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. jon

    Tom Brady and the Patriots have already beaten Tim Tebow and the Broncos this year. No amount of religion and praying changed that. What if The Patriots win again? Are you going to say God left Tebow? Tom and Tim are both great people and good football players. May the best team win.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  2. Marc

    Yes, because everyone should want to be a football player, as opposed to you know, scientists and engineers that actually progress society. This article is stupid all around.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Jim

      Stupid why? Because everyone should be a scientist or an engineer? If that were the case, who would grow the crops for everyone to eat? Or make the clothes? Or teach the kids? Dude, get over yourself.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Jim

      Odd...the author doesn't make the case that everyone should be football players... You seem to suffer from, "I have an axe to grind and I will spout something silly even though it has nothing to do with this article or discussion because I want to!" syndrome.

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

      Jim I didn't say people shouldn't be farmers, or teachers. I'm just saying that football players do absolutely nothing to progress society, but seem to be held in such high esteem above everybody else.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Marc

      "Author Patton Dodd says Tom Brady is the guy every teenage boy wants to be, and Tim Tebow is the guy every teenage boy's mom wants him to be."

      The summary of this article from the mainpage.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • want2believe

      As a scientist, believe it or not idolizing certain athletes is not as bad as you make it seem. Some (or few) work hard, are dedicated to a team, and are determined to be the best. All of these are important in the science and engineering fields with teamwork usually most lacking. Maybe you should remove your head your behind and realize you can still enjoy sports and be intelligent.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Jim


      Do you have NO understanding of basic Englis? This is (or maybe only used-to-be) taught in elementary school – hyperbole (exaggeration for effect knowing it is not to be taken literally true).

      Looks like either you don't understand basic English or you are just looking to make waves. Either way, it is worrisome.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  3. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Tebow's public displays of belief just allow fundies to feel better about watching a sport that involves fighting, huge salaries, and enormous profits.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Jim

      uuummm...no. But you of course are free to continue to believe your bigoted and ignorant opinion based on your own ASSumptions as long as you wish...

      January 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      ummm. yeah. The fact that you think you need to respond is telling. Dolt.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  4. ProgressiveMike

    The way I understand it, God favors EVERYONE. Everyone is a child of God, right? Players, coaches, their families, team admin and their families, all the fans in the stadium and their families, the whole TV audience and their families, the nasty-looking guy scalping game tickets two blocks from the stadium... God has "a plan" for everyone, right? Success in a pro football playoff game cannot possibly be "proof" of God's favor, since God "favors" everyone. Ain't that right, church-people?

    January 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Jim

      Well, God doesn't favor everyone but the outcome of the football game is far less relevant than what can come FROM the game. So the argument can be made that the game matters and that God MAY have a "favorite" but it seems that would be a "blue moon" exception.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And what possible benefit would come "from the game"? That gamblers who bet on the Broncos would win money?

      Do you really think they're going to donate their winnings to the poor?

      January 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  5. Donna

    Tim Tebow is a misguided, self-indulgent child who feels he has to show off his religious inclination to all. Do you see any Hindus or Buddhists exhibiting themselves the way he does? Do you see Hindus trying to convert others to their religion or professing its superiority? No. He should just go about his football playing in a professional way, and leave the rest of us alone.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • RoughRider

      I don't see any spindly little Hindus or Buddhists playing football. It takes a whole man.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Lucy

      How is the view? Looking out of your belly button

      January 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Jim

      Hindis and Buddhists do not believe that theirs is the only pathway to "salvation", unlike Christians.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Jim

      Donna is funny in a, pathetic, self-serving, requiring oniscience sort of way.

      First, his public displays are pretty small.
      Secondly, unlike most people, he gives the credit to everyone else – even when the credit is his to take.
      Thirdly, unlike most people, he LIVES according to his conscience and has for his ENTIRE life thus far, worked with orphans and the indigent (which he still does).
      Fourthly, Tebow puts his money where his works are and gives his money as well as his talent.

      I daresay Tebow has done more and has lived for others far more than you (and I) have. Just your "judgement-based-on-ignorance-and-ASSumption" demonstrates this to be the far more likely case.

      Your post just goes to sow that people want to see in others what they KNOW is in themselves...

      January 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sounds like you find Tebow pretty attractive, Jimmy. IYKWIMAITYD.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Tony

      I have never seen Tebow push his beliefs on anyone, I do not think he has ever asked a camera man to keep the camera on him at the end of a play, I do not think he has ever requested a post game interview. With this said he like all of us has the freedom to express what we believe and in any way we want to express as long as it does not hurt others. The difference with him and most of us is the fact he has been criticized and almost demonized by some groups. Through this he has never said a negative thing about the people who have made comments about him. I doubt that you or anyone else posting here could stay quiet while taking the criticism he has taken on this level for dong something he did all through college and possibly through high school.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  6. Gotkush202

    I can't wait for this joke named tebow to be over with

    January 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Tom

      You can't wait until 10 pm EST?

