There is a scene in the classic movie "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie finally -- finally -- gets a chance to meet Santa Claus to ask about the Red Ryder BB gun, only to blank in Santa's presence.
Santa: "How about a nice...football?" (In Ralphie's own head: "Football? Football? What's a football? With unconscious will my voice squeaked out 'football'.A football? Oh no, what was I doing? Wake up, Stupid! Wake up!")
Ralphie nods his head, and Santa sends him down the slide. Halfway down, Ralphie realizes what is happening, stops short, clambers back up the slide and announces his interest in the gun. Santa replies: "You'll shoot your eye out kid!" Then taps his boot on Ralphie's forehead, sending Ralphie down the slide into oblivion with a whimpering "Nooooo....."
That's a very real scenario for me, because tonight, there is a pretty good chance that I am going to meet Tim Tebow. Finally meet Tim Tebow, I guess you could say. Or, the way many of you might characterize it: Awkwardly meet Tim Tebow.
There is a 100 percent chance that I will be standing in a room with him as a frenzy of media folks jockey to interview him at a launch party for EA's NCAA Football 11. The closest I have otherwise been to Tebow is about 20 rows up from the field at the Swamp at the Tennessee game last September.
So then the open question is whether or not I will actually talk to Tebow myself -- as part of the group or, perhaps, even a brief 1-on-1 interview. If so, the even bigger question is: What would I talk with him about?
In my Ralphie moment, the handlers will nudge me into a one-question interview with Tebow and I'll sputter "Football...." Tebow will answer pleasantly about making a difference or finishing strong or the effort he will bring to whatever NFL team he is lucky enough to be drafted to. And then he'll move along, and I'll realize the brilliant, thought-provoking question I should have asked:
"Wait, wait: How can one reconcile the "relationships-over-championships" attitude with the tears of disappointment on the sidelines of the Georgia Dome! What do you think is the most applicable secular interpretation of your religious beliefs? What's your favorite piece of Tebow mythos? What role did growing up a Gator fan play in your college career? AndhaveyoueverheardofTimTeblogdotcom?"
Let's be realistic here: I don't exactly have the typical media person's perspective on Tebow. Everyone else will attend tonight and ask him the standard questions about his college career, draft status, NFL prospects, faith, etc. And, more than likely, Tebow will reply with standard answers.
But what about the guy who has the blog focused entirely on Tim Tebow? The guy who has written nearly 800 posts about Tebow over the past 9 months? The guy who has dissected and analyzed practically everything Tebow has said or been said about him?
To be totally honest, the entire prospect of talking with Tebow freaks me out. Not just because of the obsessive coverage or the faux-journalistic distance I've maintained from Tebow (for example, not getting media credentials to cover him up close in G'ville or his trips to NYC).
And, no: Not because of the awkward moment when I mention -- if I even have the chutzpah to bring it up -- that he-has-probably-never-heard-of-it-but-I-have-a-Tebow-focused-blog-called-TimTeblog.com... only to have him say "Wow, hm. No, can't say I've heard of it." Probably followed by something chipper like "But sounds fun!" Either that, or a quick safe-word alerting the PR handlers to take me back to the media holding pen.
(Quick digression: The most common question I get when I talk with people about the blog is that they ask me if I think Tebow has seen or read it. With absolutely no false modesty, I tell them that I am 100 percent sure he has never even heard of it, let alone read it. I think he steers clear of coverage of himself, no matter what the form. If his family or the Florida sports information department has set up a Google Alert for "Tebow" -- and I'd be shocked if they didn't -- it would be hard for them to miss the blog. But really, bank on it: He's never seen it or heard of TimTeblog.com. And I'm not even sure how I could bring it up without sounding like a complete tool.)
But let me tell you what freaks me out the most: Coming up with a question beyond the banal. Getting a response beyond what I already know he will say. (Now, I recognize that any speaker as polished as Tebow will always glide back to the talking points, but I can at least make an effort.)
I have been racking my brain -- not to mention the archives of the blog -- trying to come up with the questions that might illuminate Tebow in some new way. Short of that, I am heading in trying to make sense of the larger theses that I have developed about Tebow over the past year about Tebow's football or his faith or his mythology.
I can envision a dream scenario: That my questions are good enough that Tebow would be willing to sit down with me for a half-hour at some point this summer when things are a little bit calmer, for a more extensive discussion. But I'm not holding out for that.
I can also envision a nightmare scenario for tonight: That my question will just be the same old thing. Not even that his answer will be one I've read or linked to a hundred times -- but that the experience won't live up to built-up expectations of the year of attention I have put into the Teblog project.
The reality is that there probably ISN'T a question -- or an answer -- that would validate my unusual dedication to the Tebow beat. And, ultimately, recognizing that is how I'm going to get over the babble in my head, get in the queue to talk with him, introduce myself and ask him a couple questions.
My wife -- the original Gators fan in our family and who has supported the Teblog effort so patiently (most of the time) -- has a pretty interesting theory: That it is very hard to talk with someone you know a LOT about when you don't actually know them. It's a false familiarity that should be recognizable to any sports fan -- or fan of anything, I guess. But I digress.
Some might (appropriately) say that the crucible for shamelessness about all this was defined back in mid-July when I launched a blog devoted entirely to covering Tim Tebow -- that whatever happens tonight is only a function of that.
Still doesn't change the fact that this feels like the culmination of the past year's work, and I'm still not sure how it fits. Maybe after tonight I will enjoy a revelation.
For those of you who have read the blog over the past 9 months, you know that any question from me has to be a little more thought-provoking than your standard media interview cliche. What would YOU ask Tebow, if you really wanted to understand him better?