Metrodome at least built memories that last

The Metrodome on its final MLB opening day in 2009.

There probably is no shortage of Minnesota Vikings fans lamenting Sunday’s victory against the Detroit Lions in the team’s regular-season finale. The Vikings were not in playoff contention, meaning the win only worsened the team’s draft position.

But I was glad to see the Vikings win in what marked the final major sporting event in the history of the Metrodome. The stadium deserved to go out with one last win.

The Metrodome was the stadium of my childhood. Often ripped by visiting players and coaches – and a lot of home fans too – during my youth for its appearance and its many shortcomings, there was no other place I’d rather be.

The eye-popping inflatable roof masked what was a pretty plain-looking stadium on the inside. The sightlines were terrible for baseball, which was more often than not the reason I was at the Metrodome. The turf – especially in its early days – looked like anything but grass.

But I sure loved being there. I first stepped into the Metrodome in the summer of 1987. My parents took my younger brother and I to our first Twins game. This was the summer that saw the Twins surprisingly in a fight for the AL West title. The season would end with Minnesota winning its first World Series.

But on that summer day, my mind was not at all focused on the standings. I was too in awe of the seemingly endless white roof over our heads or the big blue baggie in right field. There was Kirby Puckett in center field, the idol of my childhood. And, of course, who could forget the feeling of being pushed out of the stadium’s doors by air pressure when it was all over. Man, that was a rush, especially when you’re a first-grader going there for the first time.

My best memory was attending Game 163 in the 2009 season. MLB Network placed that game in its top 20 list that it broadcast a couple years back. It was a wild back-and-forth game that saw the Twins outlast the Detroit Tigers in a playoff tiebreaker, sending the Twins to the ALDS thanks to Alexi Casilla driving home Carlos Gomez for the winning run.

I remember after that game sitting at a Minneapolis bar with my co-worker Tom Mix and one of his friends. We had gone to the game just for fun, not to cover it. We were all just speechless afterwards at that bar, knowing we’d never go to a game quite as crazy as that one, especially considering what was on the line. I attended the ALDS Game 3 against the Yankees, which ultimately proved to be the final MLB game at the Metrodome, as the Twins got swept in the series.

The Metrodome was a lot of things. A baseball stadium should never have been one of them.

But it’s the big events that ultimately matter when you reflect on a stadium’s life. Whether it was watching the 1987 and 1991 World Series on TV or attending game’s like the 2009 AL Central tiebreaker, the Metrodome did have a lot to offer over the decades. And I’ll miss it. Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium and the new Vikings stadium have big shoes to fill.

The Bison in the spotlight again, our ESPN moment and more

I have had Aug. 30, 2013 circled on my metaphorical calendar for a pretty long time. I suppose that’s like many North Dakota State fans when the road game at Kansas State first appeared on the schedule, but for me, it had nothing to do with any plans to go to Manhattan, Kan.

The surest sign of the end of summer – and vacation season for me – is the start of high school football season. While there are a handful of Tuesday and Thursday games on opening week, the first big night is that last Friday in August, when most of the teams in our area take the field for the first time.

That’s when our training of new sports clerks gets accelerated. That’s when between 9 and 10:30 p.m. the phones ring off the hook and you literally lose 90 minutes of time, like in those “X-Files” abduction episode (If you’re under the age of 30 or not a nerd, I don’t expect you to get that reference.).

And you’re telling me that to go along with the high school football opener, NDSU is opening its season on that Friday night? And against the reigning Big 12 champs and a BCS bowl team from a year ago? I’ve been thinking for months, “Aug. 30 could be the craziest night of work we’ve ever had.”

Fun to reflect on now. The moment when NDSU QB Brock Jensen plunged into the end zone for the winning score and I knew that, yes, we will again be going nuts with our section. Or when my colleague Andrew Gottenborg blurted out “Manhattan Magic” and I knew we had our headline. Or when part-timer Madalyn Laske – in the middle of a barrage of football box score calls – picked up the phone, then turned to me and said she had a call from Connecticut for me and page designer Michael Smith asked, “Is it ESPN?,” which I laughed off.