      January 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  7. Holy Cow!!

    CNN's belief blog .. giving false legitimacy to delusion since 2009.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Lew

      Atheism is a sect...

      January 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Holy Cow!!

      I love religious sects 😉

      January 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  8. Marsha

    Not a big fan of either team nor Tebow's public piety displays (Matthew 6:6), having said that, the first real image I have of Brady is his totatlly classless, ungentmentally handling of the paternity issue prior to the birth of his first child. Compared to that, I will take Tebow any day, plus as indicated by the author, it is a joy and pure fun to watch the joy Tebow has doing what he does.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Jim

      Marsha, If you carefully read the entire 5th & 6th chapter of Matthew you will find that public displays are not what is being discussed. It is the heart behind those displays and the reason for the display(s). And as far as anyone can tell, Tebow is the real deal (not a public eye type of guy and he lives what he displays versus those who put on displays for the approval of others. Big difference and the core of what Jesus was talking about.

      BTW, Jesus prayed openly and in front of thousands of people (feeding of the 4000, feeding of the 5000, etc.) so to take one comment out of the broader context to make it "say" what you want it to say is not truthful nor helpful. Also, I'm not assuming you are ripping the Matthew 6 passage out of context on purpose, it is more likely that you don't know the context of the passage).

      In the end, you and I and the rest of the world have a choice to watch a little prayer displayed (versus all the over the top, "look at me be a jack-a**!" displays that the majority of the NFL players make [and this doesn't seem to cause a problem....hhmmmm...]) or change the channel.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  9. Jim

    Sorry, the public displays of religiosity by Tebow are very annoying. I don't care what religion a person is, but getting in people faces with it is just very off putting. I tune into football to watch the game...not have religious views that are not my own constantly shoved down my throat. Had Tebow kept it to himself, I don't care what his religious views are. But since he has made such a point of putting them on display I have no problem criticizing his themas cruel and bigoted. Anyone who would do an ad for focus on the famil (a 1984ish name if ever I heard one), deserves the criticism he gets.

    One last thing...all the bs about Tebow being criticized for his religion makes me wonder. What if Tebow were muslim, and instead of kneeling in prayer at every opportunity he pulled out a prayer rug and faced mecca"? Think the people praising Tebow now would be so quick to do so...I doubt it.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Observer

      "Think the people praising Tebow now would be so quick to do so...I doubt it." Not the same people, but the entire Muslim world would be watching. Quite a boost for American football.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Real world

      Reporting a game vs going gaga over a player's personal habits.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Lance

      You poor thing...

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

      If you think a small display is an act of, "pushing something down your throat" than you are the most shallow, self-righteous, narcissistic child known to mankind. You certainly don't have to like it but to say something so blatantly false and stupid is probably a sign of the apocalypse or something...

      You have a remote? Turn the channel for the whole 5 seconds ya big baby.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Awww, poor Jim. I wonder if your idol knows you exist. Do you have a big poster of him on the wall above your bed with the race car-themed comforter?

      January 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Drew

      You mean kinda like Hollywood and the gay agenda?

      January 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  10. Mike

    Having faith or religion is fine. Basing one's faith on a professional sport is really bizarre.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • If horses had Gods ...

      Very true. Religion is a personal thing .. and should stay that way.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  11. Christopher

    NO! I would not want my son to grow up to be an arrogant small minded bigot! Way to misjudge your readers CNN. BOO!

    January 14, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Joe

      and your basing this judgement on what? your personal dealings with Tebow?

      January 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Jim

      Odd, you obviously know nothing about Tebow AND don't know him personally but you can make such a striking judgement from your position.

      When you serve the poor and orphans and sick kids like Tebow has for years (and start and donate to foundations that actually help those people) you can come back and make an intelligent comment.

      The only one that your words describe are you...

      January 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      When YOU learn how to spell 'judgment', Jimmy, you can accuse others of lacking intelligence.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  12. J R Brown

    As an atheist, I find the religious to be more of a pestilence than anything else...with the exception of those who are the real deal, the genuine article. Most people today who claim to be followers of Christ's teachings are a sad joke...those who spend their lives, fortunes and time making other peoples' lives better with no expectation of reciprocity and all in the name of doing God's will are truly an example of how religion can be a powerful force for good, regardless of whether there actually is a God. The ends would justify the means.
    I truly hope that Tim Tebow is the real deal...we could use a public vision of what a genuine, caring, committed person could do if they truly loved their neighbors as themselves. The rest of the faux Christians (and that includes you Mr Sharpton, Mr Jackson and the lot of you) should stop using christianity as a soap box.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • want2believe

      completely agree

      January 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  13. Wait...

    So this guy was a Brady fan when he was in Boston. Now that the Patriots are not winning playoff games and he is in Denver he is a Tebow fan.

    If I were God I really wouldn't put any stock in his level of devotion. What happens if he finds a quarter outside a Buddhist temple?

    January 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  14. Andrew

    Jesus told his followers to NEVER pray publicly.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Jim

      Really? You were there? Or are you basing this on something that was written 100 years (or more) after his death, after being passed down from one person to the next over many generations?

      January 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • John

      Really? Could you quote that verse please?

      January 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Jim

      Actually he didn't say that at all but the common belief of that is held by those who know not the whole 5th and 6th chapter of Matthew (the idea comes from Matthew 6.6). Try reading it and then you will see how obvious it is that Jesus didn't tell his disciples to not pray publicly.

      BTW, Jesus prayed publicly many times including at the feeding of the 5,000, feeding of the 4,000, raising of Lazarus, etc.

      It is far more likely that you don't know enough to make an intelligent decision about the single passage about prayer than it is that the one passage would mean what you think it does. Someone would have edited out of the Bible well before our time....

      January 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • J R Brown

      That's not true; Jesus taught that prayer was a personal thing between the believer and God and the contents of the prayer were to be a private thing. Kneeling to pray in public is fine...standing on a street corner "praying for social change" is not.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  15. JiminTX

    No way! My sons are not uneducated, religious zealots. They are independent, critical thinkers.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Jim

      Were you born an idiot or have you had to work hard at it? Uneducated? Tebow graduated from the University of Florida in 2009. Zealot? He is not afraid to live his life openly and not hide it.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Jim

      You must be one of those idiots educated past their intelligence level. It seems that you have more ignorant, bigotry mixed with zeal than Tebow. When was the last time you donated your time AND money to help the sick and orphans on a regular basis?

      January 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      When was the last time you studied punctuation and spelling, Jimbo?

      January 14, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  16. John H

    this whole thing is so absurd. Tim Tebow is not the person i would want my son to become. I would like to have a religious son, but not of the arrogant "my religion is better than yours" type, not the "let me try to show everyone that I'm really religious" type either. It's a kind of ego trip, and has nothing to do with true spirituality. He might be a nice kid, but he's off the mark.

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

      Tebow has never said his religion is better than anyone else's. And he is not out flaunting his religion. He is living it. I do not subscribe to the same religion he does, but I can appreciate the way he acts. And no, I am not a Tebow fan, I'm not a Denver Broncos fan, or a Florida Gators fan.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Tebow's POV

      Well, from Tebow's point of view, God and Jesus are not a religion to him. Jesus is a real, living, and loving person to Tebow, and Tebow loves Jesus back. Just in the same way that Brady loves Gisselle and his image (fashion, etc.) and shows that stuff off, Tebow loves Jesus and doesn't hesitate to show that off. It has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with the person of Jesus Christ and Tebow's relationship with him.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Mike

      To be fair it is his fans that are mostly doing that. The SB ad was all Tebow but he seems to be learning that religious fanatics as fans are more dangerous than helpful to him.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      He most certainly IS flaunting it by making his dramatic poses after every score. Does he think his god can't read his thoughts? Does he think god needs or requires him to show them physically in a visual display?

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

      Maybe his misunderstood. Maybe he is just voguing (obscure 90s reference).

      January 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  17. lynn

    Wars, starvation, diseases and God is worried about the outcome of a football game, Really? Empty headed football players and fans.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  18. JJ

    I think I'm still better off not following this incredibly boring game. (Take out the music, graphics and announcers with the IQ of a rattle, and what's left?)

    January 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • me

      A really good football game with a great athlete in Tom Brady.

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

      A great game as always.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  19. The Seat

    God is eating dinner alone. Aaron Rodgers approaches the table and God asks " What do you believe?" Rodgers says, " I believe in hard work, and in staying true to family and friends." God can't help but see the goodness of Rodgers and offers him a seat to his left. Tim Tebow walks up and God says, "What do you believe?" Tebow says "I believe in your total goodness, love and generosity and that... you have given all to mankind." God is greatly moved by Tebow's eloquence, and offers him a seat to his right. Tom Brady comes over to the table; "and you Tom, what do you believe?" Tom replies "I believe you are in my seat."

    January 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • 4Wonderland

      I love this one!

      January 14, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Rub

      Love it.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • jon

      That is awesome! LMFAO!

      January 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  20. steeve-o

    Is God involved? Really? Anybody believing in God should expect that God does not determine the outcome of football games. If so, why would he reward one group of teammates over the other? Why would he hand out concussions, broken ribs and torn ACLs, catapulting some careers but destroying others? No, God is not here to help Tebow. The team that's most prepared to win, will win.

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

      Of course God is busy being involved in football, that's why he doesn't have time to address all of the wars, poverty, and disease in the world.

      January 14, 2012 at 12:26 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.