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. picklepants

    Brady is a great football player. Tebow is a great football story.

    Patton Dodd, you don't know much about football do you? To say Tebow is not a great football player but a great football story shows your ignorance. Tebow won two national championships and a Heisman trophy in collge, Brady did not. You don't get those trophies for being a good player, but a great player. Yeah Brady has three super bowl rings, but Tebow is just in his first year as a regular starter. Yeah so Tebow has an unorthodox throwing style, but Ty Cobb also had an unorthodox bat grip. Cobb held his hands apart, which is a no no in today's world, but Cobb became the all-time leader in batting average with a .366 average.

    Also, it's best not to use the word "everyone", I bet that there are plenty of good christian and non-christain teenage boys, (I know a few at chruch), who would rather be Tebow than Brady. You have poor writing skills Patton.

    It wouldn't hurt to inform your readers that the game is not just on Saturday, but at 8pm on CBS. Did you ever write for the AP? Those idiots also are also lazy and/or dumb to give the full story.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Rubicon

      You obviously didn't understand the story at all. Shame.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • tsnootch

      The point of the story is not to say Tebow isn't a good football player. It's a commentary, in part, about how Tebow and Brady both represent ideas or values in our culture. It's purpose is to raise questions about what we value and hold important and why. The hint to this is in the second to last paragraph.

      January 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  2. bob

    wow what a ignorant story? how much is CNN paying their staff. Football is not a one on one sport. It takes a team to win not one player. BTW how come the media is behaving like Tebow is the only Christian in sports?

    January 14, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • tsnootch

      google the ESPN First Take episode, recently aired, about how it's not the media that is forcing you and I to talk about Tebow....you and I are talking about Tebow the Christian because he's the most forward about his faith. When Kurt Warner played and shared his faith on television people talked about that. We talk about Tebow the Quarterback because his stats don't back up the fact that his team's been winning, and in sports, this is odd. Media talks about Tebow because WE DO and the media reflects what WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT. I don't wanna talk about someone who is barely interesting to discuss, neither do you. In your world the head line would read "Tebow is a committed Christian and instead of talking about him we will now review all the Christians that have played sports for the past ga'gillion years because hey, you guys know he's not the only Christian right?" Come on man. The media reports, we consume, we inadvertently provide them with data about what we care about (polls, stats, etc.), then we consume some more. This goes on and on til WE don't care to talk about it anymore. If you don't like it then stop posting, tweeting, watching Tebow.

      January 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  3. c

    My mom's an atheist so I'm pretty sure she would prefer I be Tom Brady. Plus, she's a Pats fan.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  4. Shells

    Tom Brady has nothing without football. Tim Tebow has everything without football. THAT is the difference in these two men.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • albert

      If that is true, then why is Tebow still in football especially when he knows he is being worshiped? That is completely against what the Bible teaches. It is a shame that he is making a mockery of God. Making people believe that prayer to God can make a difference between winning or losing a game that has been deemed "violent". If Tebow loses and doesn't make it to the super bowl, it's God fault, seriously?This is a very sad and unchristian story. Look at the world conditions, then read the Bible and you tell me if you think God has time for this foolishness.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • tsnootch

      the only thing God would be ashamed of is someone like you judging someone else's behavior and then assuming God is ashamed of them....you tell someone else to read the Bible and clearly you haven't yourself or you don't understand it.....the theme of the Bible is personal relationship with God, in all things, including your work....when Tebow has been "mic'd up" for football games, he doesn't pray to win, thus eliminating your whole "Tebow shames God if he loses" argument.....he prays for the strength to be humble and to give praise to God when he does achieve success.....if Tebow should quit football because people "worship him" then so should any preacher or reverend when more than 100 people get to know their name because of their work....

