Austin | Dallas | Houston
Down And Distance

You can't be an underdog if all you do is win: How Tim Tebow undercuts Rick Perry's Culture War nonsense

News_Dan Solomon_head shot_column mug

At this point, there’s really no explanation besides the obvious: Fine, Tim Tebow is %$&*ing magic, okay? There’s no point disputing it, or pointing to thirteen consecutive incomplete passes during a long stretch of the Broncos game on Sunday, or talking about the fact that he faced the worst starting quarterback in the league in Caleb Hanie, or that he needed the usually-reliable Marion Barber to make two colossal errors in consecutive possessions, or that it took a pair of 59- and 51-yard field goals from Matt Prater to win the game — you win, all right? The kid is clearly blessed. All praise be to the God that Tim Tebow worships. He’s got some juice.

Of course, there’s a weird flipside to this deeply unlikely winning streak that the Broncos find themselves on right now. It’s had the unexpected effect of stripping from Tebow some of his power as a figure in the Great American Culture War. Seven weeks ago, that was his primary role: he served as proof of discrimination to the subset of American Christians who feel like they’re only minutes away from being fed to lions by the modern-day Romans. He was a perpetual underdog, embodying the underdog-ism of his entire demographic. I mean, come on — he had a team called the friggin’ Lions openly mocking his faith on the field.

But Tebow’s not an underdog now. Through whatever magic is at work here, he’s won six games in a row, all of them in absolutely bonkers fashion, and he no longer serves to represent the ranks of the largest and most dominant “oppressed” group the world has ever seen.

Thankfully, there’s Rick Perry for that.

Here’s a variation on the old theological question about whether God could make rocks so heavy that he couldn’t lift them: Could you have an overwhelmingly privileged segment of the population so utterly unrestrained by anyone else in the country, and so capable of doing anything that it wants, that it can even declare itself an oppressed minority?

This is the question that first occurred to me after watching Rick Perry strut around in Heath Ledger’s Brokeback Mountain jacket to complain about how icky gay people have more rights in America than good, old-fashioned Christian schoolchildren whose interlocked prayer hands are being pried apart by secular humanist teachers. You’ve seen the ad by now, and probably the parodies that followed. “There’s something wrong in this country,” Perry smirks, yanking the “oppressed minority” badge off of the 30-40% of gay and lesbian students in America who’ve attempted suicide,  and placing it firmly on the 76% of them who identify as Christian. After all, they have to hear school officials acknowledge the existence of people who celebrate other holidays that occur this time of year.

It’s a neat trick, and one that he — and his fellow culture warriors — are able to pull off by virtue of having their voices amplified and opinions taken seriously precisely because they’re not members of an oppressed minority.

But that’s the thing about the Great American Culture War: Everybody likes to feel like a victim, and there’s no way to actually keep score. Except, with Tebow, there is.

And it reads 7-1 as a starter.

Seven week ago, Tim Tebow looked like the messiah for the American Culture War. Here was an outspoken advocate for mainstream, politically-tinged American Christianity (he had done commercials for Focus On The Family), whose publicist would interrupt any journalist who dared ask him his thoughts on gay marriage. He was openly mocked by apostate quarterbacks like Boomer Esiason and Jake Plummer, dividing America by being loathed by some and adored by others, all without ever proving a damn thing on the football field.

But something else has happened in the past seven weeks, and it’s flipped the script on its head. Namely, Tebow has just kept winning. Now Esiason, like Saint Thomas the Apostle before him, has been converted, and Plummer is sure to follow. By the time he’s marched the Broncos into a home playoff game, there won’t be any real debate. Mechanics be damned, if you’ve got two minutes to win a tight game, no one in their right mind would want a current NFL quarterback besides Tim Tebow under center. Culture Warriors who want to talk about how white heterosexual Christian men like Tebow and Perry are the only group it’s really okay to discriminate against in America today are losing a figurehead.

Because after all, if you try to refute the notion of Christians being discriminated against by pointing out to Perry’s supporters that Christian children are free to pray in class whenever they want, they just can’t be led in prayer by a teacher, you’ll hear a chorus of yeah, butUltimately, there’s no way to prove that there’s not some institutional discrimination against Christians, or that if there’s really a war on Christians in America, then Christians are clearly winning — at least not when all of that is framed in the nebulous terms that Rick Perry talks about.

And all a person needs to do is point at Tim Tebow’s record to remind those Culture War die-hards that they’re not really an underdog. And removing that talking point is a gift from Tebow that an atheist — or even a Raiders fan — ought to be able to appreciate.

Get Our Emails

Daily Digest

The Dining Report

Promo Alerts

We will not share or sell your email address