"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Vikings on verge of dubious new chapter?

We Minnesotans might be feeling a little "jet lag" this week. There was a prime time (late) Vikings game on TV Sunday. It was also a downer of a game.
Now we know what Detroit Lions fans felt like for the past couple of decades. The Lions have sprung out of that funk. Are the Vikings on the verge of falling in? I have warned before that this might happen.
Once a team falls into the lower tier, it can stay there a while as if afflicted by a disease (or curse).
"Losing is a disease," proclaimed that psychologist/consultant for the fictional New York Knights baseball team in "The Natural."
I'm writing this after having slept in Tuesday. Maybe the jet lag is subsiding now.
The Minnesota Vikings keep dancing in our thoughts because there's that monstrous specter of the new stadium issue. If we didn't know anything about Arden Hills before, we do now.
Why don't all these media articles remind us why we need a new stadium at all? The stadium formerly named for Hubert Humphrey seems quite fine. We should still feel proud we have a covered stadium that can get us through nearly any winter. Well, I guess not last winter.
Remember the "panic" over getting TCF Bank Stadium ready for a prime time game? Remember our "home" game played in Detroit with that surreal Vikings logo painted at midfield?
But the Metrodome has served us well since its inception. People my age remember Vikings games played at the old "Met" (Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington) which gave the impression sometimes we were in the middle of the arctic tundra.
We can get nostalgic about the Met. That's because we're separated by time and don't need to deal with our toes feeling they might be frozen solid.
Is there anything wrong with watching football games played on "Mall of America Field?"
The movers and shakers will tell us there's a reason why the old dome needs to be retired. A lot of us are busy or have ADD and need to be reminded. Let's see, it's because the new stadiums need luxury boxes for all the obscenely rich fat cats?
"Big money" couldn't be the reason, could it?
Is the problem that we feel a need to keep up with Jerry Jones in Dallas? Many NFL observers wonder if Jones' new stadium might be "a bridge too far."
Why can't we reach a point where we're just satisfied with what we have? We need to listen to a typical grandmother here. "Be thankful for what you've got."
I thought the Metrodome was a blessing when it was built. It solved the PR problem that Minnesota had with big-time sports events outdoors. It was clean and sturdy if not fancy.
Yes, the images on the projection screen were primitive. (Patrick Reusse joked they were "brown and white," not black and white.) We got to see the ghost for "walks will haunt."
Compare that to Jones' jumbo screen in Dallas, so spectacular it has been said a fan can get his money's worth just watching that instead of the "real" action. But is this a route we really want to follow? Does everything have to get bigger and better all the time?
Will we reach a point where the NFL product might mot mesmerize us like it once did? This can happen through saturation which any marketing person can tell you about. I learned about it through reading Harvey Mackay.
There is more and more NFL football for us to watch all the time, along with around-the-clock analysis on the ESPN channels. It has been a wild ride.
The analysis stuff was practically nil when I was a kid. You had to search for it like on WCCO Radio or by looking up Sid Hartman in the Minneapolis paper. Hartman wielded power then. Today he ought to enjoy life and retire. He has earned it. He is lost in the media shuffle today.
The saturation theory dawned on me Sunday night watching the Vikings, because it seems there is a certain "sameness" in NFL games. A certain predictability.
This happens with entertainment products that reach their maximum penetration. They follow a formula to reach that point and pretty soon the formula becomes clear to us.
We see how the rules have been tweaked to help the passing game.
We all knew when Christian Ponder entered the game at quarterback that he would complete passes against a soft defense played by the Chicago Bears who were protecting a lead. I could script the kind of passes Ponder would complete.
He was put out there as a tease. He was judged not good enough to start the game. Coach Leslie Frazier used his professional acumen to decide Donovan McNabb should start this game. A stupid fan wouldn't know better.
This game was on national TV so it couldn't be allowed to just die. So Frazier patted the fanny of Christian Ponder, the ol' FSU Seminole, and sent him out to the huddle.
I'm trying to decide which famous actor Ponder looks like. He has the handsome image to ingratiate himself. First he has to win a couple games.
On Sunday he essentially got "garbage time" as Vikings fans watched with a combined air of despair - we're tumbling out of playoff contention - and excitement over seeing "the rookie" throw passes.
I'm sure many of us were wondering if we'd be better off in bed.
Winter is about to arrive on our doorstep in Minnesota. The Vikings season is following the script made famous by the Detroit Lions. We'll watch the remaining games only to the extent we can't find better things to do. The team will expect us to feel excited about the rookie quarterback.
This will then make us smile, supposedly about the inexorable march toward a new stadium on that ammo dump. Wouldn't George Carlin love this? He had a routine where he talked about the violent nature of football compared to baseball.
"In baseball, you're 'safe,' " he'd say. "Baseball is played in a ballpark. Football is played in a stadium."
And then came the payoff line.
"War Memorial Stadium," Carlin intoned, a reference to the stadium in Buffalo, New York.
So Carlin would smile, if he were still with us, learning of our intentions of building a new football stadium on an old ammo dump.
Our morning table at McDonald's feels a sense of resignation about the new stadium drive.
"They always end up getting it," is the typical refrain. "It's like new school referendums. You can vote 'no' over and over again, but all it takes is one 'yes' vote and it's done."
The new stadium push is like a menacing specter that can't be chased away. A certain proposal might fail, but within months we'll tune in to the evening news and see some blow-dried anchor saying once again: "There's a new stadium proposal in front of the legislature."
I love the passive voice in these statements. A new stadium proposal doesn't just come from nowhere. Someone puts it there. All that's left is the script the news anchors read (minus the winks between movers and shakers).
And then us Minnesotans just get a feeling of resignation.
Our table at McDonald's may exude wisdom but it doesn't matter. Our populist views are trampled. There's big money at work.
As Glen Helberg and yours truly often say: "Money talks and bulls--t walks."
Lemmings, we are.
I should be at McDonald's now (Tuesday a.m.) but I slept in a little. Jet lag.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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