I don’t know if kids still collect football cards. I did back in the day. Ravenously.
Football cards never had all the great statistics you could get from a baseball card. The back of a baseball card gave you a player’s curriculum vitae from the previous season, as well as how many doubles he hit in 1957 when he was a shortstop in the Sally League.
Football cards didn’t get that detailed because a lot of the players simply had no statistical gauges. The cards tended to focus on a few highlights from a college career coupled with whatever sobriquets he got from his pro days.
The big benefit to me of a football card was that I could find out if a player was Catholic. Since Jim Katcavage of my New York Giants played for the University of Dayton in his college days, then I figured he was Catholic and I was loyal to him. Don Meredith not only was on the rival Dallas Cowboys, but he played at Southern Methodist University. Enough said.
OK. So, I was what you might call in our more enlightened days a parochial Catholic. But remember that in 1960 there was a major public debate about whether or not a Catholic should be allowed to run for president. I had good reason to be a little testy.
I thought about all that when the Tim Tebow battle broke out in the media. Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner who led the University of Florida to two national championships, has become the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. As of this writing the Broncos have won more than they have lost with Tebow as their quarterback.
Though he is generally recognized as a good guy and a good teammate, Tebow has become a lightning rod for all kinds of abuse, whether he wins or not. The New York Times last month referred to it as a full-blown “religious feud.”
In addition to being perhaps one of the greatest college football players ever, Tebow is a committed Christian. And that seems to be the source of his problems with certain audiences. He famously starred with his mother in a mildly pro-life advertisement during the Super Bowl that brought out all the mixed nuts quick to censor him and any faith-based sentiment.
Tebow takes his faith seriously and clearly defines himself by his faith. And the reaction has been what even the Times — no great friend of either religious faith or religious freedom — calls “hateful vitriol.”
Now, I have to say that the theology represented by Tebow’s father is not my cup of tea. Tebow’s Old Man would have Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and my parents roasting because they all died unrepentant papists.
I have no way of knowing if Tebow shares this fundamentalist brand with his Old Man. My guess would be that it is unlikely. I’ve never heard him utter an anti-Catholic sentiment and Urban Meyer, his head coach at Florida and a second father to him, is a serious Catholic.
But what amazes me in all this is that Tebow is apparently hated by a vast and vocal horde solely because of his Christianity. People will use the most hateful language in reference to him because he is a believer and goes public with it.
I don’t know spit about whether Tebow should be the quarterback for the Denver Broncos. As an armchair fan, it sure seems the Broncos have put together an offense geared to hide his flaws at the position.
A fan can get upset that a guy is quarterback who doesn’t seem to have pro-level skills. But to hate a guy personally and to hate him solely because he is a professed Christian is bizarre and bigoted. And not too surprising in the culture that we live in today.
I can’t imagine what they would say today about Jim Katcavage.
Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.