Rafa and Tebow – out of sight but not out of mind

Well, Rafael Nadal is out of the US Open (again) and Tim Tebow is out of the NFL (again). As a fan of both, I’m sorry to see them go but not surprised.

Rafa was up to two sets and 3-1 in the third against Fabio Fognini (yes, I know, Who?) in the third round of the Open Friday night into Saturday morning when, depending on your viewpoint, Rafa lost it or Fabio staged a fab comeback.

Let’s go with the later, shall we? But whom are we kidding? Except for the Rrrrrrrrrrr ads he’s done in his new Tommy Hilfiger skivvies – which display the animal magnetism that has always been part of his attraction and that has been the sensual complement to Roger Federer’s preppy hauteur – Rafa has had an abysmal year, including the smackdown he took by Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the French Open, the tournament he once owned.

Now there will be no Rafanole repeat in the US Open quarters. Is it trouble with his forehand? The need for a new coach? (Rafa has said he would never dismiss Uncle Toni as coach, because family is more important than tennis.) A punishing physical game? Or is it a mental game that’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Who knows, but it can’t help having Tiger Woods, that symbol of former glory, sitting in your box.

I predict Rafa will be back reinvigorated, but the Rafa who eclipsed Feddy only to be challenged by Nole in the greatest of tennis rivalries is done.

At least he has had a great career thus far and will be remembered as well as the king of clay for his nine French Open titles. Whereas Tebow’s NFL career has been aborted before it ever really took flight. He’s been released by the Philadelphia Eagles after looking sharp in the preseason – but apparently not sharp enough to suggest that his skills as a running quarterback could ever translate fully from college to the pros. (Tebow was as usual all graciousness on Twitter, thanking Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly for giving him a chance to play the game he loves.)

I don’t know, the guy won a playoff game with the Denver Broncos. Seems like no one will give him a real chance to have the second season he earned.

In my upcoming novel, “The Penalty for Holding,” not one but two running quarterbacks get that chance. But then, that’s the beauty of fiction: You can right what’s wrong. The troubled tennis star stages a comeback at the Open (my debut novel “Water Music,” the first in my series “The Games Men Play”). The quarterbacks get their chances to shine (“TPFH,” the second in the series).

Rafa and Tebow, however, know that truth is stranger than fiction – and a whole lot crueler.