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)
  1. Conjoined twins

    My brother & I went to church this afternoon & we each prayed for opposing teams to win – we just want to see which of us God loves more.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Rachel

      So which church did you go to this afternoon? Catholics don't start mass until the very earliest 4pm and all the other christian churches aren't usually open on a Saturday. What a liar.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Conjoined twins

      LOL Rachel, are you OK?! We're not conjoined either LOL. I understand you may be limited in this respect but attempt to understand the point. But thanks, that really made me laugh.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • truthseeker

      Awesome display of ignorance. Obviously you have a lack of understanding of God and the Bible.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  2. God

    My mom would disown me if I acted like Tim Tebow

    January 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • GodlovesTebow

      Your mom disowns you anyway.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Starrface

      Since when does god love Tebow more? I thought he loved everyone. Boy you born-again guys are goof balls!!!! I hope my mother never sees me like Tebow.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • GodLoves Everyone

      I am God and I would too

      January 14, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • GodLoves Everyone


      I do love everyone, and yes – they are ignorant goofs

      January 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  3. Skyler


    January 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  4. GodlovesTebow

    Why can't atheist just enjoy the game? Why do they have to complain all the time? They must live a sad life.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Thanks hypocrite. Christians are the biggest anti-everybody group in the country. Just read the bigotry on these blogs.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • D. Darko

      Some of us are AGNOSTIC. And still don't like all your preachy BS.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • GodLoves Everyone

      Hey GodLoves Tebow,

      I am God, and you don't speak for me. Go back to your cave where I want you to remain till I ask you to come out.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Paul

      I'm aheist and reaaly don't care what Tebow does, as long as he keeps up the good work. If he wants to sacrifice a goat to the invisible man in the sky after the game... go ahead.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  5. GodlovesTebow

    Those atheist that want Tebow to lose will be nothing in the afterlife.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Grammarless morons will turn to dust like the rest of us.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Ken

      Maybe that's because the afterlife doesn't exist; ergo, we'll all be "nothing" in it.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Starrface

      GIVE ME A BREAK..............

      January 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • GodLoves Everyone

      How about those non-athiests who want Tebow to lose? Where do you see them in the afterlife?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Root post is a weak form of the common flawed argument known as Pascal's Wager.


      January 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Chris

      Typical brainwashed moron

      January 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  6. IceT

    Public displays of religion are nothing more than self gratification .. "Look everyone, I'm posing in a prayer for all to see, look look .. brownie points for God!" Why isn't he, or others like him, bending over to pray for every "God given" breath or after a defensive guy gets a sack or after all other "worthy" things? ... because it's SELF gratification when all eyes are on him.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • GodlovesTebow

      Because someone might get offended. To bad.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Rubicon

      The word is "too". And you should read Matthew 6:5.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Credenza

      Ice T – In England, and in World cup matches, we often see Catholic footballers kneel on one knee and make the sign of the Cross and nobody bats an eye because the FOOTBALLERS are honouring God and WE respect that!!!!!!
      So why are you Americans soooooo afraid of someone witnessing publicly to God
      Especially when they back it up with good works like building an orphanage and visiting sick children??

      And RUBICON – we don't need the grammar Gestapo maundering on about the difference between to and too! Please – if you have something to say , try to add something to the discussion rather than disrespect the tiniest grammatical blip!

      January 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • IceT

      Credenza, it's disingenuous at best, as is your attempt to claim "fear". Accepting those acts doesn't make it any less so.

      January 14, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  7. GodlovesTebow

    I am god I love Tebow and he will win tonight

    January 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • GodLoves Everyone

      Err... Actually, *I* am God, and Tebow is losing tonight.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  8. Paul

    "the hero most of them will be rooting for is not the playboy, but the momma’s boy."