Turned out it was ESPN, and they wanted our sports cover, which at the time was completely blank. Seeing the completed cover on “SportsCenter” at 1:30 a.m. was a great capper to the night and one of the coolest moments of my career (I included a photo of it below if you didn’t catch it).

Looking back on the game, I think the ESPN moment sums up these upsets pretty well. I feel like NDSU knocking off Kansas State was a huge upset, but the term “Shocker” in the InForum.com sports headline almost feels sarcastic. After all, the Bison have won four straight games against FBS teams and have a 7-3 mark versus that level. Are we really shocked anymore?

That isn’t to take anything away from the win. And without a doubt, the Wildcats were the strongest of those 10 opponents. They’ve had some roster turnover just like any team has, but they’re still the defending Big 12 champs, and they still went to a BCS bowl game last season.

It’s a monumental win for NDSU. But from my standpoint, it’s not the win that is surprising. It’s always the national attention that comes with the win.

It’s seeing NDSU lead off “SportsCenter” and having the Bison be the top story on a number of national sports websites. That’s always the real shocker. Because even though I picked the Wildcats to win, I certainly wasn’t stunned that the Bison pulled it off. It’s hard to be stunned by any win they pull off anymore.

It was a wild night to be a part of. Thanks to Gottenborg, Smith, Laske, Glenn Pursley, Colton Pool and Tom Mix for pulling it off on our end. Don’t forget to check out Heidi Roepke‘s outstanding A1. And thanks to Carrie Snyder for the amazing photo, and to Kevin Schnepf, Jeff Kolpack and Eric Peterson for great reporting in a very small window of time to do it.

North Dakota State’s upset football win against Kansas State grabbed national headlines. And ESPN even grabbed our headline early Saturday morning.

Hayden Goethe is the Assistant Sports Editor at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. You can follow him on Twitter @hgoethe

Revisiting some football predictions

Can you believe Week 17 of the NFL season is upon us? I can’t.

The weather outside sure feels like Week 17 weather, but it doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was among a few staff members making preseason NFL predictions both in The Forum and on this blog.

And heading into the final week of the regular season, I find my favorite childhood team the Chicago Bears fighting the Minnesota Vikings and others for the final wild-card spot in the NFC. I gotta admit: I didn’t see that coming.

Peyton Manning has lifted the Denver Broncos to surprising heights this season. Associated Press photo

Let’s first revisit some of my NFL picks:

  • I’m in pretty good shape to get half of the NFL’s division winners correct, which isn’t bad when you consider the way parity rules the NFL. New England, Houston and Green Bay have all clinched their divisions, and I had San Francisco winning the NFC West, which it leads by a half-game.
  • What went wrong in my division picks? Well, I underestimated Peyton Manning and the Broncos. And I underestimated the impact that all of the suspensions would have on the New Orleans Saints, who I picked to win the NFC South over Atlanta. Also had the NY Giants and Pittsburgh winning divisions. In my defense, I did have actual division winners Denver, Baltimore and Atlanta all as wild-card picks. So in all likeihood, the only division champ in the NFL that I didn’t have in the playoffs in the preseason is Washington, and even that division is up in the air.
  • Myself, Andrew Gottenborg (Twitter: https://twitter.com/awg316) and Michael Smith (Twitter: https://twitter.com/Smithmi) also picked MVP winners in The Forum before the season. Our picks, respectively, were Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Quarterback is the smart way to go considering how QBs have dominated the award in recent years. But I’d be surprised if any of us are correct with those picks.
  • Our Super Bowl picks were Patriots over Packers (me), Packers over Texans (Andrew) and Packers over Patriots (Michael). We are all in good shape there.

And finally, I’ve made a point to annually write some sort of fantasy football prediction blog post.

