There is no denying that Tim Tebow is one of the top sports stories of the year, in part because of the Broncos' turnaround, in part because of his zealous religious practices, and in part because he looks like such an awful quarterback...but still wins.
A recent ESPN poll claims that Tebow is America's favorite athlete. He won the poll with a whopping 3% of the vote, so it doesn't translate very well into that claim; My guess is he'd also win the same poll asking fans whom their least-favorite athlete is. Still, there's no doubt Tebow is a big, popular story in America and his popularity as an athlete is skyrocketing.
As that story has built over the last couple of months, and as Tebow and the Broncos have become one of the top stories in the NFL, the question I've gotten asked more and more, leading up to this week when I've seen the question flood onto my phone and email inbox:
Is Tim Tebow gay?
I'm not a big fan of speculating about people's sexual orientation, particularly athletes. I've heard wishful-thinking "rumors" about more athletes than I could fit in Mile High. But with Tebow, even Deadspin is wondering, with their Wednesday headline, "What if Tim Tebow were gay?" In non-Deadspin fashion, Drew Magary put aside the snark for a moment and analyzed what would happen if the man-of-the-hour was in fact gay.
It's a hard truth that the most religious guy on your block is the one most likely to be sneaking out to truck stops at 3 a.m. so he can greedily lap up every last ounce of redneck jizz caked on the bathroom stall partition. Anyway, if Tebow were gay, a couple of things would happen. First off, Mike Silver would die from excitement. Secondly, Tebow would have an incredible opportunity to bridge the persistent divide in this nation between evangelical Christians and the gay community. I mean, honestly: It's time for this matter to be settled. Tebow could get his followers to be more accepting of gays, and he could get filthy liberals to be more accepting of evangelicals. I think he and Von Miller would make the cutest gay couple ever.
That argument -- it's often the loudest preachers who are gay -- is rooted in some pretty substantial history. Ted Haggard, the evangelical pastor who hired a male prostitute over the course of several years, is possibly the most glaring example.
When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I was a devout Christian. I went to church every Sunday, read the Bible, and prayed every night. Every single night. I swore, like Tebow, that I wouldn't have sex until I married. My first long-term girlfriend was even more hardcore Christian than I was. It was easy hiding my sexual orientation behind my religion. God said I can't have sex, so I can't have sex.
It's not a gay thing, it's a God thing.
It wasn't until I was 21 that I had sexual contact with anyone else; It wasn't until I was 22 that I'd try to "stumble" into bathrooms on campus where it was rumored gay sex occurred.
Tebow, like myself 20 years ago, has said he's committed to no sex until he's married. Outsports reader John Armstrong reflected on Tebow's commitment to chastity:
You are aware that Tim Tebow is a flaming homosexual, right? Hmmm…I hate myself for being gay and a fundie, so what can I do? I know; I’ll super-achieve in a sport where I can be around men. How can I be very attractive and successful and still be a virgin and nobody scratches heads? I know; I’ll flaunt my religion.
Tim Tebow has one purpose on earth: To reconcile homosexuality and religion. When he comes out, the world changes.
But there's more to the "Tim Tebow gay" speculation than just the religious aspect.
Certainly there are many gay men who don't fall into certain stereotypes; Stereotypes are by no means a de facto indicator of sexual orientation. But I've found over time there are few straight men who do fall into them. So when I see a video like this, it really gives me pause:
A friend simply texted: "Omg have u seen tebow interview...Oh lord."
A straight sports commentator called me this week with the same reaction to Tebow's post-Steelers press conference.
Again, not every gay man flails his hands and talks with a slight lisp...there are just very few straight men who do. And seeing that video just...well...sue me, it does make me wonder.
Then there's this photo flying around the Internet, which leaves people wondering:
And this one...
In fact, when you Google "Tim Tebow kiss," no pictures of him with girls come up in the first couple hundred results...but him kissing and hugging men are aplenty.
I got an email the other day from a friend, Brian Taylor, who says Tebow has another strong "tell" that he's gay:
It involves thumbs being tucked in, underneath the index finger. Anyhow, Tim Tebow has this tell. It's actually not even one tell for him. He has many. And the first chapter of his biography is about Uncle Dick -- who is most definitely a gay single guy who grew up next-door to him. He was and remains a hero of Tim's.
I don't know about his thumbs and index fingers, but the email shows how deeply people are thinking about the sexual orientation of this fascinating athlete. And to be sure, our actions, mannerisms and facial expressions reveal more about us than we intend. According to Taylor, who wrote a study titled, Anatomy of discrimination: sexual orientation and nonverbal behaviors in dyadic interactions, both psychologist Paul Ekman and former FBI agent Joe Navarro have demonstrated over and over that how you move, e.g., flailing your arms as you talk, can convey sexual orientation.
I have no idea if Tebow is gay. But this has all left me thinking...what if he really is? For real.
Kinda makes me feel like a schmuck.
All that pious religious bullshit he spews...at the end of the day, that's not him. That's what his parents and his pastors have drilled into his head from the day he was born. The kid doesn't even know who he really is. When you're indoctrinated with religion from birth, and you commit your life to the all-consuming sport of football, there isn't much time left for true self-discovery. If he is in fact gay, he may not know it. Even if he does, chances are slim he'd be comfortable telling his mother...or pastor...let alone us.
If Tebow is gay, he is buried beneath so much crap he many never get out from under it. Instead of attacking him for it, maybe reaching out a helpful hand would be nice. Don't get me wrong, he's still a crappy quarterback. But all that "my lord and savior Jesus Christ" stuff...could be Tebow's cry for help.
So I'm gonna lay off Tim a little. If he is in fact gay, and if he does in fact ever figure that out, he's going to need all the support he can get.
Photo from Tebow's Jockey underwear campaign.