Good cop, bad cop and the Vikings stadium

Published 8:35 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

The good cop, bad cop phrase is familiar to viewers of crime shows. You know, where the mean cop threatens a suspect, doesn’t allow coffee, and maybe cuffs him around a little bit. The good cop comes in, gives him a cigarette, mentions he can’t control his partner and lends a sympathetic ear as the criminal spills his guts.

There was a version of good cop, bad cop Obama directed play in the recent stimulus package passed by Congress. There were three bad cops that voted for the plan in the Senate to wring another trillion dollars out of us and our grandchildren. Doesn’t it make you wonder that just enough Republicans came over to get the bill passed? That way, there is a bill and if it doesn’t work the vast majority of Republicans can still point fingers.

Much of the National and Minnesota scene is political and driven by money. That is true whether it’s sports or bridge building. After many years of drum beating, the Minnesota Vikings are starting to play a little hardball. First came the notion that the Vikings were up for a move consideration if and when a new stadium was built on the west coast. Next was the assertion time after time, that the Viking’s Metrodome lease was up in 2011. But most recently owner Zygi Wilf sent out his hired gun; Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley to fire a few shots across the bow of Minnesota’s Ship of State. I have nothing against the Wilf’s. They want to make money, which I suppose is the big reason they bought the Minnesota Vikings. In fact, they are much better than the previous owner Red McCombs who was just here to make as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time. It appears the Wilfs’ are at least willing to provide us with a good team. The Twins’ Pohlads too, are after money, but they at least live in town.

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Bagley had this to say about Governor Pawlenty. “With all due respect, he’s been governor for six years and he hasn’t done anything. He hasn’t lifted a finger. . . We’ve addressed this in time of surplus, in times of deficit. . .” (Here comes the not too subtle threat:) “Now, they’ve put it off to a point where the risk is significant to the state.” (There is the bad cop.) “. . . The issue isn’t what the Wilfs will or won’t do, it’s that other NFL owners, other potential NFL markets and potential owners will come after this team.” In other words, Bagley is saying that it’s not the Wilf’s fault if the Vikings leave, it’s those darn other people.

The following day Sid Hartman’s column has a reaction from owner Wilf. First Hartman repeats that the lease expires in 2011 and then offers this: Wilf at no time threatened to move the team and repeated that he realizes the state’s deficit is a bigger problem for Pawlenty. (There is the good cop.) Wilf is not critical of the governor unlike . . . Lester Bagley.” “While questioning whether the Vikings will be able to compete in the NFL, Wilf said he was convinced the governor will do everything possible to solve the stadium problem in a tough economic environment.”

These are excerpts taken from Sid’s column, but when read as a whole it sounds like Hartman is not only being a spokesman for good cop Wilf, but throwing in asides to better the stadium’s case. But I don’t think that thousands of Minnesotans are going to rush to the good cop’s side and shell out millions.

It seems like this is the worst possible time for a strong push to build a billion dollar stadium that may be used only a dozen times a year for the team it’s built for, but there must be a reason, these people are not dumb. It occurs to me that the stimulus bill I discussed earlier may play a role. There are billions earmarked for infrastructure. And as Wilf pointed out earlier this year, what a wonderful public works project the stadium would be. Not only that, the tide rolls in and the tide rolls out and soon perhaps just the stadium message remains and not the timing.