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. jk

    All those Tebow worshippers, being such honest, enlightened sorts, will certainly now convert to Catholicism as God clearly favors Tom Brady. Right?

    January 15, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • JohnR

      Catholicism? Hey, the lesson is clear. God loves those who love supermodels.

      January 15, 2012 at 7:05 am |
  2. TR6

    The only conclusion to this upset is that the other team is praying to a more powerful god than Tebow’s

    January 15, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  3. jimbob

    What football idol frequently puts young children up in hotels, takes them out to lunch and brings them to games? Sandusky. Wait, I mean Tebow. No wait. Sandusky. No, no, Tebow. Just sayin'.

    January 15, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  4. Pete

    I hate to break the news to CNN but god is not real.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  5. Reality

    Timmy T bows to Nemesis the goddess of revenge and the world rejoices yet again.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  6. Dennis

    Tebow loses big time. God doesn't exist you stupid fuckers.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Bizarre


      Gloating and bullying does not suit realists.

      January 15, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Paul

      Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha Heeheehee
      Tebow loses big time. God doesn't exist you stupid fuckers.

      January 15, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  7. Jeremiah

    While the opening joke may have only been making the rounds in Denver recently, we've been hearing variations of it in New England for literally YEARS. Some background research would show that. Old joke is old.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  8. Satan

    So Sad. Tim is not that good and I wonder where all that praying went? C'mon you Christian Silly Nannies! Where did it go. Surely you all have some comment. Christianity is an atrocity to humankind!!!

    January 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Bob

      Satan is a troll. Don't feed the trolls.

      January 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>”So Sad. Tim is not that good “

      Hmm... as good as Brady, no. Let's see, Brady makes about 15 million a year and Tim's contact is 11.5 million over 5 years. But he did get his team further than 24 others 🙂

      January 14, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Dennis

      Tebow loses big time. God doesn't exist you stupid fuckers.

      January 14, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • TR6

      Since Christians spent so much time praising god for Tebow’s wins I think it is only proper that they should now spend just as much time cursing god for the loss

      January 15, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • JohnR

      Yo, Mark! How much did Brady make when he first broke into the NFL? You know, before he he became a perennial top passer, won a bunch of Super Bowls and helped make his team perennial contenders?

      January 15, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • JohnR

      OK, Mark, I googled it for you. The internet is poorly organized. This sort of thing should be easy to look up. But I got this much: Brady's first year base salary was NFL minimum wage: $193,000. But he did get a signing bonus that bumped it up to $303K. Nice slice of pie that most of us will never see, but not millions of dollars. I don't have his 2nd year salary. His third year salary was $375,000. The big bucks came later, after he was VERY accomplished at the NFL level.

      Oh, and his wife makes more than he does.

      January 15, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  9. ashrakay

    Why does god hate Tim Tebow so much? Did he not have enough faith when he prayed, or is he praying to the wrong god?

    January 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  10. ReligionIs4Dolts

    So if Tebow is sucking right now does that mean that:
    (a) the other team is praying harder
    (b) god is too busy
    (c) god doesn't care
    (d) god doesn't exist

    January 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • RoughRider

      God's bowling league night.

      January 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Imagine

      That would be (d), Meredith. Final answer.

      January 14, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Satan

      Love it. You're in. Where are the holy rollers now??????

      January 14, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Mr. Hat

      (e) The other team is better.

      January 15, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  11. Dennis

    Tebow loses big time. God doesn't exist you stupid fuckers.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  12. Jim

    9 of 26 for 136 yards. Next time, skip the Alter-boy and put in an Alpha-male.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  13. Dennis

    Hahahahahahahahahaha Tebow loses big time. God doesn't exist you stupid fu/b>ckers.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • TR6

      They will just say “it is god’s will” rather then “god f’ed up”. Count the hits, ignore the misses

      January 15, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  14. Satan (Keeping it greasey)

    I can take about an hour on the tower of power
    Long as I gets a little golden shower
    Oh God I am the American dream
    With a spindle up my butt till it makes me scream
    An I'll do anything to get ahead
    Hi-ho silver!

    January 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  15. Satan

    Ummmm....yeah. I love God and he has made me win and the tooth fairy made me thrownthe ball, Santa Claus did a good job at helping me run and the Easter Bunny helped me with my m.a.s.t.u.r.b.a.t.I.o.n.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  16. Imagine

    Ooooops, no miracle today!

    Patriots 45, Broncos 10

    Now serving Tebow's A.$.$ on a platter, courtesy of the Brady Bunch.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  17. Satan

    Where is God now? Asses. Did he go home. I thought Tebow was good. No? Yeah we all knew.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • RoughRider

      My man-gina is feeling like an empty void... please fill me up... with a white frothy goodness... perhaps a Santorum.

      January 14, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  18. JohnR

    First and goal at the NE 3 yard line, and momma's boy throws for straight incomplete passes. Score remains 45-10. Tebow 9 of 26. Seriously, Tebow fans. Once again you believed, not because there was reason to believe, but because you WANTED it to be so. News for you: your boy sucks eggs and his fans are little if any better.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • JohnR

      New England, especially during the Bill Beelzechick era, have been one of my least favorite teams and I'll likely be cheering against them again by next week, But I thank the NE Pats for ending our long national nightmare in style. This is a truly wonderful moment in sports history.

      January 14, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  19. RoughRider

    Btw, is my man-gina showing?

    January 14, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • RoughRider

      Gargle me, Satan.

      January 14, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • RoughRider

      Does anyone want to teabag? I swallow 🙂

      January 14, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  20. Jim

    Tebow sure is playing like a mama's boy.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:09 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.