Public Policy Polling ran a survey here in Minnesota that was reported on in today’s St. Paul Pioneer Press. The political results were predictably dreary; both Mark Dayton and Al Franken are favored for re-election, in part because hardly anyone has heard of any of their prospective GOP opponents. But for some reason, PPP also asked some sports questions, and they found an interesting split with regard to the Minnesota Vikings’ current quarterback controversy.
Let’s back up. Two years ago, the Vikings were awful, finishing 3-13. Last year, they surprised everyone by going 10-6 and making the post-season, with Christian Ponder, who played well down the stretch, at the helm. This year the team is off to a poor start, currently 1-6. Ponder started the season at QB; Matt Cassel, a career back-up, has started one game–the only one the Vikings have won so far–and the team signed Josh Freeman when Freeman was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Freeman has started one game, just days after he joined the team. He clearly was not in command of the offense, and looked awful. He also suffered a mild concussion in that game, which put Ponder back in the starting role. So here in Minnesota, we have a quarterback controversy, which is another way of saying we don’t have a very good quarterback. They don’t have quarterback controversies in New England or Denver.
With that background, here are PPP’s findings:
Ponder is the top QB choice among Republicans, with 34 percent of those polled, while Democrats prefer Josh Freeman, who got 30 percent of those polled.
Let’s acknowledge up front that we are dealing at the margin of statistical significance. That said, the question is intriguing: why would Republicans tend to favor Ponder, and Democrats Freeman?
There is one obvious, stereotypical explanation: Republicans favor the guy who has had some success and is a known commodity. Democrats prefer to throw a hail-Mary on a guy who has only played one game, did a pretty horrible job, but has a strong arm and maybe some yet-unseen up-side. That could be the explanation.
But I suspect that something else is going on. It is striking, if you live here in Minnesota and especially if you read comments on stories in the Minneapolis Star Tribune sports pages, how some people hate Christian Ponder. They don’t just think he isn’t a very good quarterback; they don’t merely think he doesn’t have a very good arm. They hate him. Literally. Why? The only analogy I can think of is the way many liberals hate Tim Tebow.
As it happens, Christian Ponder is a mini-Tebow. His parents weren’t kidding when they named him. As you might know, he married ESPN football reporter Samantha Steele last year. In this interview, he described Samantha as “a true woman of God.” Those are not, to be honest, the words that occurred to me when I first saw Ms. Steele. There are a number of other religious references in that interview, and most others Ponder has done.
Is that why some–not all, by any means, but some–Democrats hate Ponder? I suspect that it is. Many liberals, maybe most, are actively anti-religious. They are engaged in a campaign to drive any positive references to religion out of the public sphere. A man like Christian Ponder, in that context, is beyond the pale. They hate him. I would like to be wrong, but I suspect that is what explains the partisan division in Minnesota’s quarterback controversy. For what it is worth, I am not a big pro football fan, but I will be rooting for Ponder and the Vikings tomorrow against the Dallas Cowboys.