Over the past couple of years, the American society has been exposed to and fallen in love with “Tebowing”. The act of Tebowing is a tribute to New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow in which a person goes down to one knee with their head rested on their fist as if in prayer. While this meme exists within the realm of ideas in the sense that most people would understand what you are talking about when you say Tebowing, it also has a behavioral component because it is imitated by watching the way it is done by another person.
Tebowing has evolved vastly over the past several years, beginning with the seemingly ordinary action of a football player praying during a college football game. From there, the horizontal spread of the meme was extremely rapid; the first group of people to imitate Tebowing were loyal Florida Gator football fans imitating their team’s star player. At this point, the meme was no longer a prayer but instead an imitation that was directly tied to Tim Tebow. The next evolution of the meme was increased media
coverage, and Tebowing reached a point where it became something imitated in virtually any situation. In fact, Tebowing had spread so greatly that a majority of its imitations were completely unrelated to football or prayer, and instead became a symbol of celebration or used as a tribute to Tim Tebow himself. The Tebowing sensation has grown so greatly that it has even been imitated by mascots of other sports teams, politicians, soldiers, and perhaps most famously by Lindsey Vonn after a skiing World Cup victory. The imitation of the Tebowing meme is Lamarckian in nature, which according to Dawkins and Blackmore means “copying the product”; imitators of this meme replicate Tebowing by watching how it is done rather than being told to pray on one knee. This explains why Tebowing is done with one’s head resting on their fist although Tim Tebow does not actually pray this way.
The fact that Tebowing has been so widely replicated is due to a combination of several factors, the first of which being the incredible amount of media coverage Tim Tebow has gotten over the past several years. In addition, Tebow is widely regarded as one of the best college football players of all time, and is a very polarizing figure due to his well documented upright Christian morals. Thus, the love for and hatred of Tim Tebow has drawn much attention from fans and media. Although the Tebowing craze reached its highest point over the past year, the differential fitness of this meme would suggest that Tebowing may be reaching an end due to the fact that Tebow has received very little playing time since being traded to the Jets. While further evolution of Tebowing is unlikely, if he were to be named the starting quarterback for the Jets in the future Tebowing’s presence in American pop culture could grow even larger.
Tebowing falls into a larger “memeplex” of iconic sports memes that have been recognized and imitated across society. Although on a smaller scale than the Tebowing craze, other memes that fall into this category include Cam Newton’s “Superman” celebration, Lebron James throwing chalk into the air before every basketball game, and Aaron Rodgers’ championship belt celebration (“or Discount Double Check” as coined by State Farm). Each of these memes are a part of this greater memeplex because they are all associated with a single athlete and then replicated across society, often in a way that has nothing to do with the original context of the action. Because of the fact that each of these memes originated with an athlete that is still playing their respective sport, it is hard to say whether they will spread longitudinally across generations, however for the time being they continue to have a strong hold on the American population.