How a Terrible Vikings Stadium Deal Got Passed
The Vikings Stadium is going to be built, at a phenomenal cost to the taxpayers, in some ratio that we don't fully understand yet. (And I'm not using "we" in that Royal Blogger sense--I'm using it in the sense of "no one in the world really knows how these costs are going to break down.) What we do know is that some combination of gambling (taxes on the poor that they choose to pay, therefore, not really taxes) or through "user fees" (a term invented to give cover to politicians who promised to never raise taxes), citizens of the state of Minnesota (and particularly those in Minneapolis) are going to be paying for a private enterprise's stadium for years and years and...let's just say decades to come.
If you wanted to pinpoint the exact moment that the momentum of disinterested, kinda fans who weren't crazy about a new stadium got completely bulldozed, it was the meeting Roger Goodell (titled by the local news media, in a odd moment of anti-hype, as "NFL Nudge") put together when he flew into town, gathered legislators behind closed doors, and flew out of town, leaving behind a bunch of panicky idiots where once stood at least somewhat principled legislators.
Prior to that meeting, most of the fear-mongering was coming from the sports opinion writers and, in particular, the ridiculous idiocy of KFAN. A special award for boosterism and fear-mongering has to be given out to Paul Allen's mid-morning show. Never did that show waste an opportunity to use the phrase "Los Angeles Vikings"; never did they fail to impugn the intelligence of any caller who suggested that maybe Paul Allen, who is the official play-by-play man for the Vikings on that exact same radio station might appear somewhat biased in his one-sided commentary.
Sports has an advantage in news coverage a lot of the time. There are box scores; there are definite events that transpire on the field. When dealing with a news story that doesn't have a box score, the KFAN talent showed themselves to be unerringly unreliable.
I'm sure one could pull out almost any hour from the archives of the first quarter of 2012 and find something that demonstrates this point, but I'm going to use as my Example Prime a segment from April 20th. Paul Allen, Paul Charchian (who isn't even a football journalist; he's a Fantasy Football "expert") and Vikings center John Sullivan sat around for forty minutes talking about how crazy it was that Minnesota citizens weren't gaga for a new stadium.
I'm going to re-enter that belly of the beast to show just how bad the biggest sports radio station got it wrong.
You can follow along with me, if you'd like. The show is embedded right here:
Minute 0-:26: the show opens with "Lights" by Journey during which Paul Allen (from now on, "PA" soberly declares, "the lights go down on your city, as your team moves to LA"). Except, the last time anyone checked (and this was certainly true on April 20th), the LA Stadium deal was non-existent.
:26-1:52 : Paul Charchian declares that if the Vikings were to leave, we will do what everyone does--build a new stadium for an expansion team. Not mentioned in his list of cities that have done that? Los Angeles. Also, he declares, the NFL wouldn't want to expand back into Minnesota, because the NFL is happy with the number of teams they have. Yeah, the NFL would never expand because the number of teams they have is just right, right now. Since the NFL's inception, they only wanted to get to 32 teams, and now that they have? They are done and content. All those rumors about moving into Canada or Mexico or even London? bull! 32 TEAMS! Paul Charchian clearly ignores things that everyone knows are true, in the hopes they forget them. The NFL doesn't want to expand? I don't even know where he plucked that idea out. Not out of the World of Facts, I can tell you that. Paul also says that the Twin Cities are only the 15th best market (a point that is mentioned more than once, as if 15 in a league with 32 teams is a bad thing).
Also included, PA notes that an expansion team would "suck". Um, "Voice of the Vikings"?--your team was 3-13 last year. In the past decade, the Vikings have won more than 10 games exactly one time--we're not talking about the Colts or Patriots or Packers or even the Saints, here. How many games would an expansion team win? I think 3 is a reasonable guess.
1:52-2:46: Charch challenges you to find someone who died who would have lived if the money used to build Target Field had been used for the impoverished or poor or whatever. He bets you can't do it. That seems like a fair challenge. Because there's nothing the local news covers better than a schizophrenic homeless person dying. That's front page news, especially at KFAN! And nothing is easier to prove than a hypothetical negative.
If you are wondering at this point whether Paul Charchian is a huge douche, I can't say. But his callousness during this bit is kind of amazing.
