Tebowing! Is it a web meme? Is it trademarkable? Is it an affront to God and country? Will the all-powerful smite those who mock Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow? And can Tebow really be an underdog if, as he believes, God is on his side?
The only clear thing is that NFL fans, players and sports wonks are getting completely bent out of shape about something that won't matter in two weeks.
How the "Tebowing" craze (which certainly beats icing and planking as fads go) got started: After pulling out an extraordinary win against the Miami Dolphins, Tim Tebow took to one knee to thank (or praise) God. Tebow, to the non-sports fans in the house, is well known as an outspoken evangelical Christian.
On Oct. 27, three days before Tebow — already riding "Tebowmania" — was to play against the Detroit Lions, the meme "Tebowing" went viral online. That day, Tebow tweeted his approval, including correct use of the Twitter hashtag, posting: "#Tebowing - to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different. Love it!"
For the next few days, Tebow retweeted a few of his favorite examples of fans "Tebowing." A blog, called Tebowing.com, sprang up (as seen at top, even tots are doing it!) dedicated to photos of fans Tebowing sprang up.
ESPN commented, "Well that escalated quickly." The LA Times called Tebowing a "phenomenon," adding "The definition of 'Tebowing' may have to be tweaked again after his next great performance. It is highly dubious that everyone around him 'will be doing something different' when he assumes the position again in the near future."
It isn't hard to see where this was going. On Sunday, the Lions dismantled Tebow's Broncos, embarrassing the hero quarterback with an interception returned for touchdown. Tebow was sacked seven times.
After one of those sacks, Lions defenseman Stephen Tulloch, couldn't resist Tebowing, kneeling and holding his head. It was naked mocking of the rival quarterback's new meme. (The FOX Sports commentator's comment: "It's become a worldwide phenomenon, hasn't it? Ah, that's beautiful.")
Later, another Lion similarly Tebowed after scoring a touchdown. The Lions certainly caused an uproar.
"Lions disrespected Tim Tebow's faith" read the ESPN headline two days later. ESPN added, "I'm sure Tebow wasn't trying to create a craze when he knelt to the ground and prayed as his teammates celebrated wildly around him following the improbable victory over Miami."
This was just the latest "controversy" involving the Lion, following a din the week before when the Lions coach got into a fight shook another coach's hand a little hard.
Yet, the tweets don't lie, and it's clear Tebow did promote and support the new craze.
In his defense, Tulloch duly tweeted (as his team issued an apology), "I have a love & passion for the game of football. Football is a form of entertainment. Have a sense of humor, I wasn't mocking GOD! #Tebowing"
Others piled on. "New Internet sensation called Tebowing: take a knee and pray Elway doesn't cut you," tweeted comedian Dennis Leary. Another wag came up with "Tebowling." ESPN.com is now being hit with an "Occupy Tebow" uprising in the comments.
Tebow's show of religion isn't without precedent in the NFL, by the way.
The former coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy, is a Christian activist. When he faced another African-American coach during a historical milestone Super Bowl, Dungy said, "not only the first two African-Americans, but Christian coaches showing that you can win doing it the Lord's way. And we're more proud of that." Dungy, who began inspirational speaking after his son's suicide, even considered giving up coaching to minister in prisons.
Then there was Reggie White. Called "The Minister of Defense," the late defensive end was an ordained Evangelical minister, spending his Sundays spreading the Lord's word by crushing quarterbacks. White courted controversy when he used his Christianity to lobby against gay rights, calling being gay a "sin" and appeared in ads suggesting homosexuality was a choice.
And when it comes to ridicule, Tebow is not even yet in the same galaxy as Reggie White's 1996 film Reggie's Prayer.
The difference of course is that the 1990s were different times, and Christianity, from prayer in schools to Christmas, has been under attack since then. Also, White took the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowls (winning one), went to 13 Pro Bowls, is second only to one in all-time sacks, and is enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame. Tim Tebow is 1-1 as a starting quarterback.
The bottom line is that the only deity in the NFL is the almighty "W" (or as Charlie Sheen tweets it, #winning). And while winners come in all varieties (the pious, the playboys, the pompous, the pricks), there is one one kind of loser. If Tebow, and his fans, want the "Tebowing" act to be respected, he needs to win games.
Ultimately, Tulloch is right of course. Football is just entertainment and any controversy like this just feeds the beast. Are you entertained yet, America?
Meanwhile, naturally, others are jumping on the Tebowing bandwagon.
On Oct. 27, Jared Kleinstein DBA Tebowing applied to trademark the term for "Hats; Shirts; T-shirts; T-shirts for our website tebowing.com." Tebowing.com (operated by Tebowing LLC) is already enforcing its trademark, sending cease and desist letters to other manufacturers.