      January 14, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  5. Skyler

    Very very very very disappointed with CNN. I know they have an automatic moderator that is keyed into certain words and phrases. I have written and rewritten my comment over a dozen times to hopefully make it pass the test. But no. It is composed of the tamest most respectful wording. Even check the ends of words/beginnings of next words. Any possible combination of letters/numbers/etc. I even sent a "testing" message to see if my name or email address was the problem. And I am completely stumped and highly frustrated.

    I have seen hateful works, videos, spam .... and it has all been allowed here. What's going on? Is there a maximum word length? It doesn't say in your terms of service.

    CNN you need to include a feature that points out EXACTLY what is causing a comment to fail moderation. If, by some chance, a human at CNN actually sees this message, please email me and let me know what is going on. This is not the first time this has happened.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  6. Plato

    No one hates Tebow, they dislike what he represents. He is not a talented QB and he is very preachy about his beliefs. His beliefs are those that divide and nurture hatred across the country.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Shells

      Tim Tebow is NOT preachy! He gets asked questions and he answers them. Period. But his faith is part of who he is. LIke the color of his hair and eyes. And not talented? Um, did you not ever watch him play in college???? Given a chance, he'll be a great NFL quarterback. Just let the kid play and do his jog. That's all he wants to do.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Shells

      *...do his job.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Sonic_The_Fastest_thing_ALIVE

      I have never once heard him preach his views, besides thanking god, he doesn't go door to door trying to convert anyone.

      Get a life.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • picklepants

      so sorry you think that way. in case you didn't know this, but one of the biggest reasons this country was founded was to escape from religous persecution. people came here to practice their religion in peace. it's people like you who are responsible for some of the hatred in the country. so i guess you really hate freedom. so sad. or maybe if tebow was a muslim it would be ok with you?

      January 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • albert

      Tebow is a make pretend Christian.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  7. Stingrayjo

    Our sport entertainers and media entertainers are the real heros of our society. They sometimes get up at 5 am to sing and dance or play with a ball. A special tax should be alloted for them. When they reach a certain celebrity status they should at least be supplied with a Gulfstream 4 and a few mansions. This special tax could assist with this.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  8. Kerri

    Well, I say "Good on you, Tebow." It takes guts to stand up like this. It's always nice to see a man with good character in the public spotlight. My prayers are with him. 🙂

    January 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      That's nice Karen. Pray for Tebow. That helps. Never mind the countless others suffering out there, but a rich football player who is already doing a lot of good on his own....he needs your prayers.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Reason Will Prevail?

      Good character? Yuor probbly think this because he's going around preying everywhere. Jesus spoke on this exact issue and specificlly says not to do what he's doing. (MT 6:1-8)

      January 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • NotaGeed

      Ok cranky commenters

      January 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Shells

      Exactly! Like the article says, I'd love for my son's to grow up to be young men like Tim Tebow!! Would NOT want them to grow up to be like Tom Brady. The Tim Tebow foundation is helping countless children around the world. The more famous he is, the more help pours in. He is using his gifts, time, money and fame to better the world. That is exactly what Jesus said to do!!

      January 14, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  9. Reason Will Prevail?

    Hey Tebow, read the Bible. What did Jesus say about your fake ass:
    MT Chapter 6 verses 1-24. It's specifically about how you are living your life.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • In context

      It also says in Matthew, "Let your light shine before all men, that they might see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." In the chapter you mention, Jesus is cutting at the heart of the Pharisees, whose purpose in prayer is to gain attention, not to glorify God. Their hearts are focused on themselves, not God. But God is happy when His people do good things in His Name and praise Him for it. I can't judge Tebow's motives for sure, whether he is seeking his own attention or God's glory, but it sure seems like his goal is to praise God. Please be careful about quoting the Bible out of context.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • albert

      Yes the Bible says let men SEE. Tebow is a phony that likes to make sure that the cameras are rolling so he can put on his phony "Look at me I am praying act" Jesus never went around bragging about who he was. He would go pray to his father in secret. All of you pompas make pretend Christians make me sick. You do realize that football is considered a violent sport right? Please remind me what sports Jesus and his followers played where that needed protection so as not to break bones. You hypocrite!

