he wants to proselytize over the airwaves. One man had the gall to stand up and say it’s annoying.
And he’s right.