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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. roger

    I don't understand this atheist Stalin thing.From what I remember Stalin had his confession (Catholic) heard on his death bed and then had the priest killed so that the info wouldn't get out.Sounds like he was ...SOME TYPE ....of christian to me.If my info is wrong then I am wrong...if my info is correct then stop calling Stalin an atheist.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      Stalin was an atheist.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • James

      The Eastern Orthodox faith also takes confessions and that would have been more realistic given his location. He may have even been a part of the Georgian rite seeing he was Georgian.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Jim

      It really doesn't matter what a mass-murder's religion is. A mass-murderer is a Sociopath. A deeply religious mass-murder is a Schizophrenic Sociopath, listening to voices telling him what to do. In the end the results are the same.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      Roger...Typical Christian rhetoric. You want to believe that everyone deep down is a Christian, refusing to believe that people have a not so brainwashed way of thinking. Why don't you bring up CS Lewis why you are at it? You people love that one.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Samuel

      Pointing out his atheist nature gives fundamentalists (of all faiths) comfort that mass killings over belief systems is something that they do not monopoolize. Sometimes they even pretend they don't even participate in it because Stalin was atheist.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • h202000000

      It doesn't matter if Stalin was an atheist or if Hitler was Catholic. One person doing wrong in a group, does not apply to everyone in the group. One person does not ruin the beliefs of others. The argument is dumb on both sides.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Sandy

      Stalin lived most of his life as an athiest. Just before he died he chose to confess his sins, my guess is so IF there was a God he would be "saved".

      January 14, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So what if Stalin was an atheist? What of it? Do you think it was his lack of belief that caused him to murder millions? How, then, do you explain the mass murderers who killed in Jesus' name? The number of murderers who are in prison who are self-proclaimed "Christians"?

      You are so stupid it should be a crime.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  2. PJ James

    Man, if God has nothing better to do than follow football and make sure some overpaid dufus' get touchdowns then I feel really sorry for all the starving kids in Africa! 😦

    January 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • just sayin

      What have YOU done for the starving kids in Africa?

      January 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      Exactly. Journalistic GARBAGE. Allowing this guy to pontificate hyperbolic personally wrong opinion nonsensical BS.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      Hey Just Sayin...what has God done for the Starving Kids in Africa????? He blessed Tebow's ability to play football??

      January 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  3. ac

    Christianity is just Tebow BS

    January 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  4. rad666

    Group of influential Christian conservative leaders announces it is backing a presidential candidacy of Tim Tebow.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  5. ac

    tebow bs
    and how dumb are the mom's who want their kids to be like him.
    By the way, when is Jesus coming back now? My guess is Jesus will come back as a Chinaman, and touch down in Beijing.
    Then, we can bring George Bush back and start another losing war.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  6. Monkey Man

    I do not hate Tim Tebow. I am a democrat and I think Tim is a very good man. However, I would not want my children believing in something as ridiculous as Christianity or any other religion which fills people with false hope, imaginary stories and non sense. I live in a world of reality and in that world you live with the choices you make and when you die it is over. The end.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Relationship not Religion

      Boy! I sure don't want to be you at the end of your life! All those ridiculous statements will go right out the window when you're standing there face to face with a loving God!

      January 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • marianne

      Amen to that Monkey man!

      January 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      LOL....No God Moron.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • neil

      well, aren't you a ray of sunshine? Nobody needs you to tell them about life and what happens when you die. You know nothing more than anyone else. Let people have their faith and don't knock it. If you feel compelled to get annoyed when seeing someone talk about their faith, take it with a grain of salt and grow up.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      What? It's all brainwashing and people buy into this bologna. Scientific evidence has irrefutably crushed religion as man made jargon, yet I have to sit amongst such ridiculous stupidity? It's insulting. I actually feel sorry for you people, allowing yourselves to be hoodwinked by this garbage.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      Life is so much better when you realize that this is it.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Harry

