Monday, December 20, 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Today will mark the first outdoor NFL game in the state of Minnesota in nearly 3 decades. This will truly be a game to test the mettle of everyone--not just the players and coaches, but also the fans. Not only will it be outdoors, but Mother Nature is catching up on 30 years of football weather for them--it is snowing right now in the Twin Cities, and 4-6 inches of fresh snow is expected by game time, and continuting throughout the night with more. Temperatures should be in the teens, with wind chills below 0. What more could you want on an alcohol-free night in Minnesota?

I think the team has done a remarkable job of trying to make lemonade popsicles out of lemons, but the odds have been stacked against them from the start on this one. Those popsicles may end up tasting more like the "lemon slushees" that every northern kid tried to feed their younger brothers after the dog did his thing in the snow.

Weather: Out of anyone's control. The story last week had been whether they could clear the 17+ inches from the stadium before tonight. Now there will be fresh snowfall and cold windy weather. So much for all that clearing.

Tickets: The U of M stadium (TCF Bank Field - aka "The Bank") holds about 50,000, which is about 15,000 fewer than the Metrodome held when actually inflated. That means 15,000 fans won't get in--though as it turns out, maybe the weather is actually a positive in this regard.

Seating: General admission. This is probably an even bigger factor than the ticket availability. Imagine tossing down a couple hundred bucks a ticket to get seats at the 50 yard line at the Dome. Then imagine deciding to get into the spirit of the game and bundling up like a yeti in a snowmobile suit. Now imagine getting to the stadium, only to find that you're actually sitting 3 rows from the back of the upper deck in a corner section of the stadium. I imagine you'll be stompin' mad. But don't decide to drown your sorrows with a drink, because...

Alcohol: ...there will be no alcohol at the game. In a long standing debate between fans and the university and the Minnesota State Legislature, alcohol is not sold at The Bank. This is a stadium rule, not a tenant rule, so no booze will be on campus for tonight's "Miller Lite / Captain Morgan Special Presentation of the Budweiser-Corona-Sam Adams Kickoff Show starring the Summit Brew Minnesota Vikings and Leinenkugel Chicago Bears, brought to you by Heineken!" Not that we'll notice the lack of alcohol in a dry sport such as the NFL anyway, of course.

Fans: We're a hardy sort up here. But we're a bit out of practice. The last time the Vikings played the Bears outdoors in Minnesota, their coach was a player for the Bears. Prince hadn't even sung yet in 1982 about the year 1999 which is now 11 years ago in 2010. Kevin McHale was a great basketball player, not a terrible basketball GM. Walter Mondale was a recent VP and an up-and-comer, not an embarassing sacrificial lamb. Suffice it to say, it has been a while. So, even though I do think outdoor football would be embraced in Minnesota going forward, tonight is going to be a heck of a first run to shake the rust off.

Traffic: If there's one thing we Minnesotans like, its our traffic jams. Mass transit availability continues to lag every other major metropolitan area in the country, and the University light rail line is still a favorite political hot potato. The U of M is conveniently situated on the intersection of the two largest interstates in the area, right next to I-35W north (and its now world-famous bridge) and I-94. Traffic in this area is pretty much terrible no matter when you go through it, unless you're a night trucker lucky enough to pass through at 3am on a banking holiday. On Gopher game day, when fans come through on Saturday morning when downtown is empty of weekday workers and communiting students are not coming to classes, traffic is bad enough. Tonight? Kickoff is in about 8 hours, and I think I'd already be late if I actually had a ticket. Oh, and remember, there's some snow going on too, which always makes travel more fun.

The Field: Oh yeah, there's actually a game going on amidst all of this. Remember that The Bank is a college field. Yes, it is outdoors, but the Big Ten/Eleven/Twelve doesn't play after mid-November or so. As a result, there are no heaters embedded in the field surface, as is standard for an NFL field. They've been trying to clear the field, but there have been well publicized issues with that, with the best view of it coming from punter Chris Kluwe's Twitter feed:

Serious time - All respect to the people that cleared the field and got it ready, you did an amazing job. That being said, it's unplayable. The field is as hard as concrete an hour and a half after they took the tarp off, and anyone that hits their head is getting a concussion. I find it interesting that the NFL can claim an emphasis on player safety, and then tell us the field is fine. It's beyond hypocritical. I can only hope, however unlikely, that no one gets catastrophically injured at the trainwreck that's about to take place tomorrow night.

Besides being one of the best punters in the game (with all due apologies to my co-blogger Jim and his man-crush on Mike Scifres), Kluwe is one of the sharpest--and most quotable--players in the game. The quote above is a pretty damning indictment of the NFL given their focus this year on hits, but is all the more powerful because of how dead-on it is. Anyway, the snow today will only make it more slippery, but hopefully provide a slight bit of cushion for the players when they get whomped.

All in all, this really ought to be one of the most interesting games of the year. It is gonna be an ugly, sloppy mess and we're clearly not going to see anything resembling the 1998 Vikings offense. My prediction is that regulation will end with a 0-0 tie, and end 2-0 when one of the teams will get sick of playing in overtime and give up a safety to they can all go home--and finally get a much deserved beer.


  1. I feel like I'm Straight Outta Compton after that drive-by posting... You should do it more often, great stuff!

    One of the big issues I hear up there is that not just the field will be frozen due to lack of any ability to heat anything, but that the pipes are likely to be frozen throughout the building as well. This makes for two issues:
    1) Selling drinks. Not "drinks," but drinks. You want a soda? Sorry, it's all clogged up from ice. That bottled water? Hang on, lemme pull a cold, fresh one out of the space heater. What I heard is that there will be no beverages sold at all. Which is only partially due to freezing concession stand pipes, and more specifically due to...
    2) Flushing the toilets. "Hey, look at that water in that there toilet. Now it's a niiiiice mellow yellow. Time to flush'er down." "Woah, why's it only rising up???" Yeah, that's the giant block of ice rolled through the pipe that makes flushing impossible!"

    Gates open at 4 PM I heard? So we're not talking about 3 hours of a game. GA means lotta people will be lined up to rush in, probably bladders filled already from drinking outside the gates while waiting in line. From then, game won't be over till probably close to midnight. I dunno about other folks, but there aren't a whole lot of times I can remember that I could hold off going to the bathroom for 12 hours straight...

  2. Really rootin' for the Vikes tonite. Joe Webb one time pls!


  3. Chris--you're dead on. The restrooms are definitely going to be a possible issue, as will the concessions. And even better, the stadium location isn't TOO close to a lot of food options... there are some a few blocks away on Washington Ave but the closest building to the stadium is the IT department, so the best chance of food there will be stale Cheetohs and energy drinks.

    Naj--I'm lookin' forward to seeing what Webb can do. The dude is a monster athlete but really raw as a QB. The other interesting thing is that apparently Fav-ruh was upgraded today, which has raised a lot of eyebrows here locally that maybe he'll play indeed. It really is his kind of game--a classic "frozen tundra" scenario against the Bears.


About This Blog

Twitter: oblong_spheroid

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP