Here we go again: ESPN.com 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 ESPN.com 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.

"I want to thank my mom and dad for making me a Gator on Day 1," he said. "I want to thank all of my teammates and coaches for having my back through thick and thin. I love you guys. And Gator Nation, I love you guys. Thank you.

"I was born a Gator. I played as a Gator. And I'll die a Gator."

That sure sounds like Tebow. Sort of.

As it turns out, The Orlando Sentinel offered an unedited version of Tebow’s short message. See if you notice a difference between this and the ESPN text, right at the beginning:

Highlights of his four years in a Gator jersey flashed on the jumbotron in the south end zone. Cheers filled the air as the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner took a microphone and addressed the sellout crowd.

“First and foremost, I want to thank my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. I want to thank my mom and dad for making me a Gator on Day 1,” he said.

The ESPN story includes some additional information about the Gator star and some colorful details about the LSU game. However, there isn’t a word in it about Tebow’s faith and the role it has played in his public life and controversies surrounding his career.

To be blunt: It’s rather strange to edit Jesus out of a story about Tim Tebow.

Yes, you can certainly make a case that this is a biographical detail about this man that many or most readers would already know. But there’s a reason to include this kind of language, since this is part of who Tebow is and why he keeps making news.

Maybe there is some kind of policy about discussing the religious beliefs — as opposed to political convictions — of ESPN personalities?

Well, I have my doubts about that, to be honest with you. Several other ESPN stars have discussed their faith in various settings, including on the air. Kneeling on football fields is a big deal right now.

So what happened here? Any thoughts? Is Tebow simply the media-criticism gift that keeps on giving?

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