      I find atheist funny. Don't have the energy to believe in anything. 90% of the world believe in a higher power. That is not a made up number. Name it something different in different tongues. Jesus, Ala, Buddha, Sun God, Zeus and countless more names, yet there is billions of followers to each. Something is born in us to believe in a higher control than yourself. Science has yet to uncover every truth and probably always have some new thing that is trying to be discovered. Believe the bible dint believe but one thing is a fact its a great piece of literature. Archeologist use the bible to this day to find buried towns that are described in it. Do I believe there is a higher power out there yes. Do I know his name and know which religion is correct no. Tim Tebow makes a great story just like the Bible tells a good story is there flaws in both oh yes. Religion and Tebow divides people sure. People will always hate on something its in our nature.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      Your funny Harry. You keep going with that. Scientific evidence has and will continue to dissolve the 90% who ARE brainwashed. Believe all you want, there's nothing there.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Mark

      Monkey Man you need to rephrase that, you live in a world of "your reality" not reality. You do not know what happens 100% when you die any more than anyone else, period! But to believe that you were once a "Monkey Man" of no intelligence, which may be so true in your case, is much more of a leap than to believe in God! To live what is a miserable existance, no right and wrong then you just die "The End", as you obviously do is really quite laughable...go ahead make fun while you are still able to but one day "I believe" you will not be laughing. If I'm right I lived a great life, extremely happy, a wonderful family, and an even better eternity and you are in trouble!!! If your right I still lived the same great life and you lived a worthless one and we both end up in the same ground!!! Go figure....

      January 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Harry

      Not trying to convenience you. People have the right to believe whatever they want to. Science hasn't proven there is a God or isn't. That is not what science does. Science is about understanding the interactions of chemicals, components, and many other areas. One scientist I who is a good friend of mine devote catholic and I make fun of him for his profession. Hes a genetic scientist trying to find out why the human body does what it does to certain chemicals. He's one of the guys whose trying to help get rid of cancer. Do you know the odds of evolution to happen you know the theory were we came from. The soup mix theory I like to call it. That we came from organic mater that in time it became something else to tad poles to mammals and on and . Its Trillion to the 100th power of odds to ever happen. His quote not mine. He does believe in evolution but that there was just a guide one from a external source. He says nothing happens by chance. Even science needs a catalyst or nothing happens. What was the catalyst for the soup what was there before the soup. Something had to be the catalyst. That is what science is in some of its fields still trying to figure out what the catalyst is or was.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Russell

      To say that science has irrefutably crush the possibility of God's existence is simply not true. You would have to have 100% knowledge of the universe to rule out the possibility of God. The Truth is that God loves you Monkey Man. My prayer is that you come to know His love. Hate does not work, for Christians, Atheists, or anyone else.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      There is greater FACTUAL basis in my thinking than in yours. We know, yes we know that we have evolved and the world, as we know it, has existed for BILLIONS of years. VOLUMES UPON VOLUMS of research have been provided to explain all of this. The theory evolves as the information is gathered. And you have a book (with nothing else to back it up) NOTHING but faith (a laughable term and BELIEF...another laughable term). SO now , who's head is in the clouds. Hi I live here on earth, where are you?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Mark

      Again Monkey Man, sad so sad that you live such an existance...As you would say "The End"!

      January 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  7. ac

    what a load of bullcrap.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  8. bambam

    I can't wait to see the shockwave when Tebow announces he's gay!

    January 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Observer

      Gay and, because of his faith, celibate. What an example!

      January 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  9. Whatever

    Tebow impresses me.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  10. roger

    Nothing against Tebow but he has YET to prove himself. Talk to me in 5 years and then I'll jump on the band wagon.Tom HAS proven himself and therefor comparing the two is just idiotic at best and nothing more than media hype at its worse.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      That last play of the game last week... chased out of the pocket and on his heels throws a pass between defenders? That did not impress you? The author did not say that Tebow was even with Brady in talent.... most of the Quarterbacks in the league are not but for a young quarterback to throw under pressure has to count for something to impress.

      If Brady had of made that throw people would have said that it was vintage Brady. That another did it should impress you at least a little bit.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  11. Doug Davis

    Ask yourself why the Democrat hates Tebow so much, you are now on your way to understanding the National Socialist, the worst people to ever walk this earth.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Mike Sk

      your comment is basically why America is so divided.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • h202000000

      I'm a democrat and I like Tebow. I don't care if he does a sideline/touchdown prayer or that he talks about his faith. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. Thank you for the compliment though. 😉

      January 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • bambam

      Doug....you've been drinking too much of the Rethuglican Kook-Aid.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jim

      @Doug, National Socialism is a right-wing movement. In Germany they were called Nazi's, very right-wing.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Denker

      Funny you are mentioning national socialism. The mindless copying behavior of this silly prayer cult is exactly just one example the sort of behavior that enabled national socialism, it is ideology over reality, that is the core of all that that powered national socialism or any other socialism for that matter. No doubt that right-wing Christians like you are at the core of that problem. This be the downfall of this country. You can be proud of yourself.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • bambam

      I'm so SICK of this "socialist" Rethuglican talking point. Are people like you so stupid and dense that you can't think for yourself??? What has this administration done that you think is so Socialist? Sometimes I think you and your ilk are simply using the word "socialist" instead of the "n" word. Grow up!

