As a Vikings fan, I have been long conditioned to treat any rumor of an impending stadium deal with a great amount of skepticism. This team has been announcing new stadium "plans" every year since around 1997. Every announced plan was less a formal declaration than a cheap Jedi mind trick. "Hey, if we SAY we're building a stadium, maybe they'll actually give us money!" That's how the Vikings have operated for over a decade. So it was hard not to pass off today's announcement of an apparently legitimate stadium deal as just another round of tired bullshit.
Today Governor Mark Dayton was joined by State Legislators, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Mark and Zygi Wilf of the Minnesota Vikings, and business and labor leaders to announce an agreement to build a new "People's Stadium" on the current Metrodome site.
For now, I'll set aside the hilarious notion of a "People's Stadium" that you, the people, have to pay $200 to enter eight times a year and are barred from entering at other times to walk your dog or whatever (I hope they build a statue of The Rock outside of it). The deal looks like the real thing—it's the first time a governor has put his imprimatur on an agreement. It would apparently keep the Vikings in Minnesota for at least 30 more years, thanks to revenue gained from something called "electronic pull tabs," which sounds like a fancy way to open a can of beans but is actually some kind of portable lottery device handed out in bars. The stadium will be built where the Metrodome currently stands, which is funny because the Vikings spent years trying to get a stadium built ANYWHERE but the Metrodome site (a site that features lousy parking and middling entertainment options). But they dragged their feet for years, gave up all their leverage once the lease ran out, and ended up stuck here, right where they've always been.
I was ready for the Vikings to leave. I really was. That probably makes me a shitty fan, but I can't avoid the truth that I was looking forward to becoming a free agent NFL fan, free to hop into bed with various teams as I pleased, or to stay above it all and just watch all the action from an emotional distance, like a bouncer surveying a nightclub floor. I was OK with that. Anyone who's been a fan of a consistently disappointing team has probably also dreamed of the notion: Browns fans, Bills fans, Chargers fans—we're all in the same grouping of shitty, annoying teams that will never ever solve the NFL. Sometimes, you want to rid yourself of the yoke of provincial fandom entirely and get on with your life. Especially with a team like the Vikings, a team that threatened to leave for ages and found new and elaborate ways to fuck up winning the NFC along the way.
I can't speak for other Viking fans, but all I wanted was CLOSURE. If they were gonna move to L.A. and snort coke with Robert Evans, so be it. If they were gonna stay, awesome. But I had grown weary of watching them hem and haw over this matter year after year after year. And now it will spend ANOTHER three years in a holding pattern, likely playing outside in a tiny college stadium while this People's Stripmall gets built, and the rest of the NFC North uses them as schedule padding. A stadium deal seems like a relief. In reality, it's just another step in the long slog.
I'm 35 years old. The Vikings have spent my whole lifetime not winning a Super Bowl, and it's perfectly likely that they will spend another 35 years fucking up. I don't begrudge them that. I signed on for this. No one forced me into it. I love them like family, which is to say that I sometimes hate their guts. This deal is supposed to mean there's a light at the end of the tunnel, but I know better. I know that the promise of a new stadium and lots of liquid cash to spend on shiny new free agents and draft picks is no guarantee for any team, let alone one with this track record. The deal is something the Vikings want fans to celebrate. Me? I'm gonna take a deep breath, chug an energy drink, and find a way to keep plodding along.