The Minnesota Vikings' decade-long stadium saga has provided plenty of drama for fans and casual observers alike, but never more so than it has over the course of the past few days. On Monday, the legislation was defeated by the House Local Government and Elections Committee by a 9-6 vote. This immediately led to speculation that the bill was dead for this legislative session, and more speculation as to whether or not 2012 would be the Vikings' last season in Minnesota.
The agitation really ramped up on Thursday, when it was reported that the private jet owned by Minnesota Vikings' owner Zygi Wilf was spotted on the tarmac of an airport in southern California. Add that to the fact that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had been in Los Angeles earlier in the week, and the sirens were blaring that the Vikings were clearing the way for a potential move, possibly even getting a waiver to the league's February 15 relocation deadline in order to start play there for the 2012 season.
Goodell, along with Steelers' owner Art Rooney, then made their way to Minneapolis to have a tête-à-tête with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, among others. The message that the league passed to Dayton and company went something like this:
"Dude, get your fecal matter into a collected group, or you folks are going to lose your football team."
And, apparently, that's all it took to get the Minnesota Senate to spring into action, as they passed a bill out of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee by a vote of 8-6. Now, with the proposed end of the 2012 legislative session looming large, the pressure is officially on to see if a bill can get pushed through both houses and to a vote on the floor of the House and the Senate.
The fact that the stadium situation has been allowed to reach critical mass like this is nothing short of completely absurd. The absurdity started on Tuesday, when Representative John Kriesel relayed via Twitter that one of the members of the committee that killed the legislation in the House, would have voted for it "if one other DFL member had." That's two votes that could have moved from the "no" column to the "yes" column, and given the bill passage on to the next committee. But, instead, we have legislators acting like a bunch of teenage girls that are unable (or unwilling) to make a trip to the bathroom on their own, and all of the drama that ensued from it.
Many members of the Minnesota legislature are in, as we in the military would refer to it, full "CYA" mode. (For the uninitiated, the first two words of that are "cover" and "your." You can imply the third word from wherever you're at.) They don't want to risk offending their constituents, because they're all running for re-election this fall and can't stand the thought of losing votes. I'm not sure why they feel it would be worse for them to hear "Hey, you're the guy that raised my taxes" than it would be for them to hear "Hey, you're the guy that ran the Vikings out of town," but that's why I'm not in politics.
Yes, I understand that there has been poll after poll after poll that says that people don't want to have their taxes raised to pay for a new stadium. The thing is that nobody is ever going to say they want their taxes raised to pay for anything. The public was highly opposed to additional taxes for Target Field, too. . .but now that it's there, everyone seems to be pretty darn happy with it, don't they?
If the legislature does not take action during this session, whenever it ends (it can run until May 21, but some folks seem hell-bent on getting out before the calendar flips to May), Minnesota will lose its football team. The people who are in denial and saying that there's nowhere the Vikings can go and that they're stuck in Minnesota are fooling themselves. They can go somewhere else, and they will go somewhere else. This team has been trying for the past decade to get something accomplished, and they've never even gotten anything to the point where they can get anything to a full vote on the floor of the House or the Senate. That's another absurdity of this whole process. If you were attempting to do something for a decade and kept getting told no, odds are that you'd be awfully frustrated, too.
Should the Vikings leave Minnesota, there's a very good chance that Minnesota isn't going to see another NFL team. The league won't put another team in the Metrodome, because there's no point. The Dome wouldn't be there for long after the Vikings left anyway. . .estimates say that, without the Vikings, the building would become financially non-viable in about eighteen months. So, if Minnesota had a desire to lure the NFL back, they would end up building a new stadium anyway at a significantly higher cost. Don't forget the fact that, after a decade of dealing with stubborn leadership in the state at various levels of government, the league wouldn't exactly be tripping over themselves to bring the NFL back to Minnesota anyway.
Oh, and with Minnesota being some six billion dollars in debt, everyone's taxes are going up anyway. It's just a matter of deciding whether or not you want to pay more taxes while watching the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoons in the fall, or if you want to pay more taxes while watching one of the other NFC North teams on Sunday afternoons in the fall. I think everyone can agree that the former is infinitely preferable to the latter.
The decision to get a Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill pushed through by the end of this session should be a no-brainer. That says a lot for the fact that we're at the point that we're at right now.