What if your surname became so common — due to your behavior — that it became a verb?
This is what has happened to the young Tim Tebow, a second-year professional quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Tebow has become a verb. Because of Tebow’s penchant for kneeling in prayer on the football field, “to Tebow” means to kneel in a posture of prayer while others are going about their daily routine.
I guess everybody needs a distraction from time to time and Tebow, apparently a person of deep and genuine faith, is as good a distraction as anyone else and better than most. From his days as quarterback at the University of Florida, he has worn his religion publicly to the glory of God.
He is neither the first nor the last athlete to do so, but he’s the only one I know who has become a verb, a phenomenon reserved mostly for deceased authors or economists: think of the adjectives Rabelaisian, Orwellian, Faustian, Keynesian, and Malthusian, for instance.
Go to the website Tebowing.com and you’ll see, in addition to Tebow t-shirts for sale (profits go to charity), hundred of photographs of persons across the globe bowing in the Tim Tebow pose: bridal parties, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, hikers on snow capped Ecuadorian mountains, tourists on the Great Wall of China. They’re all Tebowing.
One can easily mock this sudden craze which has become supernova in magnitude. Last week, for instance, when Mr. Tebow passed for exactly 316 yards with 31.6 yards per pass those who love to connect the numbers dots with the faith dots pointed out that one of Tebow’s favorite verses is 3:16 as in John. Is this taking things too far? I shudder to think what might happen if this Sunday Tebow throws 6 passes for an average of 66 yard per pass.
But back to the original question: if your name were to become a verb, what would your behavior signify? Would your name become a verb indicating truth telling, courageousness, fidelity? Or would your name become a stand-in for mediocrity, hypocrisy, immorality?
I’m sure Tim Tebow never had a notion of turning his own name into a verb. That was done by others who watched him practice his faith in public. What I’d love to see, rather than people imitating a kneeling Tebow, would be for people to practice their own brand of faith just as publicly: Some persons will write letters to Congress while others will give money quietly to needy strangers; some will march in public protest while others will work in homeless shelters; some will defend gay and lesbian persons while others will advocate on behalf of the unborn.
The takeaway from the Tim Tebow phenomenon is that each person has the capacity to be his or her own verb, practicing faith in the public arena in a highly effective way. This makes a whole lot more sense than cutely copying somebody else.
Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.