Bill Maher Against Tim Tebow: Empathy for the Comedian

Rocky SamuelsCorrespondent IIDecember 31, 2011

As a Tim Tebow fan and a Christian I am in the uncomfortable position of defending Bill Maher for a moment, so that I can introduce you (and maybe him) to an eight-year-old football savant. 

Most by now have heard that Bill Maher unloaded a truck bed of salt in Tebow’s post-game football wounds on Christmas Eve. He tweeted that “Jesus [expletive]’d Tebow” via the Bills' decisive victory over the Broncos.

Maher was not mocking the Christian God, per se; I assume he was mocking the idea that God had in other games been preserving Tebow from clutches of defeat, rescuing Tebow in consecutive fourth quarters through opponent meltdowns and long-distance Bronco field-goals. 

Since he has been making fun of Tebow for a long time, I imagine Maher had been inundated with tweets from Tebow-inspired Christians who rubbed Tebow’s string of victories in his face.

Against the Bills, though, Tebow turned from miracle worker to third-rate magician: holding the ball in the air for a moment and having it speedily re-appear in an opponent’s arms. Tebow threw four interceptions in total in that woeful showing. 

Maher probably couldn’t wait to get back at all those previously triumphalist Christians, so he took to Twitter in the wake of Tebow's crushing loss. Still, if you have a modicum of respect for Tebow or Christianity, it might be difficult to draw from Maher’s tweet (especially his self-conscious timing at Christmas) any other conclusion than that he is a heartless, anti-religious bigot.

It is true that he can’t stand religion—it makes his blood boil and coagulate; but what could get lost in this controversy is Maher’s heart, which may be straining from his viscous anti-religious venom.

To get through his tough exterior, you need to meet his late mother, which you can do through Maher’s cinematic mockery of faith called Religulous. Maher’s mom is winsome and engaging in the film. Indeed, the interactions between the two in that otherwise antipathetic movie are tender, even endearing.

The film shows two obvious points: Maher does not care for religion as he understands it, and he cares a great deal for the people he understands.

That’s why I think that for Maher to tweet obscenities about Tebow he has to be playing some kind of make-believe. There must be imaginary religious-mongering monsters running through Maher’s consciousness to have him scared enough to write the Internet equivalent of angry graffiti on a bathroom wall. Nothing to fear, Bill; a lot of Tebow’s supporters are smaller than you.

Over Christmas I learned from my friend that he has an eight-year-old nephew who could run circles around most adults with his precocious knowledge of football in general and Tebow in particular. That eight-year-old already has a big chunk in the Tebow book he got for Christmas from his father. He has devoured it at the same voracious rate he has swallowed other football facts. His uncle is also astounded by his general football knowledge: name a team and a position and within seconds he will be able to identify the player.

I wish I could introduce that young boy to Maher.

I think such a meeting would remind him that when he looks at Tebow exclusively through his own prism of anti-religious fear, he misses people who Tebow inspires, people who I expect Maher would care a great deal about if he had the opportunity to meet them. 

Yes, some people hope that God helps a quarterback who has faced a bulky line of opponents—and not just on the field.  But the vast majority of the time that hope has nothing to do with a theocratic political agenda to impinge on Maher’s (or anyone else’s) libertarian freedoms. Part of Tebow’s underdog story resonates with other life narratives. It is as simple and as inspiring as that.

I think deep down, Bill Maher might feel like an underdog at times, his comedic bullying notwithstanding. 

I get that he is a comedian and wants to push the envelope, but he would do well to consider the real people he pushes around in the process. 

To my fellow Tebow-supporters and/or Christians, let's take to heart the quote from the Tebow foundation that Greg Halvorsen has drawn our attention to:

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."-T.H. Thompson

To Bill Maher, whatever you are fighting, stay funny but have a heart—those aren’t mutually exclusive positions. 

Just ask Tebow. Indeed, you could learn a thing or two from him.