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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. Derek

    The biggest reason I don't read CNN much is because it saddens me reading comments like these. It reminds me how many people are going to hell.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Steve

      Hopefully that is a joke?????

      January 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Walter

      Is it lonely on your pedestal?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • christos

      save yourself my friend...

      tebow is NOT a worshiper of GD- he is a worshiper of the messenger of GD.

      if he wore to worhsip GD he would be a muslim.

      and there is a whole cult based on this falacy ( christianity )
      jesus never called himself a " christian" or the " christ "
      in fact he advised others not to make a deity of him... read the scriptures ; see for yourself

      stop following the masses

      the first commandment is : thou shalt not worship anyone before me...

      but he aspires to the golden rule and should be commended for it

      January 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • christos

      tebow is NOT a worshiper of GD- he is a worshiper of the messenger of GD.

      if he wore to worship GD he would be a muslim.

      and there is a whole cult based on this falacy of worshiping he who warned others not to worship him...( christianity )
      jesus never called himself a " christian" or the " christ "
      in fact he advised others not to make a deity of him... read the scriptures ; see for yourself

      stop following the masses

      the first commandment is : thou shalt not worship anyone before me...

      but he aspires to the golden rule and should be commended for it

      January 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Larry L

      If you are truly saddened you might choose to clear this up for me... If your God is in fact a loving diety why whould he create a system where those who fail to beg him for mercy are condemned to eternal torture? That sounds like the behavior of a really, really evil personality. If you believe the Devil causes this outcome you're telling me your God is either unable or unwilling to stop the vicious and cruel practice. Which is it? Is God evil, too indiferent, or just too weak to defeat the work of Satan? Please – no Biblical quotes. Just give a logical and specific answer. Hint: "It's not for us to understand" or "He works in mysterious ways" are both inadequate responses.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  2. Henry

    An athlete with the physical abilities of Tebow winning games isn't proof that God exists. Put Erkel in as QB. If he takes the Broncos to the Super Bowl I will be a believer til the end of time.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  3. Tulsa52

    Tim Tebow for President!!!!!!!!!1

    January 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Walter

      He wouldn't be any worse than the candidates the GOP is already running.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Jerry

      Walter: What makes you think Tebow is a Republican?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  4. Arbour

    Why do so many of you assume that Tebow pray that God would inteefere with the outcome of a football game? Do you had a recording of his prayers? From those who know him, he prays for strength to do his best and would honor his Heavenly Father in wins and losses. Dont' assume that he is like everyone else.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • God here..Stop praying already..I'm sick of having to keep changing my mind

      God is a heavenly mother.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  5. Tom

    Why is CNN publishing this religious propaganda?

    January 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  6. Rufoscoe

    Yeah yeah yeah. When all the wishing, praying and projection is done, there's gonna be a kick off whistle. That's when all the BS stops. Both are great quarterbacks, but Brady is greater.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Jilli

      Tebow is a "great" quarterback? C'mon....

      January 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  7. poam

    My mom would take me outside and beat the hell out of me if I got the dismal Wonderlic score Tebow got.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  8. ron mcloughlin

    Alpha males have never been "momma's boys" and women love the devil in alpha males as do even men for different reasons.They in fact make the male shine. Yet the story seems to be headed in the other direction that Tebow's less than male, an idea that shud be repugnant to all god-fearing Christians. Even though I'm a Buddhist, I want to see Tebow win the Super Bowl so he can dedicate the trophy to Jesus Christ Superstar and Tom Brady or whoever eats crow.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  9. Jeff S

    "God" only stops helping anyone when they choose to have God stop helping them. Its not God casting magic spells from the sky which "helps" Tebow, it's Tebow's Faith in God which moves him to accomplish what he does. It's amazing more people haven't figured that out, preferring to keep their preconceived, ill-informed opinions of what Faith means and how it works.

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

      "accomplish what he does"

      He has won what 7 games? Don't get ahead of yourself. It isn't faith that makes someone a good football player that sounds moronic when you say that. It's called talent and hardwork.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Rufoscoe

      Cobblers

      January 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Larry L

      What real "evidence" exists of God actually helping? Religious people credit good outcomes to God and bad outcomes to God giving us the freedom to choose. Some of the more fundamental religions give God credit for punishing people who ignore his rules.
      People have been praying for centuries and the only evidence of God's interaction stems from man's inability to understand the dynamics of the event. If folks spent the same energy working towards a better world, rather than developing an expanding mythology, we'd all be better off.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Jeff S

      You may have mis-read my comment, Steve. I wrote: "it's Tebow's Faith in God which moves him to accomplish what he does."
      I never said Tebow was a great quarterback, in fact, I think he's terrible. They have a convoluted system which not all defenses have adapted to yet. "What he does" is to do far more than he (Tim Tebow – I don't mean 'anyone') would have accomplished without his faith. His faith in God gives him the will to push himself, and to believe in his ability to perform and to win. In another person, it might be their belief in their lucky rabbit's foot, or the memory of what their deceased grandmother instilled in them. Its simple psychology, whether its God or any of those things.

      I simply stated the obvious – for Tim Tebow, "it's (his) Faith in God which moves him to accomplish what he does."