I fared pretty well this year with my two teams. In my league (the league I live and die with), my team managed only a 5-8 record despite ranking third in scoring among 16 teams. What can you do? I can control my team, but not my opponent’s.

Fortunately, I have C.J. Spiller and Alfred Morris as potential keepers for next season at very team-friendly costs, with Colin Kaepernick, Knowshon Moreno and Reggie Wayne also worth considering in the two-keeper league format. Combine that with the No. 4 overall pick due to my team’s performance, and there’s hope for 2013.

I won the other league I played in, a 10-team league that saw my first three draft picks (Calvin Johnson, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Marshall) pay huge dividends. Who would have thought a team with Reggie Bush as its No. 1 running back and waiver-wire specials as the No. 2 RB would go 11-1 and win a title?

Here’s what turned out pretty well from my preseason fantasy column:

  • Josh Freeman. I was expecting a big bounce-back year from the Tampa Bay Bucs QB, who got a big boost in the offseason with his team’s additions of RB Doug Martin, WR Vincent Jackson and OL Carl Nicks. Freeman is the 13th-best QB in fantasy. Drafted him in both leagues I was in, snagging him in my 16-team league in Round 12. From that standpoint, he provided tremendous value at a time when many owners are taking kickers.
  • Russell Wilson. Drafted him in one of two leagues. He ranks 12th in my league in fantasy scoring at QB, which again is pretty impressive when you consider that he was completely undrafted in my 16-team league. But that league drafted before he was named the starter over Matt Flynn.

And now, for the not-so-great picks:

  • Where to begin? Well, I expected a lot more from Ben Tate, who nearly ran for 1,000 yards last season as a backup to Arian Foster. Injuries did nothing to help him at the very least replicate his 2011 season. I still see plenty of talent in Tate, but the opportunity never materialized. Foster stayed healthy all season long.
  • I had another misstep at running back in Ryan Williams, who at one point did take over as the Arizona Cardinals primary ballcarrier before suffering another season-ending injury in his short career. I was betting against Beanie Wells when I should have been betting against the Arizona Cardinals in general.

Pretty much a mixed bag of predictions. I’d argue that Steve Smith and Justin Blackmon were solid enough players even if they didn’t meet my expectations.

And I’m still convinced Aaron Hernandez was going to do big things if he hadn’t gotten hurt in Week 2. Hernandez has managed to rank 16th among tight ends in scoring despite playing in barely more than half of his team’s games. I won’t shy away from taking Hernandez next season.

Nothing like a bad call to speed up NFL referee negotiations

The missed call in Monday’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers was a big deal.

Was the Seahawks being gifted a 14-12 victory against the Packers one of those, “I’ll never forget where I was” type of moments? Probably not. But it’s a big story regardless, with quite a few layers to it.

I won’t go into great detail since most of you have probably watched the play at least 1,500 times on ESPN or NFL Network over the last couple of days.

Seahawks were down 5. Final play from scrimmage. Russell Wilson tosses lob into end zone. Seahawks receiver Golden Tate battles a few Green Bay Packers defenders for the ball. Refs rule simultaneous possession, giving Tate a game-winning TD.

Was the catch really simultaneous? Should the call have been overturned by the replacement refs? Was it understandable that pass interference wasn’t called on Tate?

But the most important question: Would it have played out any differently if the NFL’s regular officials weren’t locked out?

In this Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, file photo, an official, rear center, signals for a touchdown by Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, obscured, as another official, at right, signals a touchback, on the controversial last play of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Seattle. The Seahawks won 14-12. The NFL referee strike puts the spotlight on a nebulous notion that is often overlooked when it works as it’s supposed to: the question of expertise. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear, File)

One things is for sure. The wide gap that once existed between the league and its referees during this labor dispute has shrunk dramatically. Many outlets are reporting that the NFL’s regular officials will be back on duty as early as Thursday’s game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.

The debate over this call took place at my workplace, and I imagine the same scenario played out at other job sites across the country.

