Zero-Summing Tebow and Kaepernick

Just as certain people insist on "zero-summing" Roberto Alomar and Pete Rose, as my colleague Jeff Kallman related two weeks ago, Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick are being similarly "zero-summed," now that Tebow has been signed by the Jaguars, albeit at a new position, tight end.

Throughout the 1980s, Giants tight end (how's that for irony!) Mark Bavaro "celebrated" every one of the touchdown passes he caught by kneeling and making the Sign of the Cross in the end zone. Bavaro, a devout Roman Catholic (so devout in fact that he played his college ball at Notre Dame), and a two-time Super Bowl champion, made no bones about the fact that he did this to protest the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which of course legalized abortion.

Now, fast-forward to 2010, when Tim Tebow knelt and prayed every time he either threw or ran for a touchdown — although no Sign of the Cross since Tebow is a "Christian," not a Roman Catholic.

(In his 1996 bestselling book, Up From Conservatism: Why the Right is Wrong for America, Michael Lind explained the critical role of this sort of idiomatic manipulation: "'Consider the difference between these two sentences: 'Christian conservatives seek to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill' and 'Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, and other Protestant sectarians seek to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill.' The former lulls, the latter alarms, center-right Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and — emphasis mine — Catholics").

Yet at the same time, neither Bavaro nor Tebow performed their histrionics during the playing of the national anthem — and unlike Bavaro, Tebow vehemently denies that his post-touchdown prayers had anything to do with abortion, or any other hot-button "Culture Wars" issue.

Which, of course, brings us to Kaepernick.

The whole purpose of Kaepernick's blaspheming of the national anthem in 2016 was to rub salt in the wounds of white Americans in general, and older white Americans in particular — since the latter would have been old enough to remember how the hippies (essentially all of whom were white) visited comparable disrespect upon the American flag while waving the enemy's flag and chanting the enemy dictator's name during the Vietnam War, the most important battle of the Cold War, which was every bit as much of a total war as World War II was: Had we lost the Cold War, it would have meant a Communist boot stamping on the human face forever — an eternal return to the Dark Ages.

(And for those who doubt that the Cold War was a total war, look at what happened to the country that lost it: Shattered into 15 fragments, with Russia going from being a net food exporter to being a net food importer, and going from having the world's second-largest economy to not even being in the top 10).

Kaepernick's antipathy toward the police — which went so far as to his wearing "pig" socks at training camp — also brought back ugly memories of the words, and (more to the point) actions, of the black radicals of the same era as that of the hippies, for this same demographic — actions that included the cowardly, ambush-style assassinations of police officers: Just as Rosie O'Donnell, a vehement opponent of Operation Iraqi Freedom, advised, in her usual abrasive tone, "Gulf of Tonkin — google it" (conflating that incident with 9/11), Joseph Piagentini, Rocco Laurie, Werner Foerster, Daniel Faulkner, and Edward Byrne, among others, can be similarly "googled."

It is true that Tebow's act has not been universally well-received. Nor have these "prayer meetings" between members of the opposing teams after games been universally well-received either, former Vikings running back Robert Smith and former Texans running back Arian Foster among the harshest critics of the custom.

But Kaepernick's actions have proven to be far more problematic for the NFL — leading as they have to thousands upon thousands of season ticket holders, the vast majority of them white, older, and well heeled (NFL tickets ain't cheap, you know) canceling their ticket subscriptions, and even going so far as to no longer watch NFL games.

The ultimate point, however, is not who's "worse" — Tebow or Kaepernick (and not who "deserves" another chance in the NFL more, although former Jaguars tight end Jimmy Smith apparently believes that Tebow is more deserving) — but rather whether the gridiron is a suitable battleground in our fratricidal Culture Wars.

If the NFL's answer is "yes," then let them put their money where their mouths are — by redoing the 2002 realignment so that Dallas, the "capital" of the red states, can compete in the same division as San Francisco, the "capital" of the blue states; in this scenario, the Ravens would replace the Cowboys in the NFC East, the Seahawks would return to the AFC West, which their owner at the time, the now-deceased Paul Allen, never wanted to leave (Allen and the also now-deceased Bill Bidwill cast the only dissenting votes against the 2002 realignment) with the Chiefs forming a nice, tightly-drawn AFC South (Arrowhead Stadium is located within the antebellum slave state of Missouri) with the Colts, Titans, and Texans, the Jaguars moving into the AFC East to give the Dolphins a natural geographical rival, and the Bills joining the AFC North, where they would enjoy "bus ride only" rivalries with all three of the teams in their new division (just as all four teams in the NFC East would, and all four teams in the NFC North already do).

Such a realignment would also be energy-friendly — because a third energy crisis in the last half century appears to be just around the corner, if indeed it is not here already.

And just think: the Culture Wars can be re-enacted twice every year — on the field.

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