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My Take: Momma’s boy Tim Tebow meets playboy Tom Brady
Tim Tebow is having a great year, but the author says his appeal runs much deeper.
January 13th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Momma’s boy Tim Tebow meets playboy Tom Brady

Editor’s note: Patton Dodd is the managing editor of Patheos and the author of The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football’s Most Polarizing Player.

By Patton Dodd, Special to CNN

Denver, Colorado (CNN) - A few weeks ago, a joke made its way around Denver about Tom Brady, the New England Patriots’ living legend, and Tim Tebow, the raw Broncos quarterback who is turning in a legendary season. It went something like this:

Tom Brady dies and goes to heaven and is greeted by God, who shows him to his new house – a cozy, modest home with a Patriots flag flying from the porch. “Gee, thanks God!” says Brady, feeling very special.

As Brady walks to his door, he notices another house down the street – a sprawling, gorgeous home with a 50-foot pole flying a Broncos flag, a swimming pool shaped like a horse, and a Tim Tebow jersey pinned to the front door.

“Um, God?” Brady begins. “I’m not ungrateful, but I don’t get it. I won three Super Bowls and went to the Hall of Fame. Why does Tim Tebow get a better house than me?”

God chuckles. “That’s not Tim’s house,” he replies. “That’s mine.”

It’s not a very good joke, but it neatly summarizes cultural attitudes toward Brady and Tebow, whose teams meet this weekend in the second round of the NFL playoffs.

Brady is a quarterback’s quarterback; his fellow players voted him the best player in football at the beginning of 2011, and he rewarded their admiration with another spectacular season. He’s been at this for a while – he was the winningest playoff quarterback of the last decade – and he’s settled into a life reserved only for guys like him: really good at sports, plus really, really, really good-looking.

Brady dated actress Tara Reid during his initial rise to fame, then settled into a relationship with actress Bridget Moynahan, with whom he had a child.

By the time the child was born, Brady had moved on to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen, to whom he’s now married and with whom he’s built a Brentwood, California mansion. (Forbes named them the world’s highest-paid celebrity couple.)

Brady’s post-game press conferences can be fashion shows. When my wife and I lived in Boston, we would watch Patriots game coverage until the conference began so we could spy Brady’s gingham shirts, thick-knotted ties, and pocket squares. No matter how tough a game he played, Brady looked ready for the red carpet. The man can wear a suit.

Tebow is something else altogether – an apparently God-blessed raw talent who wins games with a little bit of passing and a whole lot of prayer. Haters aside, he’s the most popular athlete in the nation.

He’s also made football itself more popular this year, drawing in admirers who wouldn’t be watching otherwise. Last weekend’s Broncos-Steelers matchup drew the highest television ratings in the history of the wild card round.

A Zillow.com poll named Tebow America’s Most Desirable Neighbor, and anyone who has sat through one of Tebow’s press conferences (or read his autobiography) can see why. Whatever you think of his faith commitments, he’s the genuine article. He builds orphanages and visits with sick kids and deflects praise and plays the game like a kid whose parents wouldn’t let him go outside until all the chores were done.

Brady is the guy every teenage boy wants to be. Tebow is the guy every teenage boy’s mom wants him to be.

Both quarterbacks overcame low expectations. Brady was drafted in the sixth round and seemed destined to life as a backup until Drew Bledsoe was severely hurt in Brady’s second year. Tebow was drafted in the first round, a move that every expert opinion deemed a mistake.

Both emerged in breakout fashion. Brady’s first season as starter turned him into a famous football player. Tebow’s is turning him into a cultural phenomenon.

What’s the difference? Why is Tebow’s fame supercharged? Why does Brady get a Brentwood mansion with Gisele, but only a quaint house in heaven?

Recall that Brady’s rise happened in the fall after 9/11, which was also an era before media platforms were numbered like stars in the sky. The nation is in a different mood now, and for better or worse, we have new, more powerful ways of making people famous. Twitter, Facebook and a billion blogs helped Tebow saturate everything.

But the biggest difference is that, in Tebow’s case, religion is a factor. Brady, a cradle Catholic, became famous as an athlete. Tebow is becoming famous as an athlete, acolyte, and avatar all rolled into one.

Tebow the athlete is fun to watch with his passion and flashes of brilliance. Tebow the acolyte – the devoted follower of God – is easy to admire, and even those annoyed by public piety can be won over by his goodheartedness and the sheer joy with which he plays the game.