Despite what the NFL’s letter in defense of the replacement refs said on Tuesday, I just don’t see how – after replay – that the refs could continue to stand by that catch as a simultaneous one, which by rule the tiebreaker goes to the offense.

Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings established possession for an interception early, and there was very little if any time after that in which Tate was able to get both arms on the ball until the two players hit the ground. But that’s my two cents, and everyone seems to have their own take on it.

I don’t think the regular refs would have noticed the pass interference by Tate. Hail Mary plays are chaotic, and in real time it’s a little more understandable that call being overlooked.

Would the regular refs have overturned the simultaneous possession portion of the play? The NFL says no, but I’m not so sure.

The NFL has been piled on over the lockout ever since Monday’s infamous play in a manner that isn’t much different from the pile of players that created it.

But I can understand the NFL’s stance too. Its officials get paid a lot of money, and while the NFL makes a lot of money, should part-time officials really receive the type of benefits (pensions, etc.) that the average full-time employee might struggle to receive? Again, I don’t have the answer to that, but it’s certainly something I go back and forth on.

It’s a great job at the NFL level if you can get it. Actually, after Monday’s turn of events, maybe it’s not.

Fantasy football: Players I like more than you do

I just completed the second and final draft for the two fantasy football leagues I’m in. I have to admit: Those drafts get me awfully excited for the NFL season.

Fantasy football was a bit of a mixed bag for me last year. My team in my 16-team league went 6-7 and missed the playoffs despite scoring the fifth-most points in the league. It was one unlucky, poorly managed team.

My other team went 12-2 en route to a championship thanks to a pretty good draft and midseason pick-ups like QB Cam Newton and WR Victor Cruz.

It’s safe to assume that I like Ben Tate more than you do. Associated Press photo

There was some ups and downs for my teams, just as there was with my fantasy football post last year. I was right about Matthew Stafford, DeMarco Murray and Eric Decker. I was very wrong about Josh Freeman, Felix Jones and Lee Evans (and many others).

I’m taking a bit of a different approach with this year’s post. I’m in two leagues, and a couple of players ended up on both of my teams. It wasn’t my intention; I apparently just think more of them than everyone else.

And that’s what I’ll go with for this post’s purposes. It’s players I like more than you.

QB Josh Freeman (own in both leagues). I’m all-in on this guy once again. Two years ago in his breakout season, he was seventh among fantasy QBs in scoring in my Yahoo pretty-standard scoring league. Last year in a very down year, he was still 14th. With Vincent Jackson in the fold, I think Freeman will at the very least be closer to his 2010 self than his 2011 self. Can he be the 10th-best QB in fantasy? My guess is most of his owners this year would take that.

RB Ben Tate (own in both leagues). I’ve always been a big fan of drafting talent (see Jamaal Charles, 2010 fantasy drafts). Sounds obvious, right? Of course it is. I understand Tate has Arian Foster playing in front of him, and Foster is an all-world running back. But Tate ran for almost 1,000 yards last year, and he only started three or four games. I’m convinced Tate is at least a top-10 back if Foster gets hurt, and I’m willing to roll the dice on Tate. And that’s despite having not had the chance to take Foster in either of my drafts.

WR Steve Smith – Panthers version (own in both leagues). Smith doesn’t fit the bill of a guy that I usually go out of my way to get in drafts. There just isn’t much potential – or room to grow – here. He just has seemed terribly undervalued in the leagues I’ve been in. Maybe this is the year age catches up with the 33-year-old. And maybe this recent foot infection will hamper him heading into the season (though he will reportedly be fine for the opener). I don’t know. The guy had almost 1,400 receiving yards last year. Sixth among WRs in scoring last year. Yet I’ve gotten him with the 48th overall pick (how did that work out?) in both drafts I was in. The draft I just conducted tonight, I made Smith the 17th receiver selected, taken after guys like Percy Harvin and Marques Colston.

