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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)
  1. pjc145

    To all who use "Tebow's religion" as a argument of things not to do or even to those who commend it. Ask him and you will get this answer: It is not religion, it is relationship! Religion is what happen when God left the building and gave us the choice, relationship is the choice to have a one on one time with God. You can berate and demean Tebow, but keep in mind that atleast 75% of the NFL players pray before and after a game, the majority of coaches lead the teams in a pregame pray, regardless of the fact that some in the lockeroom are not Christian. Then after you realize that your angry with your self because your simple mind can't comprehend anything but what you see in front of you, ask yourself this question: Would it be better if the most popular athlete of the year was a crack smokin womenizing dui driving idiot or this kid who is more genuine than you could ever even imagine yourself being?

    Suggest Rick Reilly's article on espn.com may help open your eyes

    January 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • 21k

      if xtians wanted to be truthful with themselves, they would acknowledge that they practice their faith only because they are afraid to disappoint their families. they would also have to cut their losses on the amount of time and money they've wasted in church. painful, but once you embrace truth, it's like a cloud is lifted from your life. and sunday mornings are so much more meaningful than listening to a religious businessman telling you made-up stories.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  2. sneekas

    iberal. Not into religion of any kind at all. But I admire a man who stands for something. Keep your chin up, Tebow. The haters...well, who cares about them.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  3. Hypatia

    Just play the damned ball and stop gassing about God!

    January 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  4. Portland tony

    The author is so full of it....The majority of people who watch and follow Professional football are gamblers and because of the inequality between the two teams, sports books or bookies have set up a point spread which favors NE by 13.5 points. This God thing is "cute" and it draws extra viewers for the network sponsors, but it's playoff time. Tebow and Denver's offense may score 40 points....but if Denver's defense allows 41.....guess who goes home til next year. Besides, God's watching a soccer match in Brazil that day!

    January 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  5. Mark

    I'll be rooting for the momma's boy only because he would make easier fodder for the World Champion Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • dakooj

      The Pack are going to have to deal with BIG BLUE first buddy!

      January 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  6. Tr1Xen

    As genuinely nice of a guy as Tim Tebow may be, I'm still a Pats fan and I'm rooting for my team today. GO PATRIOTS!!!!

    January 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  7. Sam

    This article is a perfect example of why I don't have an opinion about Tebow either way but find a significant portion of his fans to be absolutely repugnant.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Duane - St.Pete FL

      Sam, if we wanted any crap from u we would squeeze your head....hahaha

      January 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Sam

      Did you hear that insult on the playground during recess yesterday?

      January 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Duane - St.Pete FL

      yes, when I was kicking kids like you all up and down the play ground....hahahaha

      January 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  8. Father of a daughter

    You forgot to mention that father's pray that their daughters will some day meet a guy like Tebow!!! (She is 3, but never to early to hope!)

    January 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Henry

      Amongst the group where that is happening age three is an acceptable age for intimacy. Fathers are often a girl's first.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • James

      Henry

      Its even more funny because he wants it to happen to his daughter

      January 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • sneekas

      Moms too. 🙂

      January 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • sneekas

      Sickos...you must not be parents. Cram it. I know what you mean, Father of a Daughter. Seriously.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Henry

      Sneekas

      Moms are also a daughter's first at age three amongst evangelicals? I did not know that.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Father of a daughter

      Sorry for not being more specific....when she hits the age of 30 of even later in life, it would be terrific for her to meet a man of the similar age group that treats people the same way Tebow does....

      January 14, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  9. dah

    The writer has quite a man crush on Brady doesn't her? Brady is a spoiled little boy one step away from being a thug...you can have his.......Say what you will about Tebow....but he's NOT A THUG!

    January 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • sneekas

      True that. I don't really know either guy personally...but if I was have my daughters date one of them, it would be Tebow.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  10. gkam

    Tebow seems like a nice guy, but his religiosity is unbearable.

    Those who depend on old stories to "protect" them from Death often wind up making sure that others have to obey their silly strictures, which are backwards. Conservative "pro-life" extremists were the very ones cheering the mass slaughter of entire families in Shock and Awe. Most wars are religious in nature.

    Really, don't we have enough to worry about without "believers" killing us in self-righteous fervor?

    January 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Duane - St.Pete FL

      only wat Tebow would kill you is if your little sissy ass tried to tackle him. :o)

      January 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Lew

      Just think of Stalin, the atheist killer of 22 million people...just saying

      January 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Paul

      @ Lew

      Stalin didn't kill people in the name of atheism. He killed whomever he considered a threat to his power and his regime.

      Now people killed in the name of god however...

      January 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Joseph

      Paul, Stalin killed in the name of "The People". He out of paranoia and a lack of respect for humanity. Now, as an agnostic, I find it hard to compare a man who killed in the name of his own ideals to a man who kills because he truly believes that God wills it so.

      January 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  11. Mark

    I find it funny that the population % of Athiests is so small by every poll taken but they seem to want to post on comment boards over and over and over again as if they need to prove to themselves that they believe whatever is is they don't believe!! Lol. They are the ones that believe they were once monkeys and lacked any intelligence whatsoever but need to act like they are a majority with all the answers, when really they have no answers and no HOPE. Just go through life with no direction, no compassion, and no will to live. A very miserable life existance to live a Godless life and then at the final hour try and pray to someone for help and all the science in the world can not help you!!!! Sad, Sad, Sad...

    January 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • gkam

      Mark, you are free to "believe" anything you want, but do not try to impose it on the rest of us. We do not need silly stories from ignorant times, told and retold until they are fantastical nonsense.

