The ESPN.com comment section is a den of iniquity and misspelling, and for the world's largest sports site, it's curiously inessential. The open registration means the discourse tends toward lowest common denominator, and it's too big to engender much sense of community. But once in a long while the disparate masses are united by a polarizing figure. This week, one Mr. Tim Tebow has worked that miracle.
On Sunday night, ESPN.com posted a Bill Williamson column calling for the Broncos to get their post-Tebow plans in order. The early comments were unremarkable: the usual "Tebow sucks" and "John Fox sucks" camps doing their thing. But as Halloween dawned, the shapeless mass of discontent had taken form. Completely organically, Tebow hate made order out of chaos.
"X > Tebow" is the meme, with X being a series of increasingly negative and absurd things. It began with QuanB8's comment, "Ryan Leaf > Tebow." It moved to to other crappy quarterbacks—JaMarcus Russell, David Carr, Akili Smith—but soon became something else entirely. A few examples:
Windows Vista > Tebow
Being groped by Julian Edelman > Tebow
Still saying 'Whaaaz uuuppp' > Tebow
Eating undercooked chicken and dealing with its unsavory aftereffects this morning > Tebow
Yelling the N word at a DMX concert > Tebow
Wanting to dream about Cheers Kirstie Alley and dreaming about Fat Actress Kirstie Alley instead > Tebow
Rebooting the Back To The Future franchise with the plot centered around getting Tebow's mom to have an abortion > Tebow
"X > Tebow" ranges from the self-referential to the nonsensical to the patently offensive, and has spread to other comment sections. It is a monster that cannot be contained by ESPN.com moderators, despite their best efforts. As the craze hit full swing on Monday, ESPN was deleting comments almost as quickly as they appeared. That was a mistake. In the face of oppression, the commenters redoubled their efforts. I think this is an important point: the Worldwide Leader in Sports was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who wanted to make fun of Tim Tebow.
On day two, ESPN tried a different strategy: only deleting comments that were anti-religious or otherwise objectionable under their terms of service. We've heard from commenters who have found their contributions gone, their accounts suspended. But even that's fallen by the wayside, as any number of anti-Christian or generally obscene comments can be found today. The moderators abandoned the battlefield. The commenters won.
It's a momentous day for the denizens of ESPN.com, having created their first legitimate meme (Craggs likens it to seeing a dog walk on two legs). They've been able to act cohesively, showcase their creativity, and rage against the machine a bit at the same time. That is the true miracle of Tim Tebow.