- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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Randy Cross doesn't know me. Wouldn't know me if I stuck my thumb in his chili. So why did he just accuse me of being anti-Christian??
Two weeks ago, I wrote that Tim Tebow is not cutting it in the NFL. According to sources I quoted within the Denver Broncos, he is not within a plastic spork of cutting it. Doesn't mean he won't someday. It's just that right now, the thousands of guys wearing his jersey in the stands have as good a chance of starting as he does.
Wasn't personal. I like the kid, just not as my quarterback. Or anybody's. Not yet.
But Tuesday, CBS Sports NFL analyst Randy Cross said that media like me are bashing Tebow simply because he's openly Christian.
"People, especially the media, root against him because of what he stands for," said Cross, who won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. "My personal belief is there are people in the media, people in the stands, who are predisposed to see a guy like that fail ... just because he's so public about the way he feels."
Now wait a damn minute.
I've criticized Tiger Woods enough for 10 men. He's Buddhist. Am I anti-Buddhist?
Whose god Tim Tebow worships has zero to do with my criticism of him. It's his business. Like I care. Tebow is about the 1,297th-most outwardly Christian athlete I've covered. He doesn't stick his god down my throat. Doesn't genuflect after touchdowns. Doesn't answer every question with, "Well, first, let me thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and, yes, I think I did pull my groin in the third quarter."
And even if he did, it wouldn't affect what I write about him. I've covered openly devout athletes for 33 years. Lord knows I'm used to it.
Does Randy Cross believe that Tebow is flawless? That critics of his skills -- this would include Boomer Esiason, Merril Hoge and Trent Dilfer -- are Christian haters disguised as football experts?
Same sex marriage will create "anarchy"? Cross tweeted. Did some of the glue on Tyree's helmet effect (sic) his brain function? Let's stay in 21st century okay?
Seems to me ... 1) Cross trashed Tyree. 2) Tyree is public about his faith. 3) Cross must be anti-Christian, too.
How about all the heathens who criticized Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger after his alleged rough treatment of women? Roethlisberger is a devout Christian. He even used to scrawl the words "Playing for Jesus" on his game cleats. Are they Christian persecutors?
And it's not just Cross who's somehow turned Tebow into a stained glass window. It's some of my readers, too.
You only bash Tebow because he is a Christian and he does not fit into your pop culture mold of great athletes."
-- Ted Strecker (Wheeling, WV)
"I'm suspect that much of your animosity towards Mr. Tebow stems from the QBs faith rather than his actual field talents."
-- Chad (Seattle)
Worse, 54 percent of people who responded to an unscientific USA Today poll believe Tebow is "a victim of his religious beliefs."
Look, roughly 85 percent of Americans are Christian. While that doesn't necessarily mean that 85 percent of media members are Christian, chances are a vast majority are. So, why would all these Christians be so hell-bent on crucifying this kid for his Christianity? It'd be like Al Jazeera ripping Khadafi for being Muslim.
If you take this thinking to its logical conclusion, Broncos coach John Fox and team president John Elway must be anti-Christian, too. They've already said they won't start Tebow in the Broncos' season opener. Won't even name him No. 2.
This is all just excuse-making and Tebow-coddling. I'm sorry people can't face up to the truth about the Heisman Trophy winner. He's not good enough yet. May never be good enough. (In fact, Yahoo.com just quoted a source inside the Broncos as saying he's been the fourth-best QB in camp.)
"It's got zero to do with his religion," Hoge told me Thursday. "[Back-up Brady] Quinn is 10 times better than Tebow." Seeing that with your own two eyes and saying so doesn't make this Berlin, 1936.
This Tebow worship is idolatry. People need to take this kid down from the altar. He doesn't want to be up there anyway. "Just because you're a Christian," he told Christianity Today this year, "it doesn't mean that you're perfect, because every once in a while everyone stumbles. ... I screw up all the time ... our goal is just trying to improve."
All these defenders need to back off him. Let him breathe a little. He's got no divine right to the Pro Bowl.
The last thing he needs is a Cross to bear.
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Rick Reilly is an 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.
Feel like taking a detour from sane sports? Try Rick's latest book, "Sports from Hell."
10hTristan H. Cockcroft