WR Justin Blackmon (own in both leagues).Now this is a little more my style. Young up-and-coming wide receivers often have me going crazy in fantasy drafts. I went out of my way to select him in the 16-team league. Tonight, he fell to the ninth round before I decided to make it a Justin Blackmon sweep in both leagues. He doesn’t seem to have the physical gifts of some previous high selections in the NFL draft. I’m not expecting Calvin Johnson Part Deux to show up or anything. But from the preseason games I’ve watched, he has looked the part of a very physical receiver who can create enough space to get his hands on the ball, and he looks pretty sure-handed (though I’m certainly no expert on the Jacksonville Jaguars).

He may not be on the Patriots or Saints. But I’m hoping the Jaguars can find a way to make Justin Blackmon a good value for your fantasy teams and mine. Associated Press photo

Here are a few more players I like heading into the season:

QB Russell Wilson. Deep sleeper. Had more than 50 rushing yards in recent preseason game. Just named Seahawks starter.

RB David Wilson. Was a deep sleeper, but caught everyone’s attention in last preseason game. I’m sold. He could be this year’s DeMarco Murray. There, I said it.

RB Ryan Williams. Going well after Beanie Wells. Wells is physical back; Williams more explosive.

WR Kendall Wright. This rookie for the Tennessee Titans has gotten plenty of publicity. He has made some really nice catches this month. Can he do it when it counts?

TE Aaron Hernandez. Drafted him in 16-team league. Hardly a sleeper. He was third-best tight end in fantasy last year, yet in both leagues I’m in he was not close to being third TE selected. Boston Globe speculated that Hernandez, not Rob Gronkowski, is Tom Brady’s No. 1 target (hat tip to Yahoo’s Brad Evans).

TE Jacob Tamme. Don’t forget how good this guy was in 2010 when Dallas Clark was injured. Tamme reunited with Peyton Manning in Denver. Didn’t draft him in either league, and I might regret it.

Finally, my rosters:

16-team league keeper (8th pick, snake): QB Tom Brady, QB Josh Freeman, RB Matt Forte, RB Ben Tate, RB Stevan Ridley (keeper), RB Kevin Smith (keeper), RB Tim Hightower, RB Taiwan Jones, RB Rashad Jennings, WR Steve Smith (CAR), WR Justin Blackmon, WR Mike Williams (TB), TE Aaron Hernandez, K Justin Tucker, DEF Green Bay Packers. NOTE: A little light on receiver depth. Drafted Vincent Brown at draft last Saturday afternoon. On Saturday night, he breaks ankle on a touchdown catch and is out for 8 weeks. Fun times!

10-team league PPR (8th pick again, snake): QB Ben Roethlisberger, QB Josh Freeman, QB Russell Wilson, RB Steven Jackson, RB Reggie Bush, Ben Tate, RB David Wilson, RB Ryan Williams, WR Calvin Johnson, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Steve Smith (CAR), WR Justin Blackmon, WR Randall Cobb, TE Rob Gronkowski, K Dan Bailey, DEF Chicago Bears.

Vikings stadium official Bagley noticed “difficult” environment at Minnesota Capitol

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was at the Minnesota Associated Press Sports Editors convention on Tuesday in the Twin Cities.

I blogged yesterday about what one of our two speakers – former University of Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi – had to say to the group. You can find that here.

Our second and final speaker was Lester Bagley, who is the Minnesota Vikings vice president of public affairs and was the point man for the team’s pursuit of a new stadium. The Vikings will get that stadium after its bill was passed and signed during the last legislative session in St. Paul.

