Sure, there were three different screen shots for all three consoles, each of which was attempting to render as accurate of an image as possible. In the cover photo for the XBox 360 Tebow, with his orange Gators helmet removed, flexes, appearing to scream as he's just scored a touchdown. In the cover photo for the Playstation 3 game, Tebow, in white uniform, tucks the football under his left arm and appears to be bowling over a tackler amidst a run. Finally, in the Playstation 2 cover art, Tebow, wearing a white Gator uniform, is uncorking a pass, sending a football spiral heading in the direction of the consumer.
All three photos are incredibly detailed, down to the Nike logos on the Gator uniforms. The play chart is included on Tebow's right wrist in two of the cover shots, and the quarterback wears his usual EyeBlack beneath his eyes. Tebow's helmet is even covered in grimy dirt and grass.
Something, though, was still missing.
That's when it hit me, Tebow's EyeBlack didn't feature the single most iconic element of his uniform, the Bible verses scrawled into the EyeBlack. These Bible verses came to define Tebow, a warrior on the gridiron who subsumed his athleticism to a higher power. In the final game of his career at Florida, the Gators' Sugar Bowl victory over Cincinnati, Tebow scrawled Ephesians 2:8-10 into his EyeBlack.
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Immediately, as Tebow fully intended, the Bible verse shot to the top of Google hot searches.
Tebow used his platform as a quarterback to share his religion with millions of viewers. In fact, Tebow's religious messages in the EyeBlack became so popular that the NCAA, in part, banned the use of EyeBlack messages in its most recent iteration of the rules.
Tebow's evangelical Christianity is the primary reason his is the No. 1 selling jersey in the NFL since the draft. Christians of every fan base are drawn to his fervent religiosity, of which the EyeBlack was the most tangible sign on the field. His EA Sports themed Nike sneaker sold out 500 pairs at the Nike Store in Gainesville on Friday ... despite the fact that they went on sale at 1:50 a.m.
So it had to be intentional that, in the midst of photographing Tim Tebow for the cover of its video games, Electronic Arts would choose to replicate every other detail of his uniform, down to the plays on the wrist and the Nike logos on the chest -- hell, down to even the EyeBlack itself -- and not include the Bible verses, right?
Not according to the company.
Electronic Arts claims there was no intent to leave the Bible verses off the EyeBlack. Via e-mail, I inquired whether the company took its own photographs or scrubbed existing photographs for the cover of its video game.
Electronic Arts spokesperson Rob Semsey replied as follows, "All images used on NCAA Football 11 were shot specifically for the cover of the game -- shot in March of this year in Orlando, near our studio. For these shoots, we typically have to order all the equipment, jerseys, pants, etc. We ordered the standard EyeBlack strips as well."
So they ordered the exact same EyeBlack strips that Tebow wore on the field, but then didn't allow Tebow to modify the standard black eye strips as he modified them for every game of his college career? Electronic Arts, the publisher of the most realistic -- and only -- college football game in America makes certain these games are as accurate as possible with every detail. From the height and skill level of your long-snapper to the relative noise created by your homefield advantage, it's all rendered in vivid detail.
That's one of the primary selling points of the Electronic Arts sports games, the stunning accuracy. Indeed, one of the first, and most effective, advertising tag lines for the sports games was, "If it's in the game, it's in the game!" Clearly, when it comes to Tebow's messages on his EyeBlack, this tag line is flawed. That's in one game, the real one, but not the other.
In essence, didn't Tebow's religion get scrubbed -- airbrushed away into nonexistence?
I asked that question again in a follow-up e-mail and Semsey responded, "No, there's really nothing to this. Tim arrived, we gave him the gear, we did the photo shoot."
Sorry, I'm not buying that explanation.
In this case, Electronic Arts' extreme attention to every detail makes the decision not to include Tebow's Bible verses on his EyeBlack all the more noticeable. If a completely accurate representation of a player is the company's goal, why isn't he wearing the single most iconic object as he wore it on the field? Nope, this was no oversight. Electronic Arts didn't want Tebow to promote his religion on the millions of video game cases that were sent out to tens of thousands of retail outlets across the country.
You can see why Electronic Arts might want this. Gamers of every religion buy its products. If Tebow's chosen Bible verse went out across the country, the company might offend someone or be accused of endorsing one religion over another. But was Tim Tebow happy with this result? Did Tebow acquiesce, take the money and agree to downplay his religion in exchange for money? Something that, by the way, Tebow claimed he would never do.
Or did Electronic Arts simply pull a disguised corner blitz on Tebow at the photo shoot, snap the pictures before he had a chance to endorse his religion on the EyeBlack? Snap the picture before Tebow could send millions of kids streaming to their computers to find out via Google what message Tebow was sending them with the letters scrawled in the cover art of the video game they'd just purchased.
I reached out to Tebow to ask his position on the issue, but have yet to receive a response. In the meantime, Electronic Arts stands behind its position that the absence of the single most recognizable and iconic statement that Tebow made in his college career, Bible verses on the EyeBlack, is a mere coincidence.
When it comes to Tebow's religion and Electronic Arts, it's in the game, but it's not in the game.