    That's more than a little presumptuous. I think there's just as many, probably more people out there that find Tebow's in your face religiosity very off-putting. His rising status in pop culture is due to high profile mocking rather than his performance on the field. See the SNL locker room skit or Jimmy Fallon's "Tebowie" bit.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  9. SCAtheist

    The moms I know don't want their kids to be like Tebow, so cut the BS.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Chris

      Exactly...It's so annoying how some people actually believe you have to be religious to have morals...Personally, I couldn't disagree more. More violence has been created in the name of religion than anything else. Religion breeds intolerance, intolerance breeds hate, and hate breeds violence.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Credenza

      Sorry Chris – I don't know where you get your info but more violent deaths have been caused by ATHEISM in the last CENTURY than religion since time began!
      Look up the deaths attributable to: [I've jumbled them to get past the censor] Uncle Joe Sta1in, Z0u Enlai, M@rx, Len1n, P01 Pot, K1m Jon iL, Kruschev, M0a Zed0ng, Hu Zint0u, C@str0 , S@ntos etc etc I could go on but you get the picture!

      Not forgetting almost 450 MILLION unborn and newborn babies murdered in China and 53 MILLION butchered in America and the "civilized" West!!!!!!

      January 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  10. Emilio Dumphque

    According to Matthew:6:5, Tebow is someone Jesus would call a hypocrite.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Credenza

      Nonsense. "By their faith you shall know them" and we KNOW Tim Tebow. Thank God he is open about the Faith he loves. If you find that offensive that's really sad.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  11. Rubicon

    Tebow/Santorum 2012!

    January 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • IceT

      The scary thing is that there are likely many poeple who'd like that combination & they'd get a good number of votes!

      January 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Gays and atheists run for the closets.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  12. jparker77

    I cant stand this guy. Im sick to death of bible thumpers. You cant even enjoy sports anymore without having to be reminded of someones religious views. Enough is enough.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • D. Darko

      Totally agree! These people say they believe in "freedom", but will not hesitate to let THEIR religion dictate your private behavior as much as possible. Some God is watching over Tebow – making sure he throws touchdowns for Denver – while atrocities occur around the world every day?

      I don't f-ing thing so.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • jj

      Whaaaaaaaa !!!!!!!!

      January 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Bunge

      Why are so many people so hateful about a man who is simply honoring his faith in God? He has done nothing but publicly acknowledge his love for Jesus. I commend him for his courage. Why people despise Jesus is beyond common sense. He helped those in need during his life and spread a message of peace, forgiveness, and love. What in that message is there to be so hateful about.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • dirkK

      Darko, I think people don't understand Tebow's prayers. I doubt he's praying to win, or have some sort of Divine Intervention for a stupid football game. I would guess he prays for grace to fill the gap between the hard work he has done, and the potential in him that only God can unlock. Whether he is a football player, stockbroker, petshop owner, or athiest, God can make more of you than you can make of yourself. We all have roots of the Divine. There is a much higher form of 'being' than this version we're in right now. It is a sad and empty prospect to believe otherwise.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Whatever

      I don't really see what the problem is. Tebow is a nice guy and he has faith in God. Regardless of your own faith or lack-thereof, how exactly is that hurting or bothering you in any way?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  13. jane

    People are making assumptions that don't exist. Tebow has never said anything publicly more than, "First and foremost, I'd like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." He doesn't profess that what he believes is above what others believe. He does say he is blessed. He has prayed (if you watched the special on ESPN) that God would help him, but win or lose that he would honor God. Truth is that most Americans believe in prayer, to whomever, and pray for grandiose things and frivolous things, so why does that bother so many people?

    The media and people with their own ideas impute those ideas onto Tebow. He doesn't proselytize or claim his beliefs are better than others (although in reality almost everyone believes that their beliefs are better than others, which is why you think you are right and others are wrong.) He doesn't ever brag on himself, but always crediting his teammates and coaches for making him look better than he is... which if that is arrogance, than I must have a different definition of arrogance.

    He DOES say that he feels that football is merely a platform for him to do real work helping people... like building a hospital. He DOES meet with a Make-A-Wish child before and after every home game. How do you hate on that?

