He’s in our streets and our timelines. He’s in the news and haunting the gallery at the PGA tournament.
If there’s one thing I know about Harambe, it’s that you might not be able to see him, but he is there, watching over us and being shoehorned into Twitter threads by aspiring homecoming kings. Because the Harambening (like The Happening but furrier) has swept over a nation and cannot be taken back now.
Whether you like it or not, Harambe has infiltrated seemingly every cranny of popular culture — sports in particular.
The following is an anthropological dig into the intersection of sports and Harambe, and how fans and athletes alike have adopted his memory and memes as their own. Because the world is tragic, but it’s never not weird enough to make up for it.
An End and a Beginning
With any momentous worldly occasion, the Pope is always one of the first to weigh in.
Keeping with this tradition, WFAN’s Mike Francesa broke from routine back in May to give listeners a special, eight-minute sermon about Harambe’s passing and "you people" out there defending the primate.
"You’re telling me you’re worried about the gorilla’s welfare?!!" Francesa shouted. "What is wrong with you??"
On-brand and from the heart.
Shock turned to sadness, and sadness into memes, and soon Harambe was being used as a punchline.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Vince Williams is credited with being the earliest known athlete to have employed Harambe for pettiness, tweeting a now-deleted jab at the Cincinnati Bengals on July 1 about the gorilla being in a better place now.
By late June, Harambe memes had become a cottage industry and an Internet currency worth their weight in beryllium. From here, Harambe memes did what only the strongest and most fearless products of online boredom are capable of doing, and made the Bane-leap from the depths of the Internet to the real world.
Take Me Out to Harambe
By July, the Internet itself could no longer contain Harambe, and he began showing up at sporting events in different forms.
A photo posted by Patrick Towles (@patty_ice_8) on
The Saga Continues
Where Harambe goes from here seems all fated, and we can get a good idea of its trajectory by looking at its closest approximation in sports/pop culture: Crying Jordan.
Michael Jordan’s overripe papaya head and hydrogenated baby tears rose to popularity in the summer/fall of 2015 — about the same time in the sports calendar as Harambe. And when you consider what’s ahead — college football sign season, the NFL kick-off and students going back to school — it becomes clear that the Harambening is only just beginning, and you have two options:
Fight the meme-storm, or ride the lightning. Either way, he’ll be there — at the stadium and on your browser. Because if there’s two things the Internet doesn’t let die, it’s heroes and jokes, and Harambe has the unique distinction of being both.