The deadline has come, and it has gone, and the Minnesota Vikings have done exactly what they said they wouldn’t do — tacitly agreed to play at the Metrodome for the 2012 NFL season, even without a deal in place for a new stadium.
And that, my stadium issue-weary friends, constitutes a major missed opportunity.
The Vikings had a chance here to redefine this conundrum, to take a bold step to move things forward, to finally make some headway on an issue that once again is getting bogged down in the morass that constitutes Minnesota politics.
The ideal move would have been jarringly controversial, but it certainly would have gotten everyone’s attention — and, as a result, could have vaulted the discussion forward in a dramatic way.
What the Vikings did was straggle back to the building they want desperately to abandon, only because they have no place else to go.
What the Vikings should have done was announce that they’re entering into an open-ended agreement to play their home games elsewhere — and not in Los Angeles, or Duluth, or even at TCF Bank Stadium.
What Zygi Wilf should have said was that he was moving the Vikings to ... Wisconsin.
The Green Bay Vikings.
Once you’re done shooting Cheerios out your nose, stop and think about this possibility for a moment. In many ways, it makes a whole lot of sense.
What could possibly create a bigger splash in Minnesota sporting circles than the concept of relocating the state’s most popular franchise to the stadium of their most hated rival? And given the mounting inertia in St. Paul regarding the stadium issue, a big splash is exactly what the Vikings need.
It really could work. Lambeau Field is occupied only every other weekend during the pro football season. It’s the closest existing NFL stadium to Minnesota, making it the most convenient place to which Vikings fans could commute.
And the thing is, the Vikings probably wouldn’t need their fans to commute to fill Lambeau’s 72,928 seats. The Packers have a waiting list of 96,000 for season tickets: they could probably sell another stadium full of tickets to fans who would be willing to do it merely for the ticket to the Vikings’ “home” game against the Packers.
On the surface, the concept of turning the Vikings into temporary Cheeseheads might seem ludicrous. But it’s really no more so than the endless succession of fits and starts the stadium issue has experienced over the last two decades.
Beyond that, such a move might underscore for Minnesotans exactly how much they want or need the NFL — particularly if their team played in the home stadium of their biggest rival until something finally gets done about building a new one here.
There’s only one stadium-related certainty after the Vikings’ commitment to the Metrodome in 2012: There is no chance of anything getting done on this issue during the current legislative session.
On Wednesday, the Vikings lost their one and only trump card, at least for this year. As soon as that happened, any sense of urgency the Legislature might have had vanished until at least 2013.
Poor Vikings. They’re stuck. They’re committed. They’re not going anywhere, even if the Legislature does nothing — and the default mechanism of a preponderance of politicians is to do exactly that.
If it isn’t a crisis, and if this issue isn’t figuratively hanging over their heads like a grand piano dangling from a piece of fraying dental floss, the Legislature isn’t going to touch this. It’s simply too controversial in an election year.
Now that the Vikings are locked in for 2012, your Legislators will collectively vacate St. Paul as quickly as possible, heading back to their reconfigured new districts to start kissing hands and shaking babies (or is it the other way around?) in preparation for their most important Legislative function — getting reelected.
This could have been different. The Vikings could have sent an electric shock through the Legislature, and into the stadium process, with three little words:
Green. Bay. Vikings.
It doesn’t have much of a ring to it, and Zygi might not do it for all the cheese in Door County. But it might take something like that if we’re ever going to put the Vikings stadium issue to rest.
This is the opinion of Times sports editor Dave DeLand. Contact him at 255-8771 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.