      There is no professional football player who doesn't hold something in their mind which pushes them, and there is no perfect mixture of DNA alone to make an athlete a successful professional athlete without the right mind-set.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  10. Heyoka

    Tim Tebow credits Jesus/God for his good playing... Better watch out Tim, come contract negotiation time your bosses might tell you than a raise is unjustified because it's not you, it's Jesus/God. 🙂

    January 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Heyoka

      Sorry guys, that was my little brother, whose views I completely abhor, using my handle. Ignore my previous comment.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • christos

      tebow is NOT a worshiper of GD- he is a worshiper of the messenger of GD
      and there is a whole cult based on this falacy ( christianity )
      jesus never called himslef a " christian" or the " christ "
      in fact he advised others not to make a deity of him... read the scriptures nad see for yourself

      the first commandment is : thou shalt not whorship anyone before me...

      but he aspires to the golden rule and should be commended for it

      January 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Henry

      Your brother has a point.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  11. Aaron

    I don't have a problem with Tebow or the fact he feels compelled to keel during football games. What annoys me are the Christian fanatics who nearly deify him for doing it and now come to his unquestioned defense and view any criticism of him as a direct attack on their religion. The Christian establishment has made him their darling and now throngs of the faithful are flocking to the sport and Tebow's team, not primarily because they love football or their favorite player, but because they are following their favorite Christian. It means they are interjecting religion into something else and making a religious thing out of it. Many purely football fans feel like a lot of Christians are hijacking their sport for this unrelated religious cause.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • christos

      tebow is NOT a worshiper of GD- he is a worshiper of the messenger of GD.

      if he wore to worhsip GD he would be a muslim.

      and there is a whole cult based on this falacy ( christianity )
      jesus never called himself a " christian" or the " christ "
      in fact he advised others not to make a deity of him... read the scriptures ; see for yourself

      stop following the masses

      the first commandment is : thou shalt not worship anyone before me...

      but he aspires to the golden rule and should be commended for it

      January 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  12. christos

    tebow is NOT a worshiper of GD- he is a worshiper of the messenger of GD
    and there is a whole cult based on this falacy ( christianity )
    jesus never called himslef a " christian" or the " christ "
    in fact he advised others not to make a deity of him... read the scriptures nad see for yourself

    the first commandment is : thou shalt not whorship anyone before me...

    but he aspires to the golden rule and should be commended for it

    January 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  13. 0Patrick0

    If my mom would have wanted me to be a Tim Tebow, I would've gotten a new mom.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • ron mcloughlin

      U can only have ONE mom, AH.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  14. Steve

    Not a hater but does Tim Tebow like girls?

    January 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • JayB12

      I hope and pray that he does........

      January 14, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Mark

      Let's see...

      He claims to have never been with a woman and he recently informed the press he is not dating because 'football keeps him to busy'. I am not saying he doesn't like women but all people I know who were in that place at his age later came out of the closet.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • ron mcloughlin

      I think he's man enough not to play that game.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  15. Zargoth

    Brady is a known & proven winner, repeatedly, over many seasons & in several Super Bowls.

    So far, Tebow is a kind of one-hit wonder. When he has 8-10 seasons under his belt, then we will all know more.

    Religion & lifestyle is not relavent to the game on the field.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • ron mcloughlin

      True but it's fun and this is Christian America by 82%.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • LawnSausage

      82%? Bull. There are alot less than tat. And many of those just go along with it but don;t practice in any way and could give a rip.

      January 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  16. JayB12

    You better pray you come out alive after you get a whippin by Brady and the Pats.

    January 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  17. Sparky

    Tim Tebow made me decide to become a Muslim.

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

      he behaves like a true muslim and does everything like a true muslim – EXCEPT that he worships jesus instead of worshiping the on TRUE GD and that is the only difference.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  18. Rose

    The caption on the homepage for this article is wrong, Tebow has a very strong following of young men and teens. It's so wonderful that there are men like Tebow to be an example. Sports has too many that are involved in illegal activities, drugs and dog fighting/abuses that these men get away with, because of all the money in sports. When a man comes along who is a good example there are too many in the media trying to tear him down for doing good, it's really kind of warped.

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

      Too bad we can't get some good examples without the religion...

      But wait, if that happened, all the religious folks would find a way to put down someone for not needing it...

      January 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  19. Tim

    It is interesting, Polamalu is at least as devout in his Christian faith as Tebow. When Tebow's throw beat Polamalu to allow the Broncos to win in overtime last week evangelicals said it was a sign of divine favor. Why is this the case when two equally devoted players meet? Could it be that Polamalu is not white? I tend not to think that is the case but its possible. Could it be that Polamalu is not as well known to be a devout Christian? This is certainly possible, although he is well known and has been in the NFL for awhile now. Could it be because Polamalu is isn't as good as Tebow? I doubt that. Polamalu is almost certainly a first round hall of famer, Tebow may be but not at this stage in his career. Perhaps it is because Tebow was on the winning team? I would lean towards this one. At least equally devout players on each team involved in the game determining play and the evangelical perception is that God intervened on the winning players side. They could have had that peerception if Polamalu had intercepted the throw for a TD. I think everyone, including evangelicals, like to jump on a winning bandwagon.

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

      W/hat Christian said it was divine intervention? Please give me one name.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Tim

      Go through the responses to the article. Anytime anyone is implying Tebow is having success because of his faith it is an implication of divine intervention. I think that is insulting to Tebow, it assumes he couldn't be successful without the 'hand of god'.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  20. J R Brown

    I am really amazed at the backlash against Tim Tebow for his kneeling to pray and (supposedly) thank God for success while there are many, many baseball players over the years who kiss their religious necklaces, cross themselves, etc while at the plate waiting for a pitch. Where's the outrage over this???

    Apparently, it's only a problem to show any reference to God when you're a white guy...the latin and South American baseball players who do the same kinds of things are given a free pass.

    Liberals are funny that way....

    January 14, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • christos

      tebow is NOT a worshiper of GD- he is a worshiper of the messenger of GD

      and actually .....there is a whole cult based on this falacy ( christianity )

      jesus never called himself a " christian" or the " christ "

      in fact he advised others not to make a deity of him... read the scriptures
      the first commandment is : thou shalt not worship anyone before me...

      but he aspires to the golden rule and should be commended for it

      January 14, 2012 at 2:01 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.