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. authorsnote

    I respect Tebow as an athlete, and that's it. He is agile, strong, and runs the offense well enough to win on-the-line games. Religion, in any shape or form should be private. If the ultra-religious–of any denomination or faith–understood that and followed that tenet, an enormous amount of world's issues would dissolve. AND since watching Brady win his first Superbowl in a miraculous manner while in a hospital bed in Boston ten years ago, I am "devoted" to him. GO PATS!!

    January 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • LawnSausage

      Yep. Religion is the source of most war and death on this planet right now, And these so called religious, pious people, all run around killing in the name of their god. Too bad we have to endure hatred at the hands of those hypocrites who profess peaceful, and loving, respectful, tolerant. Every single adjective there describes what they are not.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  2. JOE

    I've always had a problem with the "Thank you God for helping me win, beat the living sh_t out of the other guy, and make tons of money" mentality. Running over someone and planting their face in the ground is not exactly what I'd call the "Christian" thing to do. I have a very sucessful son, who is very devout in his religion and fortunately, is nothing like Tim Tebow. I'm a child of the 60's. We call guys like Tebow "Sky Pilots". An just for the record like my son I am a devout Christian (Roman Catholic) and do not wear my religion like a bill board.

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

      There is a big difference between religion and relationship. Tebow has a relationship with the living God (Father/son, Lord/servant relationship. You appear to have a religion (rules/rituals, do/dont').

      January 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • JOE


      Thank you for your response. You prove my point exactly.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  3. Horus

    It's not Tebow's religion that annoys me, it's the smug self-assured manner in which he expresses it. As if the omnipotent, omniscient creator of all existence has nothing better to do than help him win a football game.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • BG

      God Cares..

      January 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  4. Amy

    Uh no. I don't want my teenage son to turn out like him. I'd like him to keep his religious view to himself, not be obnoxious about them.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  5. Doug Davis

    If Tebow's religion has you spewing froth all over your computer screen then you are about as Democrat as grand keagle Robert Byrd!

    January 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • logic n LA

      Seriously Doug? Do you actually believe that all Democrats are not Christian? What part of your extreme jihadist christain trianing taught you that? I respect Tim off the field for his actions as a Christian and a human being.But why all this showboating on the field? does he get down on one knee every time he successfully drives from one point to another? How about when he crosses the street? Maybe after he finishes a workout at the gym without dropping a weight on himself? Many players do a quick sign of the cross, kiss their finger and point skyward. where's the hype for that?

      January 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Doug Davis

      Sorry but I don't hold favoritism to any of the major religions, I do believe in god but I don't practice any religion with that said, I will fight till my last breath every Democrat who is trying to take away our freedom of religion that is a right of every American.

      As I see it, a major component of each religion is the ability to feel remorse and to take responsibility for your actions, therefore the only option for each and every Democrat is atheism.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  6. Jim

    Christian's threaten hell all the time. To me that is a threat. And I (a Democrat) don't care a bit what you believe, my youngest still believes in Santa.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Jim

      Oops, that was meant to be a reply.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Doug Davis

      Don't worry Jim, unlike Democrats like you who want to make Christianity a crime, no Christian will interfere with you praying 4 times a day towards Chicago come 2013!

      January 14, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  7. John

    Those who scoff at prayer are most likely those who never tried it...Tebow is not praying to the non-believers..he is praying to His God...for the non-believers.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Gotkush202

      Next time u see him tell him to do that in house

      January 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • BG

      You dont keep hide your best at home 🙂

      January 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • john

      John : 0

      January 14, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  8. Charms

    no matter what they say, keep doing your thing Tebow...and all the best!
    God Bless!!

    January 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  9. Daniel Tapia

    As far as I am concerned, Tim Tebow has the character traits and devotion to God that I pray my sons and daughters will develop. In my thinking he is not a "mamas boy" but a young man of God.

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

      My son has the same character of selfless concern for others, & it flows out of a clear perception of our shared existence in this difficult world... without any religion.

      I do not have to pray that he will become anything because he has already attained this in full clarity of the world as it is, without skygods & make-believe.

      Anyone who does not undrstand how important this is to the future of humanity lacks that same clarity.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  10. Enigma

    Never ceases to amaze me that Christian haters attack someone for their beliefs, and yet wish everyone else to respect theirs.

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

      Where is the LIKE button or is +1 appropriate in this format?

      January 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • John Galt

      Never ceases to amaze me that Athiest/Agnostic haters attack someone for their lack of belief, and yet wish everyone else to respect theirs.

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

      Truer words have never been spoken.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • LawnSausage

      What never ceases to amaze me is that the religious right seems so bent on spreading their word through things that should not be based in religion. Like Government. Or Sports. Or pretty much anything else that has mass appeal or mass impact. We are not a nation of religion, or forced to believe in some religion at all for that matter. So please get the religion out of public view. Its a private matter between you and your god. Imposing your beliefs 9as Tebow does every time he uses the media and NFL network, etc to spread his word).

      January 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • LawnSausage

      I don;t hate christians, or muslims or anyone else, I hate that you feel you must infect every aspect of peoples lives to try to win over converts, fill your seats, fill your coffers. I could care less if you believe in a fairy tale. But stop trying to make it "required" and mainstream! Don't impose your belief system on others.