Perhaps most acutely, he’s a cultural avatar. The internet meme “Tebowing” took off because it’s a readymade symbolic gesture people can use to express themselves against our scoffing, serious times.

Brady is a great football player. Tebow is a great football story, and stories are immersive – they give us a chance to get involved, to see ourselves through them.

Tebow’s story tees up the questions that frame many people’s lives: Is God involved? Can he help us overcome? Can he help us win? What if he stops helping us – where is God when our critics are correct, when our flaws are exposed for everyone to see?

Saturday’s game will likely be the most-watched second round playoff game in NFL history. Millions will be watching because they want to see how the story will unfold, and the hero most of them will be rooting for is not the playboy, but the momma’s boy.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Sports

soundoff (1,294 Responses)
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  4. Dzerres

    The Broncos are stuck with TT (I can't even say that name anymore, yuk) the 24 year old virgin and so-so quarterback. If they play him they lose, if they cut or trade him the religious zealots are going to have a cow. I hope Payton comes over to the Broncos and Jacksonville asks for TT – it's our only hope.

    February 5, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  5. Tebowistheantichrist

    Tim Tebow is a sham. He doesn't use his celebrity to further his "ministry", he uses his faith to further his celebrity. Leviticus says it is against God's law to touch the flesh of certain dead animals yet its OK as long as Timmay is preaching while doing it. What a joke of a person and a joke of an article. The kid isn't the most popular athlete by far. Christians are ruining this country.

    February 3, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  6. the Pope

    God chuckles. “That’s not Tim’s house,” he replies. “That’s mine.”

    Sums up christianity quite well. Petty, greedy, childish.

    January 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • cinstch

      Your comment is really ignorant. Have you ever taken a look at the thousands of Christian charities that feed and clothe the needy all over the world? How much money did you give to the needy last year? Seeking counseling.

      February 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  7. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Sorry to waste space, but now that I have some more time to experiment, and now that I've been DRIVEN to write my own program to convert all the FALSE POSITIVE "bad words" and since I am still uncertain what was wrong with a previous message of mine......let the experiment begin.....

    January 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      assuming

      January 19, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      fossil record shows

      January 19, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Second, ASSUMING that the fossil record shows an order va-guely representative of the arbitrary order that you like to defend, please note the aforementioned premise, established by myself and Mr. Dawkins, that the fossil record cannot be expected to show a complete representation of ALL life forms that ever existed. Are we to believe that a sample of every possible living thing just happened to get caught in a landslide whose chemical composition was just such that fossils could be formed without decomposing? No, but assuming for the sake of argument that we could expect such a miracle, think about the PROBABILITY of being able to put 5 choices in some “correct” order. That’s merely 120:1….very LOW odds. A monkey could get the answer “right” in very few tries!

      January 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      VA-GUELY?!?!?! OH YEAH THAT'S A REALLY BAD WORD, LET ME TELL YA!

      FIRE THE RETARD PROGRAMMER ALREADY!!!!! HOPE THAT JERK IS FLIPPING BURGERS NOW!!!

      January 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Yup, v.ag is on the list, R4D.

      January 19, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  8. myklds

    Tebow and Romney is a living proof that God's power is starting to manifest upon his people.

    January 19, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      what? Tebow prays to win and oops he loses like the loser he is...just one more proof that prayer does nothing!

      January 19, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • tallulah13

      Wow. So your god is manifesting through a mediocre football player and a hypocritical politician?

      January 19, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • HellBent

      It would seem, then, that your god is rather impotent.

      January 19, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  9. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Man, I hope CNN FIRED the stupid programmer who obviously did not know how to filter out "bad words"!!! I've been trying to post and it keeps getting rejected for "false positives"!!!

    January 18, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Helpful Hints

      Here's the list again:

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ---
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      nip-ple
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      que-er
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sl-ut
      sn-atch
      sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-oon
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      strip-per
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
      wt-f....also!!!!!!!

      January 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Yeah I've got a version of that list....maybe if was the fact that I was trying to put "monkey" in the post that got me so irate?!

      January 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      OK, so it wasn't monkey

      January 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      HELPFUL HINT TO THE IDIOT PROGRAMMER AT CNN:

      When you're trying to see if a WORD is in a string, include spaces around the word....IDIOT! Or else you get all these ridiculous FALSE POSITIVES!

      January 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • No Monkeys No Atheists

      SHUT THE F***K UP! YOU INSOLENT CREATURE!

      January 19, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      No Monkeys: Uhhh, the pot calling the kettle black, eh? You foul-mouthed so-and-so.

