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The Rise and Fall of Tim Tebow, Internet Meme Darling

I have never followed football. It is one of those pastimes that I am willing to indulge in for underdog local teams (Seahawks!) or rite-of-passage school games (go Cal!) but no matter how many games I attend, the finer points of the sport still elude me. Why are they all lined up there? What’s with those little flag-rope things? Why is a touchdown 6 points? Mysteries, all.

But, with the Super Bowl just around the corner and me spending some time on the internet, even a football-oblivious person like me cannot avoid mention of Tim Tebow. For the two of you out there who somehow wonder, “who is Tim Tebow?”: he is the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos and, depending on with whom you are speaking, falls somewhere between god’s instrument on the football field and an average player. He has been credited with some exciting (some might say…miraculous!) last minute plays but is not great at throwing. Because Tebow has captured the imagination of football fans across the US, and because many of these fans have some free time on their hands and internet access, this devotion has been expressed in meme form.

Now that the Broncos are out of the running for Super Bowl glory, the Tebow meme has run its course from the high highs of national obsession in the form of “Tebowing” to today’s melancholy “sad Tebow” meme, a relic of the Bronco’s losing game to the Patriots.

It all began with “Tebowing”, the most popular Tebow meme. The definition of “Tebowing” (according to this official source) is “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.”  If you would like pictorial evidence of this phenomenon, do yourself a favor and check here. There is now quite a collection of celebrities, children and animals “Tebowing” and although the Broncos did not make it to the Superbowl, the pictures continue to accumulate.

Tebow giving a great example of Tebowing

The phenomenon even inspired Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to follow through on his wager with the mayor of Denver when the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Broncos on January 8. He put on a Broncos jersey and Tebowed for all to see:

Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl Tebows

As Tebow fever continued, another popular Tebow meme appeared in the style of the classic “Chuck Norris Facts” meme. This meme, based upon satirical facts about actor and martial artist Chuck Norris, plays upon his purported toughness and masculinity. For example, “Chuck Norris doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants” or “Chuck Norris doesn’t call the wrong number. You answer the wrong phone.” Get the idea? Tebow’s status as extremely lucky football hero that can do no wrong has encouraged the same treatment of him, with tweets including:

Another Tebow meme is the smaller- but by no means less entertaining- centaur meme. This began partly because- why not?- and partly because some guy in Denver lost a bet and gained a Tebow-centaur tattoo.

The tattoo inspired sports blogger Matt Ufford to create some very memorable fan art in the form of the Tebow Centaur, a creation that proceeded to circulate around the web, delighting all.

Tebow imagined as Centaur by Matt Ufford

Now that the Broncos are out of the running, the sad Tebow meme has soaked up the last dregs of Tebow attention. This meme consists of a shot of Tebow at the end of that final game, with a sad phrase superimposed over it:

Tebow Tragic via

Tim Tebow certainly swept the nation up into a frenzy, and though not everyone loved him, most had a very strong feeling for him one way or another. Over the course of the Tebow rollercoaster, online mention of Tim Tebow rose to the highest of highs- breaking a twitter record-

And fell gradually after the January 14th loss to the Patriots.

Topic Volume via Visible Intelligence®

But don’t worry; Tebow is going to be fine. At 24 years old, with only 2 NFL seasons under his belt and advertising contracts with Nike and Jockey, this is not the last we’ve seen of him. Whether you hate him or you love him, Tim Tebow is not going anywhere.


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