If Hollywood was going to make a movie based on the Vikings’ attempt to get a stadium deal done, Rocky wouldn’t cut it for the sports-analogy crowd. Rudy may not even be able to get the job done. We may be approaching Old Yeller country.
A day after dodging a potential deal-breaking bullet from the Minneapolis City Council with its endorsement of the stadium bill, which could have been the political fly in the punch bowl that State of Minnesota needed to bypass its vote, the script took a sadly anticipated swerve Tuesday. It was a plot twist that put it in the class of an Adam Sandler vehicle – 12 years removed from Adam Sandler being viewed as funny by adult movie audiences.
Word from the political insiders, it seems, is that policymakers from towns with a shop teacher’s handful of stoplights are going to potentially make or break the NFL as far as its history in Minnesota is concerned.
The great thing about politicians is that, at their core, they bow to the whim of their constituents or, if they aspire to a big-time political future down the road, want to appease their overlord brethren. After a brief moment of optimism, the reality of the last hurdle is becoming apparent. After years of delays, the State of Minnesota has to suit up and let a stadium issue live or die on its watch. The hot potato is in their hands and they have the “stop spikes” to bring down the momentum just when the last hurdle has been cleared and the finish-line tape is in sight.
Sen. Ray Vandeveer, the chairman of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, invoked the “charitable” aspect of the Vikings stadium bill because the money technically being provided by Minnesota comes from a charitable gambling line item. Trust me when I tell you, nobody who gambles with any frequency cares where their losses go. All they know is it’s money that at one time was in their pocket and is now in a bill-changer trough. To play the charity card is dealing from the bottom of the deck’s political rhetoric. Perhaps “charitable” and “Vikings” don’t belong in the same sentence, but apparently “political” and “myopia” are no strangers.
As things currently stand, barring an 11th-hour change of heart or an adrenaline shot of influence, the stink around St. Paul is that, even after clearing what should have been the last hurdle, the state can still construct a moat that will prevent the Vikings from getting to a new stadium.
Other politicos with stroke behind the golden horses at the Capitol have suggested that, instead the standard “special” session of the State Legislature that has batted about .800 over the last decade, this year’s legislative session will end Easter weekend. Unfortunately for those sticking a fork into a pineapple at the Easter “big table,” if they’ve concluded their business for 2012 without approving a stadium plan that has already been filleted, ground, de-boned, they may have turned a blind eye for the last time.
The Vikings (a.k.a. the Wilf family) have consistently maintained their wish to get a stadium built that will keep the Vikings in Minnesota. Face the facts. The Metrodome is an above-ground landfill that was built on the cheap – the only time the State of Minnesota helped fund a stadium and, it made a return on its investment many times over. In terms of sports facilities, it’s a pole barn in the shadow of Taj Mahals – a pole barn whose roof collapsed under the weight of snow.
At a time when Haliburton is hiring Minnesotans to move West to harvest a recently discovered abundant, scarcely-regulated resource, it would seem that the State Legislature would latch on to the Vikings like a tick. In arguably the worst long-term recession since the late 1970s, the NFL has been one of the most profitable (legal) corporations in the world. When major corporations are filing Chapter 11, the NFL is a financial resource as safe to invest in as gold. If the State Legislature simply moves its hands away from the hot potato that has, at long last, been tossed in its direction, it will land in its lap. That’s never good. Turning a blind eye at a critical time can lead to scalding. The Vikings have to play in Minnesota in 2012. The team doesn’t have a choice. In 2013, all bets are off. The Minnesota Legislature has a choice in its 2012 session. If they don’t know already, in 2013, all bets are off.
Perhaps what Minnesotans need to send a message without having the word “Occupy” attached to it, is having every man, woman and child that owns Vikings apparel wear it at the same time. Jerseys, T-shirts, ties, coats, caps, Crocs, cardigans, hoodies, scarves, socks, (God forbid) Zubaz, sweater vests, turtlenecks, Henleys, track suits, onesies, pullovers, board shorts, overalls, varsity jackets, suspenders, Helga braids, dickies, aprons, yarmulkes (I’ve seen one, they exist), suit coats, bibs, Binkies or sunglasses – the whole nine yards. Everything except granny panties and boxers – thanks, we have enough.
In an election year, politicians always walk on eggshells. Their primary job isn’t passing a transportation bill or a budget, it’s making sure they get re-elected and can continue the process.
It only seems fitting that, if such a dress code could be enforced, it should come Sunday – April Fool’s Day. If the State Legislature shoots down a stadium bill that has survived the Blitzkrieg it has crawled through to this point, history (in the inimitable words of classically-trained orator Mr. T) will pity the fools that sat quiet when they should have spoken up – or at least raised their hand when the hot potato came their way.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.