A highlight of last year’s National Football League season was the success of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, an outspoken Evangelical Christian who led his team to a series of stirring comebacks. One NFL phenomenon last year was “Tebowing,” a knee-on-the-ground prayer stance that became a national rage after the star athlete knelt on the field to give thanks.
Tebow’s on-the-field success was the result of his legs (and sometimes his erratic arm). For the growth of Tebowing, thank Jared Kleinstein, a Denver native, avid Broncos fan, day school graduate and real-estate marketer here. Last season in a Manhattan bar he watched the Broncos beat the Miami Dolphins; afterwards, he and some friends “Tebowed” outside. Kleinstein posted the image to Facebook and created a Tebowing.com website.
In two and a half months the site logged 20 million page views and 20,000 kneeling-like-Tebow photographs from all seven continents. The advertising on the site, along with sales of Tebowing merchandise has brought in profits whose total Kleinstein won’t disclose.
Tebow, of course, is now a New York Jet. With the Jets opening the season with a win over Buffalo Sunday (Tebow’s line: 5 carries, 11 yards, 0 passes), The Jewish Week caught up with Kleinstein in an e-mail interview.
Q: This is probably the millionth time you’ve heard this question — why does a nice Jewish boy, a day school graduate yet, start a website dedicated to a prominent Evangelical athlete?
A: The Tebow phenomenon transcended religion; his comeback wins were so inspiring. After watching his first start turn from a near defeat to an amazing victory, I was inspired to take a picture with my friends replicating his kneeling gesture. The rest is history!
What’s been the reaction in the Jewish community — from your friends, your rabbis, your mother?
All the feedback I heard from the Jewish community was fantastic. My high school worked with me to promote our shirt sales for a good cause. I think everyone saw that my motives were pure, not mocking Christianity in any way. My mother was the most supportive person throughout the craze — I think she still takes Tebowing pictures with her friends.
Tebowing.com went viral immediately. Are you surprised by its success?
I’m surprised because of the speed in which it happened. I launched the site on a Monday, and by that Thursday it was on CNN and every other major news network.
What’s the message for us of the popularity of Tebowing and of Tebowing.com?
The first message should be about the entrepreneurial aspects of it. People think of new ideas every day, but this is a perfect example of why if you have an idea you should never turn away because “it’s silly” or “it might not become popular.” Our culture is full of pop icons who demonstrate publicly more often what not to do, rather than what is right to do. Tim Tebow is an example of a cultural icon who demonstrates his faith publicly while also acting as a strong role model for kids.
Tebow famously took a knee for God after leading his team to victory. If God, as Tebow himself says, doesn’t care who wins or loses a game, shouldn’t Tebowing take place after a loss or lousy play too?
Definitely, which is why I don’t perceive Tebowing as strictly an act of celebration (and neither does Tim). He can be seen kneeling in a prayer circle after a game, after halftime, or other times, it’s just a matter of when cameras face him the most to notice it.
Would you “Tebow” in shul?
I wouldn’t prostrate myself in that way in shul because it’s not a part of the customs I grew up with. I guess my version of bowing before God would be how I bend my knees and bow during the Amidah.
Broncos vs. Jets — where are you putting your money, if they meet in the playoffs?
There aren’t too many Jewish players in the NFL. If one of them — say, Ukrainian-born Igor Olshansky of the Miami Dolphins — started shuckling on the field after a victory, would you start an olshansking.com website?
I’m sticking with Tebowing for now. If I think of a unique pose of my own … Kleinsteining.com is still available (can’t see much competition coming in for that one).