We need more men like these

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--What do college football players Tim Tebow and Andrew Gardner have in common? Besides achieving a high level of success on the gridiron, the pair let it be known they weren't interested in being a part of Playboy's preseason all-America football team.

Tebow is the junior quarterback for the University of Florida and last season became the only sophomore ever to win the Heisman Trophy. Gardner is entering his senior season and is an offensive lineman for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Both players, who cited their Christian faith as the main reason they did not want to be associated with the porn publication, should be applauded for refusing to accommodate a publication that has significantly contributed to America's sex-saturated culture.

After Playboy made Gardner one of its preseason picks, he declined the invitation to participate. "Playboy isn't something I want really, to associate myself with," Gardner told ESPN.com. "I just don't think that would be a way I wanted to represent myself or my family.

Tebow was never nominated for Playboy's preseason team. University of Florida assistant sports information director Zack Higbee did not submit Tebow's name. "I've been working with Tim since his first day here," Higbee told USA Today, "and I know his priorities and his family." Tebow confirmed that Higbee's decision was the right one.

Tebow and Gardner are not the first players to tell Playboy to take a hike. Others have done so as well. Among the more notable are Charlie Ward from Florida State University, the 1993 Heisman recipient, and Danny Wuerffel, the 1996 Heisman winner from the University of Florida.

Since preseason honors are based on projections rather than performance, they all carry with them a certain element of irrelevancy. And Playboy's has a higher degree of irrelevancy than most.

In order for a player to be named to the Playboy preseason team, in most instances he must agree to participate in an all-expenses-paid gathering at a resort that includes an All-America team photo shoot -– with the resulting picture to appear in an issue of Playboy.

If a player cannot make the Playboy get-together, then he is bumped and another player takes his place. Yeah, real prestigious all-America team (wink, wink, nod, nod), ain't it?

Why does Playboy have an attendance requirement for its preseason all-America team? The only possible reason that I can come up with is credibility.

Playboy's founder, Hugh Hefner, started the preseason all-America team in 1957, just four years after the first issue of the porn publication was launched. Every year since, he has used the credibility of college football players and their teams in an effort to establish credibility for his porn publication.

The mainstream media has long portrayed Hefner as a smiling, swank, polished man-about-town. Rarely has he been depicted as a sex-obsessed man with a drooling desire to destroy the conventions of culture. Hefner himself was very calculating in how he introduced his hedonistic vision for America.

In December 1962, Hefner began what would be a 25-segment essay titled, "The Playboy Philosophy." When completed it was a 345-page attack on all that was decent in American society. Hefner's manifesto was particularly scornful of "Puritanical religion."

In Hefner's mind, a cultural utopia was only possible if religion was rejected outright and pleasure -- especially unrestrained sexual pleasure -- was embraced. While Playboy has been celebrated as an idol to heterosexual hedonism, it is worth noting that Hefner argued for absolutely no boundaries in the pursuit of pleasure.

While Playboy has long catered to heterosexual appetites, Hefner was no prude. In chapter 18 of "The Playboy Philosophy" he argued for the abolition of all laws against sodomy, including laws against bestiality. As a result, Hefner has for some time funded organizations committed to fighting for unrestricted sexual expression in America.

There is no doubt that Playboy has made a significant contribution to the current sex-saturated state of American culture.

Perhaps as significant as the obvious impact Hefner has had on American culture might be the less quantifiable ways he has stained society. How many marriages have been undermined by the fantasies fostered by Playboy? How many women have pursued the airbrushed ideal depicted by Hefner via unhealthy dieting or unnecessary plastic surgery? How many children have lost their innocence due to the influence of the most popular men's magazine in the world?

It's too bad that university administrations don't have the guts to say no to Playboy. To date, only the University of Notre Dame has a policy against players appearing on Playboy's preseason all-America team.

Thankfully, players like Tim Tebow and Andrew Gardner have the faith and conviction to say no to a sham "preseason honor" from a porn magazine. They refuse to allow themselves to be used by Playboy in an obvious effort to bolster its image. May their tribe increase!


Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each week in Baptist Press, is editor of the Baptist Message, the newspaper of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, which is online at baptistmessage.com.

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