Monday, September 19, 2005

Minnesotans are cheap

The Vikings have apparently struck a deal with Anoka County for a new stadium, assuming that they can convince the State to ante up $200 million or so. As we are now in what seems like the 60th straight year of stadium debate (actually, I think it's only 8 years - as I recall, the Twins made their first serious stadium pitch in 1997, just 15 years after the Metrodome opened), we will be hearing again all the familiar arguments for stadium funding, pro- and anti-. What we probably won't hear, but I wish we would, is a candid explanation of the best pro-public funding position the Vikings can offer, which goes something like this:

"Hey, Minnesotans - can we say something? You're a bunch of cheap bastards. While it may, and probably does, show profoundly misplaced priorities, it is eminently clear that Vikings football is an important part of the culture of this state. When the Vikings are in the playoffs, the first ten minutes of the local news are devoted to all things Purple, and football dominates public discussion. For good or bad, Vikings football plays a huge part in the lives of many Minnesotans - it is fair to say a majority.

"And yet, except for those of you who pay the (ridiculously high) prices for tickets and actually attend games, none of you pay a damn thing for the privilege of enjoying the Vikings. Ever since the magical season of 1998, when the Super Bowl looked like a foregone conclusion, all home games have been sold out, so every game's on local, free TV. It's all there for the taking - and plenty of you take it. Local Nielsen TV ratings indicate that as many as 2 million Minnesotans watch every game - and except for the indirect costs passed on to them when they purchase items from companies which advertise during games, they don't pay a thing to do it.

"Now, we know it seems ridiculous to spend this much money for a stadium that will most directly benefit people who are already really rich. In fact, it is ridiculous. But isn't it also ridiculous that so many other people who derive a benefit from having the Vikings here - young kids who love football and haven't yet had their hopes dashed by playoff losses, middle-aged guys who never got over not being good enough to keep playing after high school, women who defy gender sterotypes and really enjoy the game (such as the middle-aged women I see wearing Vikings jerseys at work on game days) - don't pay a damn thing for something they so clearly enjoy? Minnesotans want it both ways. They want to feel like they're better than the rest of the country, where communities cough up big dollars to fund sports palaces. But they also want to benefit from having a team in America's most prominent sports league, the NFL, here. Either view is certainly defensible. But to take both, as Minnesotans clearly seem to do, is rank hypocrisy."

Now, I suppose it probably wouldn't help Zygi Wilf's case to come out and say something like this. But it certainly would be refreshing.


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