      January 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • tsnootch

      People quoting the Bible without understanding it's meaning is concerning. The purpose of the passage in Matthew concerning public displays of "work" is mentioned because this is what had become normal practice amongst Jewish leaders at that time. Jesus repeatedly speaks out against the Pharisees. These religious leaders were fake to their core and were masquerading in public without any personal, inner commitment to God. That passage is not saying don't practice your faith in public, because if this were the rule, then no mention at all of God or of someone being a Christian in public would be tolerable. It is saying that practicing "works" in public without a real relationship a real relationship with God is fake and that one should focus more on the personal side. If any display of public faith were wrong then Jesus himself would be a sinner since he supposedly performed miracles in public, fed 5000 people on little food, etc. Wouldn't you call those acts public? This isn't including all the miracles that his apostles and later founders of the faith performed. Matthew himself wrote in chapter 13 about not performing miracles "there" because of "their lack of faith." This speaks to the idea, once again, that inner faith must come before outward display of it.

      So for Tebow: if his inner faith is real, then his outward displays of love for God are real. If is inner faith is fake then his outward displays are baseless. The next passages you should study are those on judging others....here a few....
      James 4:12, Matthew 7:1-5, John 7:24, Matthew 7:5. If you truly care about what the Bible says then you will focus more on those passages and less about what Tebow does.

      January 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  10. IceT

    I'd love to see Tim & the Broncos go to the bowl this year. How exciting would that be to have the Packers trounce them & deflate all that hype in the superbowl!!!

    January 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  11. Joe Ogorek

    Holy cow! China and India are grooming their kids to eat our lunch and we still have delusions of American exceptionalism? Just practice your drills and tighten your cup and maybe you too can be a football, basketball, baseball, hockey, rock star.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  12. AmericanSam

    Aaron Rodgers is nice, though. He's like the sane version of Tim Tebow maybe...

    January 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  13. JD

    Who cares... I just want to see them make out.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  14. Ben

    Go PATS!

    January 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  15. Rob

    Pretty sure most good moms would rather their kids achieve something greater than being good at a game and having high income while referencing your religion every other sentence. Like perhaps being a doctor or something like that...

    January 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • BoredSecurityGaurd

      Bt you wouldn't complain if Tebow was your kid....

      January 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • BoredSecurityGaurd

      Bet you wouldn't complain if Tebow was your kid....

      January 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  16. R. Harris

    Who is Patton Dodd ???

    January 14, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  17. If horses had Gods ...

    For a young man who's obviously been psychologically abused he sure can play football.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Curt

      if you have faith, you're psychologically abused? So you're insulting several billion of people over the course of history. The vast majority of humans in recorded history have faith and pray

      January 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • story55

      @curt – billions of McDonald's hamburgers have been served, despite their atrocious health. While I personally have faith, your argument that there's safety in numbers doesn't withstand scrutiny. Ignorance can be very contageous.

      January 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • If horses had Gods ...

      Curt ... Psychological conditioning is abuse. Whether "billions" choose to take it as an insult or not is their choice. Doesn't mean they're bad people, just psychologically abused ones.

      January 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • tsnootch

      "obvious psychological abuse"....not even a practicing psychiatrist would say that without actually getting to know him....I am guessing you just thought that phrase would sound intelligent as an insult to Tebow or to Christians.

      if psychological abuse is teaching your children what you believe and then letting them grow up and believe what they want then you too have been psychologically abused....if you were an orphan and raised by many people then you were still influenced.....all people are influenced as they grow and no one can avoid it.....even if you teach your children to believe in nothing, you are still guiding their growth.....leave the psychological babble to someone else and just come out and say what you really mean....

      January 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  18. Rob

    I never wanted to be anything like Tom Brady and my mom didn't want me to play football and have a low IQ.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Da King

      So, what are you with a low IQ?