But, just for the hell of it. Let's say I took all that Target Field money. Let's say I diverted it into school programs, either anti-bullying, or increased support staff for at-risk youth. Maybe, just maybe, you wouldn't have had headlines in 2011, IN FREAKING ENGLAND, that read like this: "String of teenage suicides in Michele Bachmann's Minnesota backyard linked to anti-gay bullying."
2:46-4:38 Class Warfare! People who are against the stadium aren't thinking about the people who are working two jobs, and depending on those vendor jobs to get by. It is the American dream to work three jobs, one at Target Field, one at Target Center, and one at Target. John Sullivan chips in--the new stadium will revitalize that part of downtown Minneapolis, or the new stadium won't get built, and those hard-working people will lose their jobs. And it will be my fault.
4:38-5:10 Still Class Warfare, but Charch wants to make sure he ices his spot as the dumbest guy on the panel, which he does, right here. People are so fixated on harming Zygi Wilf, he claims, that they are willing (he makes it sound intentional) to take lower-class people's jobs away from them, just to deliver the point. People like me, I guess, hate guys who have money so much, that we will sacrifice vendors jobs just for the opportunity to hurt Zygi Wilf. AND I WILL DESTROY FAMILIES. That seems fair, and not at all like clumsy propaganda.
It is as if the whole stadium crisis was brought about by people who don't want the new stadium. Am I wrong here, or is that just completely upside-down and backwards talk? It's like a Da Vinci diary, but stupid. The crisis was not caused by Minnesota citizens; it was brought about by the Wilfs and the NFL.
5:10-6:28 John Sullivan says, for real, "We're getting into a bigger issue about America at this point." Oh, indeed we are. "Being successful and having money in this day and age is seen as evil, which I can't stand." Yep, you've nailed what us poor people think about you millionaires and your billionaire boss. You got us. Thanks for the insight, Sullivan. Sullivan then compares his second contract, and being validated as a player to the stadium deal, which makes no sense, especially if you look at the job the Vikings as a whole have done. (They've have one great year, two good years, and seven pretty bad years in the last decade. Who gets a raise based on those numbers? The Vikings deserve to be validated for their last decade?)
6:28-7:00: Serious FACT CHECK ALERT HERE. I'm going to try to get Charchian's words exact right here: "[Zygi Wilf] Didn't grow up in money. He earned the money he's got. There's a lot of people..especially the people who absolutely hate the wealthy, that all envision that you never had to work for it. He had to work for everything he had."
Jesus Christ. Wikipedia says that Zygi Wilf inherited a home building business that he took from building homes and only four shopping centers into a much bigger company. Does inheriting four shopping centers sound like "not coming from money" to you?
7:00-8:10: A discussion of how great the Wilfs have been on spending on Free Agents, even when they were terrible ideas (Brett Favre, Bernard Berrian), and how they did that even though they had a terrible stadium (not one cynic came in to say, "hey, maybe they did to help get a stadium built?").
Also, other teams that are in bad stadium deals at least have tailgating, and that somehow represents a better situation. (again, there was, at the time of this radio discussion, no movement in LA, nor has there been since. LA is serving as a Monster-Under-The-Bed. It's not really there, but it still scares the hell out of people who really should know better.)
8:15-9:20: Congratulating the Vikings for not threatening to leave. Suggesting that Roger Goodell is above saber-rattling. That his threat to move the Vikings to LA (even though, technically, that threat was never actually made!) is legit.
9:30-13:00: John Sullivan, PA, and Charch take a break to discuss their trips to the Caribbean. SERIOUSLY. Sullivan recommends St. Bart's. That whole class warfare thing was indeed bull. Tell us all more about the trips we can not afford, you a-holes.
13:00-38:00 What follows is lot of actual football talk, which is all these idiots should be doing. Though I'm pretty sure somewhere in here Sullivan claims that a Super Bowl brings in $400 million, and Charch says, "Hell, the stadium practically pays for itself! That's amazing." Which it would be, if it were true. It's not. If it were true, $400 million from the public wouldn't be quite so controversial.
So, that's the kind of insight your average Vikings fan got from the station that carries the Vikings. Maybe they interviewed a sports economist. Maybe they talked to Neil at Field of Schemes. But I bet they didn't!
*taken from the City Pages website.