Thu Feb 11 03:52pm EST
Not content to let Alabama steal all of the SEC's idolatrous mojo with its pantheon of championship coaches, Florida forged ahead last week with a plan to erect statues of all three Gator Heisman winners, Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow, outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Another fine idea to honor a trio of Gator greats, on one hand -- on top of the Heisman display each already has in the UF athletic complex, and Tebow's immortalized "You will never see a team play harder" speech -- but maybe also just a tad premature, according to some campus critics, because who knows how this Tebow character is going turn out in the long run:
The proposal is moving ahead less than two months after Tebow graduated and just after the former Florida quarterback faced controversy over appearing in a Super Bowl ad for a conservative Christian group. The plan for the statues raises questions about UF honoring Tebow in such a prominent way before the full breadth of his life outside of college is known.
"I think we haven't fully digested what the implications of that might be," said Eric Segal, an assistant professor of art history at UF.
Segal pointed out former baseball players Pete Rose, banned from baseball for gambling, and Mark McGwire, linked to steroids, as examples on the merits of waiting to honor athletes. The latter example is particularly pertinent - the St. Louis Cardinals reportedly commissioned a McGwire statue but mothballed it in the wake of the steroids scandal.
A professor from Texas (where a statue of 1977 Heisman winner Earl Campbell finally went up four years ago) tosses ex-Longhorn great turned 420-friendly NFL vagabond Ricky Williams into the conversation as another cautionary tale against hasty canonization. They're right, of course: If America's most famous virgin is eventually discovered placing bets on his team, dabbling in steroids or toking up three times a day, the Tebow statue will look pretty silly.
Also, I will eat my laptop. Tebow has no more chance of alienating his public with a Mel Gibson-like turn than Wuerffel, another outspoke Christian who's gone on to a very noncontroversial career as the prematurely balding head of a nonprofit ministry helping to rebuild New Orleans. In 10 years, if he doesn't catch on in the NFL, Tebow will be doing the same in the Philippines or some equally desperate place. But it's always wise to wait.
(Personally, my only criteria for a Tebow statue is that he be depicted doing the "Baby Heisman" pose in Gator crocs for amused tourists -- if there's any moment from his college career worth saving, it must be that one. You know, for posterity.)