      January 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  11. oldtome

    if prayer was the answer, nd, bc,byu,villanova,st,johns,georgetown, etc would all be playing for national championships.
    something called ability is involved along with that word alan iverson made famous-pratice. if tebow did a screwball dance,
    miniced using a phone, shouted f bombs, gave everyone the finger, chased fans into the stands, had to be separated from coaches/managers, he would get no ink. now i see it, he's different. oh my.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  12. Nathan

    It is all good to speculate on who is the better QB in an article or comment to an article, neither of which actually impacts one's life, but if you were to get honest responses from the management (and even players) of both of the teams involved, both of which have financial incentives on the line in this game, you would be hard pressed to find a handful of people who would prefer Tebow over Brady as their QB this game.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • ajbuff

      Agreed. And why do we even care about their personal motivations? I could not care less – I am watching to see some high quality football. If some gain strength from religion, good for them. Whatever helps you. If some gain strength from marrying numerous good-looking women, good for them. Who cares???? If either of them runs for President, then I will pay attention to their personal motivations. If they are being payed to play football, then that's all we need to worry about.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  13. Samer

    Once again, the haters rise up. But I find it particularly ironic that those who hate Tebow the most could even comprehend how much Tebow does for those around him. Religion aside, he truly does a lot of good around the world. Like what was said in the article, he builds orphanages, educates those who otherwise would not have an education, and visits the sick to bring just a little light to their otherwise struggle-filled lives. So what if he may not be the best football player (though 6 straight wins was pretty convincing), he's a good man and deserves a little more credit. People should stop making this about liberal v conservative or christianity vs other religions. It's about a guy who does a ton of good compared to his counterparts and deserves praise for what he does off the football field.

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

      Totally agree, great post and well said!

      January 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • ____________________

      CNN throws these softball articles about Christianity at the hate-theists so they can post their bigotry.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Nathan

      I don't really hate or even dislike Tebow, he isn't a terrible guy, I do find his fans that insist his performance is evidence that I am going to hell annoying as...hell.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Jim

      Funny, if I don't agree with the Theists I'm a bigot.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Imbecile

      I don't hate Tebow. I hate the media's obsession with him and the regligious zealots who fetishize him as if his success somehow proves god exists. It doesn't. It just proves that the media can't get enough of a decent athlete who wears his religion on his sleeve.

      There are plenty of people just as pious as Tebow who aren't good at sports. Do we say that their lack of success proves god doesn't exist?

      January 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • BucketDrop

      Samer, kudos for a well said comment. This semi-liberal atheist likes your take and would remind others who are in my "classification" that people are people, no matter their beliefs. All you can do is be as good as you can be with what you have and what you believe. Now if he was out there lambasting those who didn't think like he did or didn't (gasp) like football or Christianity, then he deserves the criticism. I haven't heard that he does this. Seems this QB is doing alright to me.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Chuck in Jasper, Ga

      Although a life long Patriots fan and I do not give Denver much of a chance this evening, I could not agree more with you. If a majority lived life as Tebow appears to, I think this world would be a much better place. Religion aside.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • ____________________

      It's perfectly okay to not believe in God, Jim. But spewing ignorance and bigotry isn't okay.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Of course it is. It's perfectly legal and there's no prohibition against spewing whatever you want.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Mark

      Mark –
      CNN throws these softball articles about Christianity at the hate-theists so they can post their bigotry.

      – news in unbiased. the problem with those devout to anything is a judgmental view/take on life. This is unavoidable, but we do not need to be creating more problems when we could all be helping each other do things in the REAL and CURRENT world. Mathematics disproves a 'supreme' god. Infinity is the endless. Somewhere, there is a place where you are the same person, but with a different color hair. The closest thing to morally acceptable religion is taoism. http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/core9/phalsall/texts/taote-v3.html . habits pervade life. the joy comes with the effort. why fight over nothing? ultimately, this idea leads to a nation-less world , which could be a good idea in terms of unifying. Cultures could remain, like tourist destinations. religion stops progress.

      January 14, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  14. LawnSausage

    soooo tired of Tebow and his BS, One, he sucks. Two he is a religionut. Three he is blatantly using the NFL as is pulpit. I call foul on that! I can't go to work and use company resources to spread some religious message. I can;t go to work and force my religion down others necks.

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

      Three things you obviously do not comprehend. No wonder you are so frustrated 😛

      January 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  15. Srini

    Trying to sell your book?I have a 18 month old and I would never want my son to be like Tebow believing in fairy tales. If at all I would want my son to be like Tim Duncan; a very humble person. People could call him boring but he is a great player and a great person.
    I would also not want Tebow to be my neighbor.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  16. John Galt

    Actually, I think a lot of teenage boy's moms would prefer their kids don't grow up to be some dumb jock. Sure it's a windfall for the parents, but I'd be more proud of my son if he won the Nobel prize in whatever. Brains over brawn any day.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Observer

      Who is John Galt?

      January 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • ____________________

      I hardly think Tebow is a dumb jock. I'll bet he's way smarter than you.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Jim

      I bet he can fly too, just wait till game time.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Sam

      An over-hyped character from a very poorly written book.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  17. Anon

    Tebow went full christard.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • ____________________

      Do you find it hard to sleep at night with all of that hatred and bigotry bottled up inside your pea-sized brain?

      January 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  18. New Yorker

    If I was tim tebow, my mother would have sent to a shrink. to be a jesus-freak would have made me the shame of our family.

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

      I'm sure they're very proud of you now.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  19. Robin Bray

    Magic chants, holy beads, special water with magical properties, lucky numbers and hearing voices. Surprising how much believers in gad are the same as people who thin Harry potter is real. In the land called the real world we refer to these signs as mental illness. But it must be different in the organized cults called churches.

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

      Exactly, not to mention this supposedly "good" gad who will randomly kill five or ten thousand people with an earthquake or volcano just for his amusement. People are free to dance around with snakes all they want, but should leave it out of the public sphere.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • LuisWu

      My thoughts exactly.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  20. ac

    My guess: Tebow is actually the second Jesus, born of virgin parents by miracle. Check it out.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:20 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.