Nov 3, 2011, 2:45 PM EST
Funny how a major protest movement begins. One minute you’re banging on a drum while holding a homemade sign in the park, and the next you’re among thousands battling police, with a fire hose wrapped around your neck and an undetonated flash grenade in your pants.
The same thing can happen on the Internet, we now know. Occupy Wall Street, meet Occupy Tebow. Both began the same way: through grassroots social protest. Both escalated the same way: when police overreacted and began using strong-arm tactics. How they will end is anyone’s guess.
Only one thing is for certain: the latter is no longer about Tim Tebow. It never really was.
If you like flickery things on the Internet that dance and amuse and move faster than your ability to read them, head on over to ESPN.com, to a certain post about Tim Tebow. Here’s the link: click on it now and go to the comments section. It’s like a cool Internet fireworks show where we’re all invited. “Ooohh! Ahhhh! … Hey, that’s disgusting!”
They’re calling it the #OccupyTebow movement, and the rules are simple. It’s just “X > (is greater than) Tebow.” I’ve got it on split screen as I’m writing this, and the one that just popped up is Groupon’s IPO > Tebow. It’s been four days now, and activity in the post’s comments section is still crackling along at the speed of, well … about one comment every second, on average. At its height on Wednesday, it was about 100 comments per minute. It’s literally hard to read them because they pop up on the page so fast.
Here’s how it all began. On Monday, ESPN’s Bill Williamson (full disclosure: former colleague, good friend) wrote a column about how John Elway and the Broncos should be looking ahead in case, you know, this Tebow experiment doesn’t work. It was well written and quite innocent, but one commenter had had enough. He wrote: Ryan Leaf > Tebow.
That was sufficient to begin a modest meme, as other readers — apparently disgusted with ESPN’s obsession with Tebow coverage — chimed in with their own Tebow greater-thans. Some were funny, some rude, some downright wrong (use your imagination here). But it was no big deal.
But then the ESPN moderators descended. Some of the Tebow greater-than comments began disappearing. Then all of them. ESPN was killing them as fast as they came in. Why? The answer is shrouded in mystery. It was just the iron fist of “the man,” coming down on the peaceful comments section protesters.
The sports blog Deadspin noticed this, and asked the musical question: “ESPN is killing the Tebow comments as fast as they come in. But what if they came in faster?”
Readers responded. Others joined in. Before long, it was a river of Tebow meme insults.
Waking up in a bathtub full of ice and your kidneys are missing > Tebow
Frank McCourt’s Etrade account > Tebow
JaMarcus Russell > Tebow
In this fall, this is very tough, in this fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat > Tebow
Gaddafi’s hiding place > Tim Tebow
Carrot Top > Tebow
bad newz kennels > Tebow
Dating Mike Tyson in the 1990′s > Tebow
Children of the Corn 2 > Tebow
Running into Julian Edelman at a Halloween party > tebow
And on and on it went. The post lists the comments at “5,000+,” but there are surely thousands more than that … it may end up being the most clicked-on story in ESPN history.
Which is ironic, because this is the comment meme that ESPN tried to kill. The moderators went in and pepper-sprayed a few protestors, if you will, and all it did was strengthen their resolve and swell their numbers. Because, make no mistake, this is a protest — it’s not about Tim Tebow at all.
As we know, Occupy Wall Street really began when New York police Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna went a bit mental with the pepper spray during a Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan. That gave the protestors the moral high ground and the publicity boost they needed. And a nation-wide movement was born. By trying to strong-arm the comments section, ESPN did the same thing. Now they’re in the unique position of having created both the monster and the pitchfork-wielding mob.
Right now I’m picturing some ESPN executive sitting in his office, dressed as Commodus from the film Gladiator, wringing his hands. “The more I try to do for them, the more the people love Maximus and hate me.” Like they said in the movie, win the crowd, and you control Rome. If you had left the comments alone, ESPN, the meme would have petered out in hours. Now it’s headed into its fifth day.
ESPN has given up on trying to moderate it, by the way. On the streets of their site, the mob rules.
bullying a kid all through high school and 10 years later being his waiter at Applebee’s >Tebow
hitting OT because you stayed at work to watch this thread > Tebow
Maximus! Maximus! …
And the guy this is supposedly aimed at? Tim Tebow says that none of this bothers him at all. Which makes him bigger than all of this, and better than you or me. Well, me, anyway. All of this Tebowing, and mocking his religious beliefs, and calling for Brady Quinn (the worst of all)? It’s only making him stronger. The only thing that can kill him now are defensive linemen. (Sadly, that may happen).
Occupy Tebow is bigger than all of us. All we can do now is watch it plow the earth, like a category 4 tornado, and try and dodge the aluminum siding.
Rick’s Cafe Americain appears each Thursday. Contact: Rickchand@gmail.com.
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