Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You Got Tebowed

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The major headline of the 2011 NFL season might've been the improbable rebound of the Detroit Lions or the Green Bay Packers very possibly achieving what the New England Patriots did not: a perfect season. On the flipside, you have the realistic scenario that the Peyton-stripped Indy Colts aren't going to win at all this season. The Cincinnati Bengals have invested in their future with a bright and gritty rookie behind the scrimmage, Andy Dalton. Steeltown and B-more are (at this point anyway) destined for a round three dukeout the scalpers will sell at quadruple the face value. The Buffalo Bills were on their way towards a surprisingly successful year while we've hit that point in the season where coaches are fired by angry, impatient general managers, as the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins did yesterday with only three games left in the regular season.

While the Pack, Pats, Lions, Ravens, Steelers, Saints, Texans, 49ers and maybe the Jets and Giants are the most likely candidates for this year's playoff scenario, the team everyone needs to watch out for, of course, is the Tim Tebow-revived Denver Broncos.

It's not enough Tebow has gone 7-1 in his first eight starts. Nobody these days appreciates a less-than-flashy quarterback who doesn't put up 270-300 yards a game. Even if a quarterback has three short drives equating into touchdowns, if said quarterback doesn't have a long ball in his arsenal, much less the capable hands downfield to receive it, nobody really cares about him. It's often overlooked where a quarterback's presence of mind and his ability to keep his troops motivated are sold short. Tim Tebow may not be a Rothlisberger or a Brees or a Rodgers yet, but his offensive line buys into him and it's unfortunate his newfound celebrity has come at this critical period of his development.

"Tebowing" will likely replace planking as the new national fad. Perhaps we'll see kids genuflecting in strange places such as a cemetery, a McDonald's or by a toilet bowl and taking shots of themselves. The sad part, however, is how much of the country's wrath Tim Tebow has incurred for his religious views.

Okay, so the Bronco fans making jerseys with Tebow's number 15 and the name scrawl "JESUS" on the back is over-the-top and a mite sacriligious. That's football fans for you. Whether they're wearing stormtrooper helmets or Road Warrior garb with their team colors on them or gaudy clown wigs and other stupid head accoutrements, you can't exorcise the beast that compels football fans to shame themselves as if Monty Hall was coaching their beloved team. They can't play the games, so it's how they endear themselves to something they love but have no control over its outcome.

Tim Tebow is obviously a spiritual young man. Tebow is obviously vocal in his praising of God. Tebow is obviously a quarterback still finding his rhythm. Yet the cat is winning and if he praises the Lord after a victory, so what? The national uproar against this guy stems from a common view by sports nuts that Tebow believes God favors the Denver Broncos over everyone else in the National Football League. Indeed, they are afraid of this kid because he turns up his juice in the 4th quarter when the Broncos appear to be heading into the loss column and then they magically win. Check out Denver's front office to figure out how Tebow has mastered the two-minute drill in so short a time.

I'd say divine intervention has nothing to do with it. It's more like an Elway intervention. In the case of this past weekend, the Broncos put on another miracle show with Matt Prater's phenomenal 59 yard field goal to tie the Chicago Bears with seconds left in regulation, then a 51 yarder OT boot to win. Keep in mind the Bears fumbled on their way to a presumed victory in overtime and they have the gall to disrespect #15 after they got "Tebowed," as the press is calling it. Really, when you break it down, the Bears choked and have no other way of saving face than hopping aboard the nation's sentiments and declaring Tebow a Judas. Whether or not Tim Tebow leads the Broncos to the promised land Moses-style remains to be seen with three regular season games and a slew of meaty, aggressive AFC teams who will kill one another to have the right to play in the Super Bowl. Are we setting this kid up as a modern day Daniel?

In the meantime, the nationwide hatred of Tim Tebow's public profession of faith is disconcerting, particularly when you consider a generous helping of athletes point to the skies after a field goal, a touchdown, a home run or a strikeout. You don't really see any religion in hockey, save for the Hanson Brothers' comical sign of the cross before taking the ice. Still, we've been living with athletes who offer praise during a game and then huddle with their opposition onfield afterwards to give thanks. It's hilarious to see Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers fans slit each others' throats over a fabricated rivalry that's played out for their entertainment onfield; hilarious when in the past you've seen Steelers and Ravens players praying together after the game. Even Ray Lewis and Ben Rothlisberger have broken proverbial manna with hands clenched together for anyone to see.

Are they vilified? Hardly. Are they celebrated? Nope.

What's celebrated by modern football fans is posturing and showboating. The sports analysts call theatrical athletes "divas" and they're on their way out, as Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson is learning the hard way. Johnson's relocated to a contending team with receivers who aren't the "look at me" player Chad is. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez coax Tom Brady's favor with their muscular follow-throughs for extra yardage whenever he tosses them the ball. They seldom pose or shoot off their mouths, instead relishing in most of New England's scoring plays like professionals. Still, football fans in general only acknowledge Gronkowski and Hernandez with mere respect for their abilities. Instead, they go wild over players who muscle flex, thrash their limbs maniacally or have gimmicky post-play gestures which are all disrespectful towards the opposition and disrespectful towards the game. Dancing around in the end zone may not be as vogue as it was in the nineties and early 2000s, but the fans still love it anyway.

Is the Lambeau Leap disrespectful? To a degree it is, since opposing defenses have to stomach watching Packer receivers dive into the stands and get love from their fans for as long as a full minute after a scoring play--never mind the risk of an excessive celebratiion penalty. Almost no other stadium has such a capacity, but it's common knowledge Green Bay's lifeblood is through the Pack, so they tend to get a pass on the excessive celebrating--by the officials and the public at-large.

What it boils down to, however, is football fans don't want to be preached to. Most go to church on Sunday first before parking their asses in front of the tube or in their seats at the coliseums. Football fans are outraged by Tim Tebow's visual praying and vocal thanks to the eternal force above. You know what, though? Tell me those same hypocrites aren't on their knees at church begging the Lord for a win by their team and yelling "Thank God!" when purported manifest destiny occurs later in the day.

God likes your team better, admit it...

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