I once got elected by friends to be tossed into a lake. It's not like I asked for it, but that's what happened. Half a dozen guys took me by the limbs and, before you could say 1 1/2 somersault pike, I was in full splashdown mode.

But that wasn't the only time I was elected without declaring candidacy. I was also once named jury foreman. I told the others I didn't want the job, but they weren't listening. I was the only male on the jury and — I kid you not — an elderly woman said, "Let's let HIM do it. He's a man."

Everyone agreed except me. The man.

So, in a certain way, I can relate to Heisman winner Tim Tebow's absence on Playboy magazine's 2008 preseason All-America team. He never asked for it in the first place, so if avoidable, why go along?

Consequently, this year's team will have to make do without last year's top player. All-America candidates were flown last spring to Phoenix for the magazine's annual football bash, but there was no Tebow present.

A University of Florida publicist had rightly assumed Tebow didn't want to be included on the ballot and told Playboy as much. The matter wasn't even discussed with Tebow, a devout Christian, until weeks after the fact. He agreed that it was a good idea not to be included, on account of his values.

Before I take this further, I should explain something about the party in Phoenix: It's not what you think. It was actually a fairly modest event. No Playmates in a hot tub, no bawdy games of Twister, just a mixer and dinner. South Carolina receiver Kevin McKinley — who looks like a conservative church-attending guy himself — told reporters at the SEC media day, "I had a great time. It was nothing sexual or nothing like that. Playboy's (All-America team) has been going on for over 50 years. John Elway, Dan Marino, all those guys, they've been doing it. I never thought twice about it."

Maybe he should have.

That's the thing about a decision like Tebow's — it ticks some people off. They think he considers himself too good for them, snubbing an honor and acting superior. My experience with him was just the opposite. I was at media day for the 2007 BCS national championship game in Arizona. Chris Leak was Florida's star quarterback and Tebow a situational backup.

But I needed a quote, and there was Tebow with only a couple of writers talking to him. I waited my turn and then started asking questions. Tebow, whose father is a missionary, was polite, agreeable and articulate. He called me sir, which even waiters don't do for me. He didn't seem self-righteous or condescending, just humble.

In reality, Tebow didn't have much to gain by appearing in the magazine. He's already won the Heisman. Florida is one of the most publicized teams in the country. He needs Playboy like Vegas needs more neon.

"I don't hate it when someone has all the facts, understands what our weekend and our history is and then chooses not to attend," Playboy executive Gary Cole told Florida Today. "I do hate it when someone bases their choice on false or incomplete information. The weekend is completely wholesome. I have always brought my children whether they were one or 16 years old."

How nice for them. But Tebow wasn't afraid of the weekend, he was afraid of the association. You don't need much information to decide whether Playboy is a magazine where you want your name. The party may have been G-rated, but the magazine isn't.

So Tebow deserves high praise for skipping the social event of the spring. And for demonstrating that when you have principles, there are some things you just have to miss. In avoiding Playboy, he showed a quality that could benefit any quarterback: The ability to deal with a problem straight on and accept the consequences, rather than taking the easy way out.


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