Editor’s note: This column ran in Sunday’s print edition; portions of it have already appeared elsewhere on this blog.
The moment Fox’s television broadcast showed Robert Griffin III celebrating a touchdown pass while seated on the Superdome turf, Redskins fans identified that as the first signature image of his NFL career. The image was featured in GIFs and blog items; as Twitter avatars and desktop banners, and on the front page of Monday’s Post.
That morning, one Redskins fan — who runs the Burgundy Blog and its associated Twitter feed — wondered if the pose didn’t have even wider potential.
“How has the sitting-down-arms-up posture not yet incited a ‘Griffining’ meme?” said Brent, 32, a North Carolina physician who was raised in Loudoun County.
(Like many area bloggers, he prefers to keep his last name private for professional reasons.)
That was at 10:19 a.m. on Monday. At 10:29, he asked for reader submissions, using RGIII’s photo as inspiration. For a half-hour, nothing happened.
“When it took 30 minutes before anybody wrote back at all, I thought it was surprising it flopped that badly,” Brent said. “I thought it would get going for a few minutes at least.”
At 11 a.m. on Monday, he posted his first reader submission. Then came the groundswell. Within a week, “Griffining” had been featured on Comcast SportsNet and ESPN, on NBC 4 and Fox 5, on USAToday.com and Pro Football Talk, on Yahoo Sports and the Huffington Post. Someone from Fox told Brent the network planned a look at the phenomenon during Sunday’s pregame show, and ESPN’s Rick Reilly even asked the quarterback about the trend at his weekly news conference.
“Who would have thought getting knocked on your butt and throwing a touchdown would start a phenomenon like that?” Griffin said. “I’m not opposed to it. It’s pretty funny to me.
“I haven’t seen anyone do it. Some of my teammates have made fun of me for it, like I started it on purpose. . . . People are going to have fun with what they’re gonna have fun with and I’m not gonna stop them.”
Which isn’t to say others haven’t tried. A “StopGriffining” account emerged on Twitter. Some local media types — including former Redskins.com blogger Matt Terl and WJFK (106.7 FM) host Danny Rouhier — decried the phenomenon as a tired replay of last season’s “Tebowing.”
Brent, though, wasn’t dissuaded, especially when he saw the images of kids Griffining at school, or fathers Griffining with sons.
“Tons of people hate it, and yeah, it’s kind of mindless, but it’s fun,” he told me. “Obviously it’s completely taking advantage of the insane Griffin hype, but I guess the main reason I think it’s fine — even though it’s not at all original — is that I think of it as celebrating all the good vibes right now. Because it’s great that there finally are some.”
Which is why fans have snapped photos of themselves Griffining at airports or in front of Redskins highlight shows; of their toddlers Griffining on kiddie toilets and of broken Joe Theismann action figures Griffining.
Brent himself has never been photographed Griffining, and Internet fads aren’t usually his thing — he typically writes more about personnel moves and football strategies. The entire idea came to him “as I was typing it.”
“It is embarrassing to be famous for this,” he said. “I mean, this isn’t really my wheelhouse.”
But when I asked whether he shares that undercurrent of fear some fans have expressed — that Griffin’s commercials and marketing deals, his insane debut and this week of hype have raised expectations too high — Brent strongly disagreed.
“Fans are saying pump the brakes, lower the expectations, but I think that’s kind of ridiculous,” he said. “That guy’s career is not gonna hinge on hype. He thrives on it. It’s fine. It doesn’t bother him. It’s not gonna kill him. I don’t think any stage is too big for him. Do I think he’s definitely gonna live up to the insane hype? No, because it’s the most hype ever. But I just don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s great. Fans SHOULD get excited.”