      January 14, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  19. Rubicon

    All this talk about "Tebow haters". I don't know anyone who "hates" him. Could this be – projection on the part of his rabid followers?

    January 14, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Jim

      The only player I hate is Michael Vick, for obvious reasons. Teblow, on the other hand, is a sanctimonious self-centered twit, just like all those TV preachers. Don't hate him, just don't see anything special, and I really think it is disgusting when you drag religion into sports or entertainment – it demeans both.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • tsnootch

      You either don't watch enough sports, talk enough sports, or you live under a rock

      January 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • galespoint

      Tebow deflects all credit, he praises his teamates and the other team as well, I have never heard him take credit for anything. that would be the opposite of self-centered

      January 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • tsnootch

      When your faith is so much a part of you and you live it genuinely you can't help but bring it with you in whatever you do....just because you don't like it doesn't mean Tebow is "dragging" it with him.....a gay man who believes in equal rights and let's it be known isn't dragging his beliefs with him....his beliefs are who he is....you can't blame genuine people for having real belief in something.....genuineness is lacking in our time.....

      and to call Tebow self-centered is truly laughable.....perhaps you should investigate some of his off the field activities and you'll notice he does more for others in a month than you or I will do in a year...

      January 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Rubicon

      No; I live under a bridge.

      The only "hate" I see comes from Tebow's rabid supporters when they encounter someone that doesn't share the same adoration for the man.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • tsnootch

      so clearly you are one of those people who dislike Tebow....guess what....I don't hate you

      January 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • @Jim

      Tebow is self-centered? All he talks about is God and his teammates and how great they play and make him look better.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Rubicon

      I don't dislike him. I don't care about him any more or less than I do any other athlete. They are not my role models.

      I am mystified by his passionate followers, though. Seems that energy could be better used elsewhere....

      January 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • tsnootch

      I apologize in advance for the length of this......I agree, his "followers" (for any other athlete this word is "fans") are confusing because they are so passionate and yes, at times, "rabid." My thought is that in our current culture it is no longer commonplace to support with such vigor someone who seems to stand for only positive things despite not being the best at their job (quaterback in this case). Usually, "good" people are boring. Maybe we are too consumed with the types of achievements our culture tells us to care for and many people have been looking for someone to cheer for that stands for the things they believe in: like being a good person no matter what. Despite what many want us to believe, a very large number of Americans define themselves as Christians. So in the end, it's very simple to me: many people hold the same beliefs as Tebow or they at least respect him for his genuineness because it contrasts so much with the modern, self centered athlete archetype we have come to know. He has lots of fans for a reason. It's not come conspiracy, it's not that Americans are dumb, it's that people cling to someone that defies odds, stands for beliefs they share, and is humble when they achieve.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • tsnootch

      *some conspiracy

      January 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  20. JJ

    If Tebow is what every mom wants their son to be, wow... American moms set the bar really low, eh? Sheesh... no wonder this country produces babbling masses of underachievers.

    January 14, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • galespoint

      I guess it all depends on what your trying to achieve. If Tim was trying to achieve a phd in Physics, then he has under achieved. If he set out to be a nfl quaterback, then he is over achieving those that underachieved.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • John

      It's individuals like you who can type a few ridiculous words in a blog and make no sense what so ever! If you actually think "American moms set the bar really low" because she would like to see her son grow up to be a respectable, God fearing man, you have got a screw loose! Look at the USA today compared to 30+ years ago, our moral compass, as a nation has gone so off course, I fear we'll never get back to what our country was founded on, Judeo Christian priciples. If the school system keeps spitting out ignorant individuals like you, we are on a collision course with disaster!

      January 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • story55

      @John – I don't agree with JJ but why is it admirable to be "God fearing"? God is love. Fear is the opposite of God. If you fear God, then you're not doing it right.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • tsnootch

      the word "fear" does not have the same meaning in the Bible or in Christian literature that you we commonly use it for....in those circles it means "to be in awe, to revere, to respect"

      January 14, 2012 at 3:46 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.