    January 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • keep your theology out of my sports!

      justin bieber says id like to thank my lord and savior jesus christ as well..... im sure hes a s pious as tim tebow also

      January 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • zoft2000

      You are certainly right about this. This is another case of advertising and marketing firms taking over someone they deem to be popular. There are plenty of Athletes that display their religious convictions on the field. I remember the Giants praying together during their super bowl win in 1991. I'm just waiting when they are going to start throwing the blondes, and brunettes at him and of course all those books and movie deals. It's big business as usual. The media could care less about religion religion, or do they understand it. Most are atheist, or agnostics it comes with the territory. They do get religious when money is involved though.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Doug Davis

      "People are making assumptions that don't exist. Tebow has never said anything publicly more than, "First and foremost, I'd like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.""

      Well that is all he needs to say to every each and every Democrat in America wanting him and his family harmed and even killed.
      Just read the comments from Democrats all over the web or go interact with 'dem in the bluest parts of America, the Democrat only offers hate, lies, and narcissism, they are incapable of offering anything beyond those 3 things, the facts are the facts.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • NaySay

      "He DOES say that he feels that football is merely a platform for him to do real work helping people... like building a hospital." – Would you like to buy a bridge my family owns in Brooklyn?

      January 14, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  14. Imagine

    Don't waste energy praying.

    Instead, go down to your local animal shelter and adopt a pet that is on death row.

    Or, buy a homeless person a meal.

    Or, plant a tree amongst the concrete jungle.

    It is far more productive.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Rubicon


      January 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • David

      haha... praying is very quick, if you adopted a pet for every time you pray it would make your home into the proverbial zoo.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • dirkK

      I would do all those things, but when I tried I found out the Christians had beaten me to it, and was left with sweeping out their breakroom. Sigh.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Whatever

      BTW Tebow does a lot to help other people. He does help charities, meet with sick children, etc. along with praying. You can manage to pray and still do good things for the world.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  15. AJ

    I would like to see a secular football player thank you. Christianity isn't the only religion.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  16. Pennhawk

    Mr Brady has NOT done anything in his life that i know of that would be shameful if my son turned out like him.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  17. bigDizzle

    go pats

    January 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  18. conoclast

    Tebow's hyper-pious little post-touchdown pose makes me yearn for some sort of "equal time" - perhaps an Ochocinco-type receiver to ceremoniously thank satan for having allowed him to make that catch. Maybe he could change his name & number to 666 (seisseisseis) for just such an occasion; it would be mildly offensive of course - but no more so than Tebow's cheap-shot proselytizing! (the operative word there is "cheap")

    January 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • keep your theology out of my sports!

      i would actually buy a seisseisseis jersey and i hate football!

      January 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  19. Philojazz

    Just thought I'd answer a few of the questions posed in the article. I've numbered them, for easy reference.

    (1) Is God involved?
    (2) Can he help us overcome?
    (3) Can he help us win?
    (4) What if he stops helping us? –
    (5) Where is God when our critics are correct, when our flaws are exposed for everyone to see?

    (1) No
    (2) No
    (3) No
    (4) He never started.
    (5) Nowhere, which means it's up to YOU, and your loved ones. Deal with it.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  20. catholicreligionteacher

    As a teacher of young teenagers for the past 7 years (and therefore knowing over a 1,000 kids) I can honestly say that I have NEVER met a teenage boy who admired to be Tom Brady. But Tim Tebow? Holy-moley... I've seen hundreds of teenage boys admire and cheer for him. They're attracted to his authenticity, work ethic, confidence, and complete guts. In a world that's lacking in all those things, it's no wonder they admire Tebow way more than Brady.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • keep your theology out of my sports!

      you mean their attracted to him. you guys kinda promote attraction to men.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • wrong

      wow, what school do you teach in? i live in chicago and see brady jerseys all the time. nothing against tebow, but you're wrong thinking kids don't want to grow up to be like brady. stop feeding your own selfish agenda by making things up to prove a point.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Rubicon

      I call b.s.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Jon KIn

      Same system that looked the other way while boys were molested?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Paul

      You mean kids in your catholic school (according to your name) are fans of the player constantly making public prayers and mentions of his savior JC? Someone call the Scooby-Doo team, because nobody is going to crack this mystery.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:50 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.