It had to happen. I’ve been expecting it. Today I read a column that said Jeremy Lin is “just like Tim Tebow.”
Sigh. No, he’s not.
Yes, he’s six foot three and young.
Yes, he’s a devout Christian. But he’s quiet about it. He mentions his faith in interviews, but almost as an aside and usually to deflect praise from himself. He closes his eyes and prays before the tip off, but he doesn’t seek out cameras and kneel dramatically in front of them. In other words, for Jeremy, the Christian thing appears to be part of who he is, not a marketing strategy. (To be fair, Tebow’s parents are evangelists, so to some extent Christianity is the family business. It puts bread on the table.)
Also, he’s smart, or at least smartish—he went to Harvard. And even more important, he’s earned his position on the Knicks by being good at what he does, not been given his starting role because a large and vocal segment of the population wishes he were good.
I get that people seem to need religion. (My theory on that is that we are the only animals that don’t live in the moment but are cognizant that there is an uncertain and potentially scary future. That ability is so terrifying that we have to have a mechanism to deal with it. And that mechanism is to conjure up an all-knowing, kindly being that will intercede on our behalf when things go bad, as they certainly will. God or spirituality is what financial analysts call a plug, something you put into an equation when you know the answer you want but not the correct inputs.)
I also get that Christians seem to need to talk about it. I am not sure to what extent this is conversational habit or how much is a lack of confidence on their part: “Here’s what I believe in. Tell me you believe in it, too. Please tell me you do.” But one way or the other, they do.
I was raised in Waycross, Georgia. Despite what you see about southerners on cable TV, decent folk in Waycross don’t talk about personal stuff with strangers. It’s none of your business if I am straight or gay, Republican or Democrat, Christian or Jew. I’d be very happy if everyone else followed the same rules. But they don’t.
So every time someone sticks a microphone in Kurt Warner’s face, we get to hear about his lord and savior, etc, etc. I don’t like it, but to be honest, I am the one on the couch too lazy to change the channel. And I am not sure what I would rather hear Warner talk about. I don’t care much about his views on politics or anything else. I already know the story of how he bagged groceries in Iowa after college. If he were to offer a technical explanation of what he just did on the field, I am not sure I know enough about football to follow his explanation. So I am watching, he is talking, and we have to fill up the time with something. It might as well be his religious beliefs. We’re talking Kurt Warner, not Carl Sagan here.
But the point is I am watching Kurt Warner or Jeremy Lin because they are fabulous athletes who just accomplished something spectacular. I want to share the moment and the price I pay for that is hearing a commercial about Jesus. I don’t like it, but that’s the way the whole commercial thing works. The thing with Tebow is that he hasn’t accomplished anything, and we still have to listen to his infomercial.
So, don’t compare Jeremy Lin to Tim Tebow. Seriously, you’re insulting the guy.