      January 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • David B

      What a stupid comment. The Redubs like tebow because they want to force Religion in ones face. You do not know what a socialist truly is. I am amazed that these so called Patriots are only Patriotic when a Redub is in office. Proud Democrat here like Vince Lombardi for Life!

      January 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Doug Davis

      Lies and attacks, the only way Democrats respond to facts.

      The hate spewed at Tebow for his religion is just the latest example, each and every Democrat wants to take away the 1st and 2nd amendment rights of every American who is not a little Democrat Obama-bot eichman.

      I don't see any Christians wishing Democrats harm for their liberalism religion, yet each and every Democrat wants to cause harm and even death to every Christian.

      It would be something to inject some remorse into a Democrat, they have so much to feel horrible about, but the sad reality is that the Democrat cannot feel remorse, hate and lies consume every liberal being.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  12. anon

    That's funny. My mother doesn't want me to be like Tebow– incredibly religious, bad at my job, et cetera. Mr. Dodd, please do not make sweeping over-generalizations. It is terrible journalism to say that every teenage boy's mother wants her son to end up like Tebow. Because you couldn't be further from the truth.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  13. Jaime

    Tebow is a massive tool, but I wish him the best in life and in this game. I think at the end of the day if he maintains his integrity and doesn't turn out to be some kind of freak then he's all right. He's still a massive tool though.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • sharkfisher

      Wait until you die,then see who the fool is.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • bambam

      @sharkfisher....Guess your God didn't equip you with the ability to read. Jaime said Tebow was a "tool"....which I happen to agree with!

      January 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  14. MJV

    Sports at the professional level is one of the last things not corrupted by religion – and I'm not saying religion automatically corrupts, that's another subject. Sports bridges gaps in culture, religion in sports puts up barriers. It's that it is always so contrversial so lets just keep overt religiosity out of the game. I think that's all people want and why I can't stand Tebow.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • baj

      This isn't about religion...it is about Tebow's faith that God will help him overcome life's battles not just in football.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  15. dan

    I think Tim Tebows only concern is being the "boy" God wants him to be. This fact, more than any football prowess, is what makes him a great man.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  16. OldCountry73436

    I have nothing against one who believes In God or Jesus... That is their choice, your choice... I too am free to make my choice, whatever that may be... But one thing I do have no use for are those who claim to believe and yet speak in hateful terms, such as the remarks made by "Absutoth". Love Is Good... Hatred Not...

    January 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  17. dontjudgethedon

    Check out this funny video. Brady VS Tebow.http://youtu.be/YMU18AWujGU

    January 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  18. JB

    Good griief, he's only famous because the media wanted a new darling to up viewership. Like's he's the only football player that kneels down and thanks God whenever he makes a touchdown *rolls eyes*

    January 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Sherri

      For me, anyway, that has ZERO to to with why I like watching him play. The long pass he made last week, the thrill he brings with him, is why I like watching him play. What also thrills me is watching Pretty Boy B*lls In My Wife's Purse getting knocked on his azz.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  19. bdander

    These religious editorials are ridiculous. Get a real job and do something productive....

    January 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  20. Nick San Diego

    Tebow is a media hyped up player. Most games (at least important one) were won by the kicker who thanks to the media gets no attention.
    Don't even mention Tebow and Brady in the same breadth.
    One has a proven record. and the other is a flash in the pan that in a short time will be history.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Jim

      Tebow's fame reminds me of the Kardashian's or a Paris Hilton, it's built from media generated fluff. Which is fine I guess, but it should be recognized for what it is. Tebow is simply outgunned by a Tom Brady, the only hope the Bronco's have is the fine work done by the rest of the team, who should be the real heroes of Denver.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
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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.