      January 19, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  10. geebs

    Athiests:

    Does it make you happy that CNN provided a place for you to "come out?"

    January 17, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      This story was posted on the 13th. You're just now commenting on it, and you think atheists are behind the eight ball?

      Dude, you're beyond lame.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Tomitina

      The correct term was "second-class minority". But someone like Tom Tom has been dragging them down to the ditch.

      He/she/it keep on acting like a dictionary on an armchair but with no content same as his/her/its useless cranium.

      He's/she's/it's behaving here like a 360-lbs 4ft 11" 65-yr. old spinster that has not been laid for a decade or two.

      January 18, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  11. geebs

    Athiests:

    Sorry to say, but you and your opinions are in a VAST minority in this country (or in the world, for that matter). Truth hurts, Huh?

    January 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Not really. Why would I care if dolts like you agree with me? As a matter of fact, it pleases me no end that you don't, since you're dimmer than a two-watt bulb, honey.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Tomitina

      The correct term was "second-class minority". But someone like Tom Tom has been dragging them down to the ditch.

      He/she/it keep on acting like an armchair dictionary but with no content, same as his/her/its useless cranium.

      He's/she's/it's behaving here like a 360-lbs 4ft 11" 65-yr. old spinster that has not been laid for a decade or two.

      January 18, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Tallulah13

      @geebs

      The majority of humanity once thought that the earth was flat, too. Just because the majority believes something doesn't make it true. Herd mentality is very comfortable for people who are afraid to stand alone, whether that be alone in disbelief, or alone in the reality of a universe without gods.

      January 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  12. John

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5zylpNWxVo&w=640&h=360]
    .

    January 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • .......

      TROLL ALERT – don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL!

      January 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  13. Reality

    Dear Timmy T,

    And still waiting your response to the following prayer. And since you now have the time:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    January 17, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Guest

      Why do atheists feel the need degrade others beliefs? If you don't believe in Christianity that's your call but be respectful of others beliefs. What need are you trying to fill by trying to be funny with this?

      January 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Guest

      Pray tell, why should I respect somethng that doesn't deserve it? Not the people, but the belief itself deserves to be sh.it on. Sorry if you think everyone has a right to believe in whatever they want AND deserve respect for it. but I maintain you are allowed to worship whatever the heck you want, but don't expect me to respect something that is completely ridiculous.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      The answer to the first part of your question: because it is easy to belittle something that is ridiculas. The answer to the second part about being funny: well I wouldn't say Reality's post is funny. Slightly painful maybe, because you know they say the truth sometimes hurts.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • derp

      "Why do atheists feel the need degrade others beliefs?"

      I believe that the universe is 437 years old. I believe that it was created by unicorns. I believe that the unicorns sent bigfoot here to die so that I can spend eternity drinking free beer and banging supermodels.

      Absurd? yes.

      Any different than christianity? no.

      See why we make light of you?

      January 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • .........

      hit report abuse on reality repeat bull sh it

      January 17, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  14. cowboysblowgoats

    Patriots 45 God 10.

    January 17, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes lives
    A good man prays
    A great man acts on prayer
    Prayer really changes things

    January 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • cowboysblowgoats

      Maybe Teblow should pray to learn how to pass. At this point, even god thinks he sucks.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • derp

      Prayer accomplishes absolutely nothing. Prayers are requests for someone else to do things. Actions are what people who don't waste time praying do. Actions are the result of ideas and desire. Neither of which is generated by prayer.

      January 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      This poster is retard who doesn't realize that prayer is just an otiose past-time invented by our malnourished antecedents (who were involuntarily starved of numerous vitamins during winter months, for example). These "magical" incantations (many by rote) merely served as a psychological crutch which made them believe they could influence future events (when it was exclusively their singular efforts, or in some cases just bad luck/coincidences, which brought about anything in the future). Grow up!

      January 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  16. CHANCEL WOODS

    NOTHING THAT TEBOW OR BRADY DOES GETS THEM ANYTHING ITS ONLY THE GRACE OF GOD BECAUSE HE LOVES ALL PEOPLE THE SAME

    January 16, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Just a general observation, but I hope you're not breeding. The world is f'd up enough.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  17. Bolts

    Would you pray to be Tom Brady or Tim Tebow?

    January 16, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Brady. But truthfully, I'd hope for being Wes Welker.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • derp

      Me too........Anna Burns.......Rrrarrrrrrr.

      January 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.