Last week, prior to the Minnesota Vikings home game, the Metrodome, the roof of the stadium where the team normally plays, collapsed under the weight of the snow. Luckily, the good citizens are left with the same choice open to all places that have major team sports: build a new stadium at taxpayer expense to benefit the billionaire owner of the team, or the team will move.
Luckily, for the owners of NFL teams, the city they can always threaten to use is Los Angeles, a little town that is so sports-hungry that it has been home to two different teams. Both the Rams and the Raiders left because their fans couldn’t fill up a phone booth, but that doesn’t impede a good blackmail threat.
Now something that may work against Ziggy Wilf, the owner of the Vikings, is that Minnesota already has a massive deficit and a crumbling infrastructure (remember the bridge collapse before the Republican convention there). But never fear; the media, who my guess is haven’t even flown over Minnesota recently, are already beginning to stress the urgency of this expenditure. Who cares if the owner of the team is a billionaire? Who cares if the team earns over $200 million every year? Why should he pay for the factory when he can get the taxpayers to do it for him?
Ziggy has no ties to Minnesota, so he doesn’t care where the team is located. A brand new stadium means luxury boxes, which is a bonanza for any owner. If he is ‘forced’ to move, he’ll have the advantage of a city that gets a Super Bowl once in a while, which is an extra special treat for an owner. The sports media will be more than compliant, since they’d rather go to LA than the Twin Cities. Besides, the most infamous of these vagabond owners was Art Modell, who was appropriately lionized following his departure from Cleveland.
And the threat will probably work. All of the teams in Florida have had to pay for the joy of having an NFL team in their city, instead of moving to the sunny climes of Southern California. So Minnesota will be left with a choice; reduce its public services even further, make its world class educational and health care institutions mere bitter reminders of the past, raise taxes to pay for the indulgence of an NFL team, or allow it to move. Well, look at it this way, Minnesotans, it’s not like LA hasn’t stolen one of your teams already, and didn’t have the decency to build a lake or change the name of the Lakers.