What Will the NFL Do?

I got into a nice little discussion with a couple of other commenters at the CBS Sports website over this Gregg Doyel column about Tim Tebow, the Florida gators quarterback who most analysts think will have a rough go of it in the NFL. Doyel's argument is that Tebow should refuse to go pro, that he's going to leave the college game as the best college quarterback ever and could do so after a masterful Sugar Bowl game. But that's not what I was interested in. It's his eyeblack that I want to talk about.

But I wasn't even going to write about that until I saw Rachel Sklar's piece titled "Tim Tebow is Magic, which is riffing off the Sarah Silverman film "Jesus is Magic." Sklar notes--as Doyel did--that Tebow is known for more than just his football skills. He's known for the "inspirational messages" he chalks onto his eyeblack before every game. They usually take the form of a Biblical citation, and the day after games, google searches and tweets including that verse are off the charts, according to Sklar.

I don't have a problem with Tebow "spreading the word" this way, nor do I have an issue with his true believer persona. He might even be that guy--I have no idea--though the odds are against that he'll stay that guy if he has an average-length pro career. And if he falls, it'll make the Tiger Woods fall look like a stumble. In fact, Tiger? If you want to get your name out of the tabloids, make Tebow a gift of Rachel Uchitel's party-planning services for the next couple of months.

But while I don't have a problem with Tebow Jesus-ing up his face for the cameras--and the most interesting thing I learned from Sklar's piece was that Fox Sports had one camera dedicated to him for the entire Sugar Bowl--I wonder if the NFL will. The NFL, as Chad Ochocinco can attest, doesn't much like individualism on the field. They prefer that the players not make themselves stand out from everyone else, even down to the uniforms. And this is not a new thing. Jim McMahon caused a ruckus when he started putting messages on his headbands--headbands, it should be noted, which weren't visible while McMahon was on the field, because they were under his helmet.

So what will happen when and if Tim Tebow gets on a pro field? Will the NFL take Tebow aside and quietly tell him that the eyeblack witnessing has to end or that he'll be fined? Or will they let it pass? The NFL doesn't like either option, I'm sure. Fining an NFL player, even one who won't likely be on the field much, for putting a scripture on his face won't go over well with a vocal percentage of fans. But let him do it, and the NFL opens itself up to no end of players using their faces to send messages. I'd love it, I'm sure, as would many fans. This could be Twitter condensed--6-8 characters max to get across some message, and some players would be changing eyeblack between series, just to get themselves on camera more often. I could see offensive players who are having good games updating their stats just to shove it in the defense's face. The possibilities are mind-boggling.

Which is why, I think, Tim Tebow has probably done his final eyeblack witnessing, even if it upsets the Christian fans who love it so. And that's sad, because it would be a small price to pay for the chance to see what Chad Ochocinco would put on his face.

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