Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Jared Kleinstein: From Wash. U. to Eternal Meme-dom

Senior Parker Brogdon gives his best “Tebowing” attempt before studying in the DUC on Sunday night.Sahil Patel | Student Life

Senior Parker Brogdon gives his best “Tebowing” attempt before studying in the DUC on Sunday night.

If you’ve been on Facebook lately, you’ve probably been bombarded by Wash. U. memes on your News Feed. What you probably didn’t realize is that a Wash. U. alum is responsible for one of the most popular memes on the planet: Tebowing.

It all began on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011. The Denver Broncos were down 15-0 in Miami with less than three minutes to go. That’s when Tim Tebow took over. The popular Bronco quarterback threw two touchdowns and ran in a two-point conversion to force overtime. Their kicker, Matt Prater, booted a field goal to win. Jared Kleinstein, a Denver native and Wash. U. alum, was watching the game in a sports bar in New York and saw that while everyone in the bar and on the field at the game was jumping up and down in excitement, Tim Tebow was down on one knee praying.

Kleinstein quickly went outside and took a picture with some friends doing the same pose and posted it to Facebook. After he started getting some “likes,” he decided to start a website as a home to similar pictures. He sent it to some of his Wash. U. friends and Tebowing.com began to get more and more hits as people from around the country submitted their own pictures. By Thursday, the website had over 100,000 views and CNN and other major news networks had picked up the story.

When Denver Broncos offensive lineman Chris Kuper was injured, his teammates prayed in a fashion similar to Tebowing.Courtesy of Jeffrey Beall

When Denver Broncos offensive lineman Chris Kuper was injured, his teammates prayed in a fashion similar to Tebowing.

Kleinstein, who graduated in 2009 with a BSBA in marketing and entrepreneurship, used lessons learned at Wash. U. to develop his website into something more. “The typical entrepreneurship model is starting a business off of an idea, but this came as the opposite,” Kleinstein said. Nevertheless, Kleinstein has started selling a wide array of Tebowing apparel and the meme has evolved into a real business. He even donates some of the profits to charity.

Kleinstein realizes that his success was very lucky. “I’ll never be able to make something again that can be so widely known and well recognized,” Kleinstein said.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, also Denver natives, recently made fun of the trend with “Faith Hilling” an episode of “South Park.” “‘South Park’ was the coolest moment for us,” Kleinstein said. “Just that it was worthy of being made fun of.”

Tebowing has spread across the world, with pictures taken in front of the Egyptian pyramids, Tiananmen Square and more. In an interview, Kleinstein was asked which celebrity he would like to see Tebowing and his friend suggested “Glee”’s Dianna Agron. One day later, a picture appeared with her in the famous pose. Although Kleinstein has never met Tebow in person, he has heard that the quarterback loves that his pose has gotten so popular, mostly because it has a deeper, spiritual meaning. A picture with the caption, “Tebowing while chemoing,” has become especially popular.

“The fact that it means something is something that we never could have predicted, but has been the most rewarding aspect,” Kleinstein said.

Since the site started, Tebow’s football career has taken a discouraging turn. The Broncos decided to sign Peyton Manning and Tebow was sent to the New York Jets, where Kleinstein now lives. “It’s the only place outside of Denver that I can be happy to see him go,” he said. Now that Peyton Manning is his team’s new quarterback, is there another meme in the works? “I have had some ideas for a Manning meme, but I’m not going to let anyone know about them until they are ready to come out.”

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878