Here we go again: trims J-word out of big Florida rite in Tim Tebow's life

Here we go again: trims J-word out of  big Florida rite in Tim Tebow's life

Greetings from SEC football territory, deep down in the Bible Belt.

I was not surprised that my recent posts about the coverage — or the lack of coverage, in many cases — of sports and religious faith drew some reader responses. Click here for the main post and then here for the “Crossroads” podcast on the topic.

The podcast post included the following throwaway line, talking about how it’s impossible to discuss some sports figures without mentioning their faith, especially when their views on sex are part of the story: “Can you say ‘Tim Tebow’? I knew that you could.”

Well, a Catholic priest caught something in the news that I missed.

Apparently, Tebow was induced into the University of Florida football ring of honor the other day. As you would expect, ESPN did a story on this big day in the life of an SEC Network star. And, as you would expect, Tebow was asked to make a few remarks during the ceremony. And, as you would expect, Tebow did a shout-out to Jesus.

The priest noted: “Funny that tmatt should have just mentioned Tebow. Compare what he says in the video (about 28 seconds) with what's quoted in the article. Something's missing.”

Click this ESPN link to see the best video (or watch the longer version at the top of this post).

The news report goes out of its way, at the very top, to quote Tebow’s “message to the fans.” But was this all that he said? Here is the overture:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tim Tebow became the sixth player to join the Florida Ring of Honor on Saturday, as the crowd inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium chanted, "Tebow! Tebow!"

Tebow, who won the Heisman Trophy and two national championships as Florida's quarterback from 2006 to 2009, was honored after the first quarter in No. 22 Florida's 27-19 home victory over No. 5 LSU.

A Tebow highlights package played on the video screens as he stood near the 20-yard line. When his name was unveiled, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and chanted his name. Tebow then took the microphone and had a message for the fans.

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Football and religion: Two subjects that are hard to pry apart in East Tennessee

Football and religion: Two subjects that are hard to pry apart in East Tennessee

Speaking of religion.

A long, sad and even tortured football season has come to an end here in the land of the University of Tennessee Volunteers, a season that began with the head coach already sitting on the hot seat of imminent disaster. Within a matter of weeks, #FireButchJones signs were popping up from sea to shining sea (Vols fans get around).

Eventually, Jones got fired -- despite the fact that his recruiting classes were consistently good to great.

This brings me to a story that ran this past week in The Knoxville News Sentinel, the newspaper that shows up in my driveway each morning. The headline: "UT Vols: Email links Butch Jones to tight end Daniel Helm's departure from Tennessee."

Now, if you only read the headline, you'd never sense the presence of an important religion ghost. But that's the thing about religion ghosts, especially here in this intensely religious corner of the Bible Belt -- they have a way just showing up.

At the heart of this sad story is Daniel Helm, a young man who -- as America's top-rated high-school tight end -- was one of Jones' star recruits in 2014. But Helm quickly left the Vols, landing at Duke University. Why did he leave? Here is the overture:

Daniel Helm had been gone from Tennessee for almost a year when his father sent an email to then-UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek.
The last paragraph of Steve Helm’s message read: “I made sure we got Daniel out of there before (Butch) Jones put him in a place where Daniel might have knocked him out. Then, my great straight A kid would have an assault charge. If a member of that football team does finally lose it with Jones and an assault charge is filed, we will provide authorities with everything we know as we will not let that man ruin a young kid’s life.”
Helm said Cheek never responded.

What does religion have to do with this story?

That's the big question. Let's walk through this step by step, since the religious themes only emerge at the end. My question: Why bury the Bible angle?

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The Big 12 hits stop button on expansion: So ESPN avoids faith issue in new coverage?

The Big 12 hits stop button on expansion: So ESPN avoids faith issue in new coverage?

I grew up in Texas during the glory days of the old Southwest Conference (which was a pretty tough time to be a Baylor University fan, until the legendary Grant Teaff came along). Thus, even though I live in the heart of SEC Country, I still pay close attention to what is happening over in the Big 12 (yes, which currently has 10 members).

At the moment -- in terms of journalism -- there is much more to Big 12 gazing than watching football. Yes, there is a religion-news hook here. The question of whether the Big 12 will add new members to get back to 12 has turned, in part, into yet another battle between LGBTQ activists and allies of traditional religious groups.

Notice that I did not say this is a religious-liberty conflict.

The Big 12 is, of course, not a government agency. We are talking about a private, voluntary association of schools and, thus, the conference's leaders are pretty much free to create and tweak their membership requirements whenever and however they choose to do so. Voluntary associations -- left and right -- can define their own rules and, well, doctrines.

This brings us to the Big 12 candidacy of Brigham Young University and, in the long run, it's easy to see questions being raised about the Big 12 status of charter-member Baylor. Yes, this is another story linked to religious private schools having the right to promote and even protect the religious doctrines on which they were founded. Hold that thought.

As always, if is good to pay close attention to the ESPN coverage of this controversy. It's significant that the BYU controversy received zero ink in the most recent report on the Big 12 decision not to expand. Here is the key material from the top of that report:

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