"Aw, ready, c'mon and get ready/
Are you ready for some football?
A Monday Night Party?/
The Bears and the Vikings better bundle up tight/
'Cause we're outdoors on the University of Minnesota Campus Monday Night!"
I can practically hear Hank Williams Jr. now during his pre-game introductory video before the game which will be the first time an outdoor NFL game will be played in the state since Dec. 20, 1981—29 years to the day—right before the Metrodome opened.
Talk about irony.
Talk about coming full circle.
While it may not seem like a big deal to the average Midwestern NFL fan in Chicago or Green Bay, for two generations of Minnesota Vikings fans, this is the first and only time they will witness what the fans at Soldier or Lambeau Field.
That's why it's important.
A chance for the fans to feel the elements—the -18 windchill and 0 degrees that goes along with the outdoor experience.
A chance for their parents or grandparents to take them to a game that they remember attending when the team played at the "Old Met".
Stories of the Purple People Eaters and Fran Tarkenton surely will follow and with it, hopefully an admiration from even the most skeptical legislator who will have to make the decision once and for all, if the team is to remain in the state after its lease runs out at the conclusion of the 2011 season—its 51st in the Gopher State.
Here's hoping it brings back some memories from an earlier time, when the team was an annual threat to make the Super Bowl and had a home field advantage that would rival Lambeau today.
Here's hoping they read a recent poll in the Minneapolis Star Tribune which asked if the circumstances from the Metrodome's collapse changed their opinion on whether the team indeed needs a new facility.
(Insider's note, most Minnesotans are skeptical in nature. They do not like tax and spend, they do not like millionaire athletes and billionaire owners getting rewarded when (as they see it) the same bleeding heart issues of health care, education, and infrastructure remain and would be a betterment to the state.)
But I've heard that before, we all have. I've read so many comments, forums, and message boards over the years, letters to the editor and so on, I could practically make all their pessimistic arguments for them.
Monday is Minnesota's chance to prove on National TV that they can host an outdoor football game just like their NFC North rivals and pull it off with class.
That they can accomodate an NFL team, if only for a game, so that if the new Mall of America Stadium ever gets built, TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Golden Gophers might serve as a temporary home during a 1-3 year transitional phase while construction is being completed.
At the time of the poll, 64% responded with "Yes! Now more than ever the Vikings need a new stadium" but the interesting thing was roughly 6% said they were against the stadium but are "coming around now" based on the Dome's collapse.
Its that kind of target audience that the fan-lobby grassroots group Save the Vikings hopes to convert and use to rally their efforts for a new facility.
While 6% may not seem like a lot of people, consider that many of them likely are voters and they'd probably be having to pay some type of sales tax to support such a large endevor.
If it takes a collapse to finally open the eyes of the masses as to the urgency of the issue, so be it.
Are they they the new New Orleans Saints?
Many of you won't like the comparison between a natural disaster that killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands of people to a Dome collapse that killed and displaced no-one.
However, the similarities are there and I think that Michael Wilbon may have been alluding to them on Wednesday's PTI (Pardon the Interruption) debate with co-host Tony Kornheiser when asked about the future of the Vikings in Minnesota.
While he did not specifically make the comparison, you could tell towards the end of the segment Wilbon clearly sympathized with his fellow Midwest team (he's a Chicagoan and Bears fan) while Kornheiser, a quirky New Yorker, took the other direction saying the team was bound for L.A. since a stadium could not be completed in time and the team's current contract.
Wilbon mentioned NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the G3 Fund which used to pay upwards of $50 million towards an individual stadium. This is how previous stadiums met some of their financial demand.
However, the fund currently is empty having used all of its allotment toward the New Meadowlands in New York (New Jersey). Still, it was suggested that if Goodell really wanted, he could make sure some [more] money was there if progress was being made in the Minnesota legislature.
Kornheiser sympathized with what happened but wasn't as optimistic on this being used potentially as an opportunity to keep the NFL's "black and blue" division together, desite its unique regional rivalries that the league seems to appreciate and is likely reluctant to split up.
I've always said two things concerning a Vikings stadium—As someone who never thought I'd live to see the Twins get a stadium—if pressed, I'd say in an absolute bloody dogfight, it will get done at the 11th hour splitting the capitol and public opinion—which will fade quickly as it did with the Twins stadium.
Two, the NFL really, really, really doesn't want to split up the Packers-Vikings and Bears-Vikings rivalry.
Before you say "They didn't care about the Houston Oilers, Cleveland Browns, or Baltimore Colts", those were all different circumstances and all cities got replacement teams.
With 32 teams already, I doubt the NFL will be expanding anytime soon—perhaps never again—thus shutting out the 14th largest media market forever knowing full well 99% of them will never covert to Packer fans.
This is a last ditch effort to get a stadium.
The NFL and the Vikings both know it.
I hope they turn Monday night into one, big walk down memory lane, with perhaps an interview or two from Vikings legends like Tarkenton, Alan Page or any number of those great 1970's teams.
In another ironic twist of fate, this nationally televised game is also a celebration of the team's 50 years in the state where many Viking dignitaries will no doubt be remembered and honored.
Once they get the token interview from new Gophers Head Football coach Jerry Kill out of the way, as I expect, they should turn the rest of the night into one big pitch on the team's behalf.
Be it sympathetic quotes from Vikings legends or officials speaking with regard to the "deplorable condition of Vikings stadium" so be it. They may never get a bigger, better chance to make their pitch.
Consider this game, in a lost season, to be a test case, another Tommy Kramer to Ahmad Rashad Hail Mary, if you will.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22O8IowjQSg
Where was that game played?
Appropriately outdoors in Minnesota, just like Monday will be.
Hopefully Minnesota siezes the moment, (victory notwithstanding).
Information from YouTube, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Pardon The Interruption contributed to the content of this article.
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