When the roof on the Metrodome collapsed, the first question many Minnesota sports fans asked was, "Can they play on campus?" You see, Minnesotans are a fairly sharp group, knowing that we just spent millions of dollars for a state-of-the-art football stadium to return the Golden Gophers to campus. Surely the Vikings could just play there, right?
Sure they could, but not right away. You see the Gophers have no chance to play football when it is cold outside, so the building wasn't designed for use under 30 degrees. In Minnesota. As the old Guinness beer commercials would say: Brilliant!
Make the jump for a breakdown of the best joke in Minnesota.
The university had long since mothballed the stadium for the winter, including shutting down all running water, running the antifreeze through the lines, shuttering the doors and windows, and hunkering down for what is the normal Gopher hibernation around bowl time. Certainly, no one expected the stadium to be needed for NFL football.
The Vikings played last Sunday's "home" game in Detroit. They lost, ending their playoff hopes for this season. However, there are still games left to play, including one at home. Insurance adjusters and Teflon Dome Repair specialists (apparently they exist) descended on the Metrodome. The roof could be fixed, but not in time for the final home game, a Monday night tilt with the Chicago Bears.
The U of M sprung to action at the request of the Vikings. Trucks, backhoes and plows began to remove the two foot snow blanket covering the field at TCF Bank Stadium, and they turned on the standard field warmers to melt the field so it would be suitable for use. Oh... wait... TCF Bank Stadium doesn't have field warmers. No big deal.
As progress was made with snow removal, the other logistical issues began to be sorted out. Could the Vikings sell beer in the stands with a ban in place on campus? Turns out whoever wrote the ban is a genius, because it says "during Gopher games." One problem solved.
New issue: the stadium is not set up for concessions use under 30 degrees, and has no way to sell tap beer. This is where the joke begins. A state-of-the-art building, built in the 21st century, was not built with the forethought that beer might someday be sold in it? Solid planning, folks. We never change our mind on issues in the country.
Joel Maturi, the university's athletic director swore the stadium would be ready. This is the same guy who hired Tim Brewster, so we had our doubts.
The NFL came to town to survey the stadium for safety issues and to ensure the building could host an NFL game. They left town stating that the progress looked good, they still felt the game could be played there, but there were still issues to sort out.
The Vikings hunkered down to sort out issues like how to fit 64,000 ticket-holders into a 50,000-seat building. They continued, behind the scenes, to make arrangements to play the game outside of Minnesota, something they did not want to do as they wish to honor 50 years of Vikings football during the game. It would be difficult for that to happen in Dallas. Though, it might be fitting, since the Cowboys used the Vikings draft picks to win their Super Bowls, so maybe they should be involved.
As things continued at the bank, someone noticed: The seats would also need to be cleared. That would mean an army of people, armed with snow shovels.The U asked for volunteers, having no budget to pay people to shovel snow to support an NFL franchise.
The Vikings also issued a call. They do it in Green Bay, so it can't be that difficult, right? The Packers offer people $10 an hour, and people flood the place out of team pride and a desire to line their pockets. The Vikings figured they would one up that idea, and get this place cleared out.
Only... they didn't tell the University of Minnesota.
Within an hour, the release was pulled from the Vikings site, with no explanation from the team. The StarTribune reported that people should disregard the release from the Vikings, and that they were asking for unpaid volunteers. Contacted by SBNation Minnesota, the university's athletic department issued this statement:
On the University's end, this is a volunteer effort. The University is not paying anyone to shovel. If the Vikings want to work something out, they are more than welcome to do so.
It took about six more hours for the Vikings to figure out that asking people to come shovel snow for free when those same people have their own snow to remove, and would be the same people the Vikings would be asking for a billion dollars in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression is a bad idea. They Vikings then offered the same $10 an hour that the Packers offer.
No one wants to be the same as the Packers... do they? Yuk.
Now everything was in place, right? A ticket plan would be in place, alcohol would be sold, and the snow would be removed by paid "volunteers." Everything would go swimmingly now.
Chip Scoggins from the StarTribune passed on this report from Richard Meryhew. Turns out, hundreds of Minnesotans showed up to shovel, and yet, amazingly enough, there were some severe logistical issues. People were waiting in line for hours, read that again, WAITING IN LINE, to shovel snow. The university and the Vikings had found yet another way to drop the ball like a Vikings receiver.
Many people left after waiting their fair share of time just to check in. I can't blame them, can you?
Look, I get it. This is a unique situation. The roof on the Dome is not made to fall down, and has done so only five times in thirty years. I would say that is pretty good for a Teflon, air supported, giant popcorn bag lid on a building intended to withstand the rigors of Minnesota weather.
However, two organizations such as the Vikings and the University of Minnesota have some smart people working for them. At least, we would hope they do. Can these smart people not all get in a room, or on a conference call, and work out the details? The level of confusion between the two groups is frustrating for fans, as they just want to pay their hard earned money to watch some football.
Get it together, folks. The world is watching right now, and you are making Minnesota look like the... well... like the Golden Gopher football team.
Once all of this confusion is straightened out, everything will run smoothly. The game will go on, just like any other NFL game. The Vikes will honor their heroes, the fans will freeze, and the Bears will win the game. Just another NFL game, played outside at a college football stadium in Minnesota built to operate in Florida. Nothing else can possibly go wrong.
Unless the Bears file a protest due to safety concerns of the frozen field.
The joke continues.