In a world filled with hypocritical evangelists and would-be messiahs, Tim Tebow has managed to use his platform of college football to make positive, Christian statements and has backed them up with his lifestyle. He is to be admired and even copied.
He's also incredibly marketable.
That is why EA Sports put Mr. Tebow's image on their 2011 version of the popular college football game. The picture is Mr. Tebow in his familiar Gators jersey and is accurate right down to the eye black. That's where the image, suddenly, is not Mr. Tebow.
EA chose to leave the space in the eye black-where the former Florida quarterback always used to leave Bible chapters and verses-blank. In effect, EA Sports scrubbed the scripture from Mr. Tebow's eye black.
A sports commentator and radio personality in the Nashville area wrote about this odd, selective bit of editing on EA's part. He said that the scripture references on the eye black was part and parcel of who Tim Tebow was; that if a company chooses to use Mr. Tebow's image, they should use all of it-right down to the scripture.
The writer argues that Mr. Tebow's Christianity is the "primary reason" the player is so popular. He says that the primary reason to edit or remove the most "Christian" part of Mr. Tebow's image is because, "Electronic Arts didn't want Tebow to promote his religion." (Italics mine)
It does seem odd, does it not? Mr. Tebow without his "iconic" scriptured eye black is like the Mona Lisa without her smile; it is like Paris without the Eiffel Tower; it is like NASCAR without controversy.
But is it possible that the reason for the removal of the scripture is not a giant conspiracy against Christianity in general and Mr. Tebow in particular? Could it not be that, when he showed up to the photoshoot, Mr. Tebow did not have a white marker with which to write his message of the day? Could it?
And what does it say about us, as college sports fans, if we allow emotion to get the better of us in this situation and call for action against EA Sports because we feel the company has somehow "offended" Christianity?
Ask yourself this: If you are offended that the scripture not on the eye black, would you be equally offended if Mr. Tebow were Muslim and his messages referenced verses from the Koran? If not, why not?
Those such as the writer of the piece who feel EA Sports purposely did not put a religious message on the front of the game for 2011 will invariably cry "Foul!" and cite First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion. Would they be as adamant about those cries if the situation was one in which another religion's message was in the eye black?
Sadly, we all know the answer. Not only would we not speak up to defend the right to put an Islamic message on the eye black, but we would also insist—no, we would demand—that EA Sports remove the offending message. Many would point to the rise of "Sharia" in America and bemoan the Muslim takeover of our nation.
College football is, for now, still an amateur sport (despite the incursion of agents and multi-million dollar revenue at most schools). College football should teach the players and fans life lessons such as perseverance, responsibility, team work, and how to survive loss.
As a Christian (and a minister), I applaud Mr. Tebow's courage to speak about his Lord and Savior as well as how he taught these lessons.
As an American, I support his rights to speak out loud and to worship the way he chooses.
But, as both a Christian and an American, I err when I refuse to allow someone else's opinion to be heard, even if (especially if) that opinion conflicts with my own. To deny someone else the right to express himself with his religion or with his voice is to be, in effect, un-American. And, since God gave man choice, it also goes against what Mr. Tebow espouses.
I do not care what EA Sports did to the photos, nor do I care if they did not provide the writing utensil for Mr. Tebow to pen his scripture. What I do care about is my fellow sports fans who insist on imposing their opinions on others.
Express opinions? Sure. That is as American as apple pie.
Impose them? No. That gives America a black eye. That is not only un-American, but it also goes against the message Mr. Tebow has proclaimed with his life and from his now-empty eye black.