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Fri, Oct. 18

Editorial: Postgame analysis of faith is inappropriate

Football-wise, we're not sure if this is the week the Tim Tebow Show comes to an end or not. Whatever the quarterback and his band of Denver Broncos do in their playoff against New England on Saturday, the sideshow over Tebow surely has no end in sight.

Tebow is outwardly devout in his Christian beliefs and, whether he intended to or not, he has come to personify public figures and their equally public displays of faith. Pundits have had a field day treating the quarterback like a piñata, largely because he kneels on the field to give thanks, acknowledges his faith, and lives a lifestyle that used to be his own business until his career allowed anyone and everyone the right to judge it.

Frankly, we don't get the controversial attention between religion and sports superstars. Never have.

Former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rau, while playing with the Denver Nuggets in the 1990s, elected to close his eyes and recite a Muslim prayer while the National Anthem played prior to games. His right to follow his personal faith in a high-profile sports career earned him a league suspension and the scorn of those who disagreed with his beliefs.

Hall of Fame slugger Hank Greenberg, one of the great home-run hitters in baseball history and the first Jewish superstar in American pro sports, drew fire for his public devotion to faith. In 1934, Greenberg wouldn't play with his Tigers on Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, even though Detroit was in a pennant race. Jewish pitcher Sandy Koufax made the same decision years later, refusing to pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series. Koufax attended synagogue in Minneapolis that day instead.

And who can forget the most famous American athlete ever to cross public displays of faith with the court of public opinion: Cassius Clay, who won gold for the U.S. as a young Olympian, converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and was publicly vilified for his refusal to be conscripted into the U.S. military during the height of the Vietnam War based solely on the conviction of his religion's tenets.

Somewhere along the way, these public devotions to individual religious beliefs and spiritual faiths took on lives of their own. The ceaseless interest in Tim Tebow has little to do with Tim Tebow at this point. The public at large takes one individual's right to practice faith in his own way and dissects and judges.

We're not sure if we'll ever see Tebow refuse to work on the Sabbath (i.e., play football on Sundays), but if we do, it will be his choice and his alone.

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