      The conservative self-righteous need to hate others is evident in your actions against families, against real people, and for money and the concentration of wealth.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • sneekas

      I'm an athiest...but I still like Tebow. Have to admire a man who is a good man and stands for something. Don't lump us all into the hater catagory.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Mark

      No gkam obviously you miss the point! Look at all of the athiests and bible haters trying to impose their will on those who believe on a "Belief Blog". If you are one of the 1.4% of Athiests in this country, an obviously small minority, get your own "Un-belief blog" and comment on it! You want to try and convince those of us who believe 78.4% by latest Pew poll of 35,000 (quite a big sample) somehow that because you supposedly have science on your side, and btw 2/3 rds (66%) of scientists believe in God according to a Rice University study of 1646 scientists at elite Universities, when in reality you don't!

      January 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Whatever

      Mark, your % of Athiests/Agnostics is probably not correct since most don't make an issue of their non-belief. If we did, we would have to listen to all the rhetoric that you just spouted. Some of us keep our beliefs to ourselves because we are tired of listening to all the Christians trying to control everything in our lives. The piety of Christiean words is too often negated by actions for me too give it any credence.

      January 15, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Whatever

      Mark, if you need something besides your own mind and being to reveal to you that direction, caring, passion and purpose
      exists, that's your choice. If that's what you need to make your life meaningful, that's fine. Just don't make that decision for everyone else. Free will is just that.

      January 15, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  12. DanoRoo

    I wonder if Dodd has the guts to demean Islam the way he does Christianity?

    January 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Duane - St.Pete FL

      great point......if Tebow was praising Allah you liberals would all have hard ons........hahahaaha

      January 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  13. imagine

    when you strip away all the b/s surrounding tebow you win d up with the broncos still needing a quartedback..

    January 14, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Duane - St.Pete FL

      what was bs about beating the best defense in the league?

      January 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Popo

      Strip away all the BS surrounding you and all you have is...an angry man who has no love in his heart and no job. Don't you have anything better to do than this? I do. Goodbye.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  14. Football Fan

    Really people? The article is an opinion and a well written one. You do not have to agree with his opinion and you have every right to express your own, but bashing someone for what they believe is wrong, no matter who you are. Get over yourselves.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • GAW

      If CNN would require all posters to sign up for an account (As on other sites) before posting here it might cut down on the number of trolls.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Mark

      Yes I agree! "Trolls" like you GAW on a "Belief Blog" should be gone! Great point, thank you!

      January 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  15. Pippi

    A mommas boy? Because he is a Christian?

    January 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Duane - St.Pete FL

      funny.....that mamas boy would kick Bradys ass in a hurry......

      January 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • imagine

      being a christian just makes fim stupid...

      January 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  16. Sahara

    Tebow reminds me a little of David of David and Goliath.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • reader

      lol you do know that david was gay don't you?

      January 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Duane - St.Pete FL

      well u libs love the gays, so are u saying u have a man crush?

      January 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • JMM

      @Duane. You libs? With a name like Duane from Florida- I imagine you should return to Armadillo Acres (your trailer park) and stop trolling the internet at Joe's Truck Stop. This is all ridiculous. Even if I did believe in a god. I find it fascinating that he or she would support football as a benelovent practice. Further, if there is a heaven, which I highly doubt there is, I would not want to be there with the likes of you people anyway. As Mark Twain says, "Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company."

      January 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • ????

      You are certainly old if you saw the battle between David and Goliath. Or maybe you just read it somewhere.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  17. Bev

    Tim Tebow is blessed and appreciates the blessings God has given him. He is a hero because of his character, not because he wins or loses the playoffs. As a teacher of high school kids, I am delighted that Tim Tebow is some one young men can actually emulate, more for his charitable acts off the field than any miracles on the field. May God continue to bless him and his family for their testimony.
    to the Haters out there – those who say it can not be done should not interrupt the person doing it...Chinese proverb

    January 14, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • 21k

      tim: dear jasus, please hep me win the foo-bawl game, even though i'm not from texas!
      god: well, ok tim, i guess so. i mean, helping you win is so much more important than say, stopping hitler would have been, since i am powerful enough to have created the entire universe and everyone in it.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • JMM

      *eye roll*

      January 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • keep your theology out of my sports!

      you idiot, hes not a hero! heros are soldiers, police officers, peace corpsmen, fire fighters; not testosterone filled jocks who know that christianity is a marketing strategy. this guy is nothing and people who worship him are hilarious. hes the new golden calf that moses was so mad about when he came down with the ten commandments. good job christianity you stay classy

      January 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  18. reader

    The arrogance that some people have regarding 'god' is mind numbing at times. Many people who claim to believe in god seem to think he/she is some sort of wish granting genie. If they get their desires it is 'proof' of their faith; if they don't it is 'part of gods design plan'.

    If there is a god, and that god is more concerned with the outcome of a game than the suffering of millions of faithful believers who are sick,dying,living in poverty,or enduring some sort of other horror than you can keep him. How many Jews prayed for salvation during the holocaust? How many enslaved people begged god for help? If suffering is some sort of test or punishment god inflicts on his followers than god must be some sort of psycho.

    Every day billions of people pray for something. Some desires will happen some will not it is like flipping a penny sometimes heads sometimes tails only in this case the game is rigged and more people do not get what they want/need.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  19. DavidWM

    GOOOOOOO Playboy! Hey "TeaBagger" Tebow: NEXT time you are down on one knee, put your OTHER knee DOWN and get to work! LMGAO!

    January 14, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Duane - St.Pete FL

      funny part about it is that on two knees or one he could still kick your little liberal ass good...hahahaha

      January 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  20. Clint, Wa.

    Clint .01, OT.

    January 14, 2012 at 11:47 am |
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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.