As out-of-state millionaires representing the NFL desperately ramp up the pressure on Minnesota’s elected state government to give the Vikings almost $400 million for a new stadium, the spectre of relocation is being increasingly leveraged as a negotiating position, and may soon cross over into the realm of real-world possibility.
I say let them go.
I know there are probably quite a few in Minnesota who share my sentiment, but largely because they don’t like the Vikings or just don’t care enough to be sorry to see them leave.
I am not in that camp, although in some ways, it would be easier if I was. That attitude certainly would have made many winters less heartbreaking (specifically 1998/99 and 2009/10) or just embarrassing (too many years to list).
But the truth is, I’ve allowed myself to become emotionally invested in the Vikings to varying degrees over the years. So while I definitely don’t count myself among those eager and willing to show the Vikings the door, I also won’t be too troubled if they do leave.
This wouldn’t be the first time a professional sports team left Minneapolis — heck, it wouldn’t even be the first time that a team left Minneapolis for Los Angeles. That westward trail was first blazed by the then-aptly named Minneapolis Lakers who spoiled their name by moving to Los Angeles in 1960.
More recently, and controversially, Norm (censored) Green moved the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas in 1993. Although otherwise a terrible human being, Green at least had the good sense to alter the team’s name.
But here’s the thing: both times that a major sports league left the Twin Cities, they came back. The State of Hockey was only left vacant by the NHL until 2000 when the Minnesota Wild arrived. And the NBA also returned to Minneapolis with the Timberwolves (true, they’re only technically an NBA team).
It seems that some cities are made for sports, or at least certain sports, and some aren’t. Think of Atlanta and hockey; twice the NHL has tried to put a team in Atlanta, and both of those teams left for the Canadian prairies (The Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets).
Or think of San Diego and basketball. The Rockets left San Diego after only four years there, and the Rockets survived only slightly longer — 6 years — in a city that clearly wasn’t cut out for the NBA.
Minnesota, on the other hand is well-suited for professional sports, and not just on the basis of the evidence that the major leagues always come back. The elements that make for a good sports city are much more numerous than just a state or municipality’s willingness to build expensive playgrounds.
Minnesotans can get enthused enough to carry on a conversation about the weather for 20 minutes. Do these sound like the kind of people who can get excited about something as seemingly unimportant as a game involving a ball or a puck? Yah, sure!
Minnesotans will passionately defend “Duck, duck, grey duck” as the name of a children’s game that involves sitting in, and then running around a circle. Isn’t this the sort of blind state loyalty you want in a fanbase? You betcha!
So let this iteration of the Minnesota Vikings leave. If ever we were going to lose the team, now is the time to do it. Their on-field performance is at an all-time low, with no real prospects of returning to form in the near future. We can wait out the next few years in smug satisfaction as the Los Angeles Vikings struggle.
But soon enough, when Buffalo finally shrinks to the point that it can no longer support an NFL team, or perhaps when the league’s voracious appetite for new revenue causes it to expand to 36 teams, the NFL, like the NHL and NBA before it, will come back to the land of 10,00o lakes.
In the meanwhile, maybe we could fill the football void with an MLS team…