On Zealotry and Shaming

Hi, I'm tunesmith. (Hello, tunesmith!)

I'd like to share a set of statements.

  1. I'm not a big fan of bringing in Peyton Manning.
  2. I am a fan of Tim Tebow.
  3. I've been a Broncos fan since 1984.
  4. I've never seen a Gators game.
  5. I'm not even close to being an evangelical Christian.
This is not an article about why statement #1 is true for me. This is an article about why those five statements being simultaneously true is likely to make brains explode, and how it makes me sad.

First, I'd like to ask those of you reading this to really consider those five statements for a moment. Re-read them a couple of times. Let them roll around in your head. Try to believe and understand them all at once. Trust that all five can be true for a fellow fan, all at the same time.

If you are unable to do so, then let me submit for consideration: You are part of the problem. And what problem am I describing? It's not just about being being rude, or being a good member of this community, or being respectful of your fellow fan. It's a deeper problem that has to do with cruelty and debasing those you disagree with. It also includes a not-insignificant portion of religious intolerance.

I've been a moderately active community member here for the last couple of years, and as part of this, I have a pretty good handle on who's who among Tebow fans, and what their reasons are for supporting Tebow. And around here, I can tell you that just about every Tebow fan is also a through-and-through Broncos fan, regardless of Tebow (or his religion).

Yesterday something happened that bugged the crap out of me, from Vic Lombardi's twitter feed:

(Link): @boydy2669 Splinter the fan base? If you think acquiring PM would splinter the fans, then you're a Tebow fan, not a Broncos fan.

Look... this form of "if you believe xxxx, then you must not be a yyyy" is an argument form that has been around for ages. But on the internet, it is usually limited to comment threads among anonymous jerks like yours truly. To see it rise to the level of public figures is disconcerting, and it means that it's become enough of an accepted practice that it is now seen as appropriate.

Let's be clear about what it is. It's a shaming mechanism. It's a way to bully someone, a way to question the credentials of someone who clearly identifies with a community enough to care, and to share his or her opinion. And this particular technique has also been used towards some extremely violent ends in the past. People band together because of a "sameness", and then a technique like this is used to suggest an "otherness", and to ostracize. Depending on the realities of the surrounding community, all sorts of "unanticipated" (but silently accepted) effects can happen. It's wrong.

I know - it's easy enough to disregard. We're an advanced culture, it's just the internet, people are anonymous, there's so much activity happening all the time anyway. I haven't talked to boydy and I know he can dish it out as well as take it - for all I know he's bugged that I'm talking about him here (sorry mate). My point isn't so much to defend boydy - it's just to say, we're better than that. Aren't we?

I'd sure like to think VicLombardi is.

But there's another part to this I want to consider too. Why does this kind of rhetoric happen more often with Tim Tebow than with other players?

Think about it - the NFL is a branding league. It encourages personal identification with athletes. Every slow-motion shot of an athlete's face on the sideline underscores this - not to mention the highlight packages, the programming on the NFL TV network, etc. And then there's the fantasy football leagues, which do as much as anything to focus on players rather than teams.

Let's look at the statement again: If you believe xxx, then you are a TIM TEBOW fan, not a Denver Broncos fan.

Aside from the ostracizing - the rhetorical pushing out of someone who might have been a Broncos fan since they were age 14 like myself, or younger - there's also the conclusion that someone is a Tim Tebow fan.

As if it's a bad thing.

Look, we've seen the comments about the "Tebowbots", or the "Tebow zealots", etc. All of them paint this picture of the fans being mindless, or in some kind of fervor. Is it too far a leap to see the religious hatred in those views? All those religious idiots that mindlessly chant "Tebow!" and then go read a bible before eating someone's brains? Come on. I'm pretty active on discussion boards, and I haven't come across *anyone* that specifically bases their fandom on Tebow's christianity and that also doesn't give a crap about the rest of the Broncos. On the other hand, I *have* seen examples of people regularly arguing against Tebow specifically because of his religious beliefs (specifically, that guy over at the ioafm comment threads).

Basically, there's a constant undercurrent of religious intolerance happening, and that is what is motivating a lot of this junior high "shaming" behavior. (No offense to the junior high students here - at least you have an excuse.)

We've been at this for over a year now, and I'd like to see this curtailed if not stopped. Can we all accept that:

  1. Personality marketing is part of the game.
  2. Religious athletes are (like it or not) part of the game.
  3. Being a fan of particular players is part of the game.
  4. No one corners the market on what it means to be a Broncos fan.
In closing, I guess I'd like people to go ahead and re-read the five statements I opened this article with, and see how much cognitive dissonance it causes. Because I'm sure there are some people that believe I must have some sort of evangelical agenda here in making this argument, when I quite honestly don't. The point is, rational people can have wildly different opinions about things, and discussing and debating them is part of the fun of discussion boards. You don't get extra points for making someone else feel bad. If someone has an opinion that is different than yours, rather than concluding they are a zealot that shouldn't be a part of this community, try asking them why they feel the way they do - you might learn something.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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