Lester Bagley has been the point man for the Minnesota Vikings’ pursuit of a new stadium. Photo by Don Davis / Forum Communications

Here are a few notes from our Q&A session with Bagley:

    • On a couple of different occasions, Bagley referenced the difficult environment at the Minnesota Capitol due to the lack of bi-partisanship. I asked Bagley if he thought partisanship was worse now than it was when he started working on the team’s need for a stadium. Bagley said, “Yes. I do. I think it’s a difficult environment down there. … In my estimation it has gotten much more partisan. I don’t think it’s one side or the other. … It should be hard (to get a stadium built). But it also shouldn’t have been as difficult. I hope it gets better over there.” He thought both sides were seeking election advantages.
    • On the stadium’s potential design: Bagley said there are “five or six stadium architects” that the team has to choose from. “It’s an open competition.” He said the Wilf ownership group has an idea for a winter garden train station. He also mentioned they would like to see a place for fans to gather, like there is at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
    • He reiterated that the Wilfs would like to get a retractable feature “in some capacity” at the new stadium. The Wilfs have committed $477 million to the $950 million stadium project, and Bagley said he’s be surprised if the Wilfs went beyond $477 million in order to fund the retractable feature. It would have to fit into the pre-agreed to budget for the stadium.
    • On the struggles to get a stadium built: “It did seem up front many times that this was not in the cards. … I don’t believe the Wilfs would ever have moved the team.”
    • On the team’s ability to play at TCF Bank Stadium while waiting for a new stadium to be built: Bagley said that TCF would need improvements, notably weatherization, increased seating (possibly in the end zone under the scoreboard) and increased concessions.
    • On the team continuing to hold training camp in Mankato: Bagley said that the Mankato contract was among the contracts that had expired. He said there “are things that need to be addressed” in Mankato, but said that “it’s really a special place and relationship” for the Vikings.
    • On a future Super Bowl: Bagley said the team had “put an oar in the water” for a Super Bowl in 2017.

Judgment time begins for Vikings stadium

It’s taken a longer-than-expected session, but the Minnesota Vikings stadium bill on Monday will go under the most intense scrutiny that it has faced so far.

The Minnesota House will debate and is expected to vote on the bill Monday, though according to the Star Tribune, a vote could come after midnight depending on how long the debate lasts.

The House vote is just another part of the process, but this is definitely a big day for the stadium bill. Time is running out, and it can ill afford any sort of a hiccup at this point.

I’m starting to believe this thing will pass. Ever since NFL leaders paid a visit to the Capitol a couple weeks back, the tone has changed from many of the political leaders. And stories like this one that ran in Sunday’s Forum amp up the sense of urgency to do it now or risk losing the team.

In what was an interesting bit of timing for those of us living in Minnesota, CNBC aired a documentary last week titled “Sonicsgate,” which examined the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics and their relocation to Oklahoma City after more than four decades in the Pacific Northwest.

I don’t mean to say this to stir up any fear. But there are some similarities between the Sonics situation and the Vikings’ current one.

Both teams were/are in mid-major markets and both have seen other pro/college teams around them in their respective markets get stadiums built in recent years. They both were/have been a part of their markets for a long time.

But what really marked the end of the Sonics was when Seattle-based Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz sold the team to Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett in 2006. The writing was on the wall at that point, and Bennett moved the franchise to OKC in 2008.

That’s what Vikings fans need to be concerned about. The Wilf ownership group seems committed to keeping the team in Minnesota. But if they want out, the next owner might not feel the same way.

Seau leaves behind legacy, questions

I’ve always thought that middle linebacker is the glamour position of a defense. It’s the quarterback on that side of the ball, as so many people say.

And for a lot of people my age, that glamour player at middle linebacker during our youth was Junior Seau. His play was both supremely intelligent and physically devastating to an opponent, all at the same time.

So you could imagine my surprise to see Seau had passed away Wednesday at the age of 43. Investigators believe he committed suicide.

Game planning to face the San Diego Chargers in the 1990s meant trying to stay away from Junior Seau. Associated Press photo

Seau was a 12-time Pro Bowler who played a 20-year NFL career that wrapped up in 2009. He was unquestionably the premier player at his position during the prime of his career.

Yet Wednesday’s news brings all sorts of questions. Seau is the biggest name among the tragedies that have surrounded former NFL players in recent years.

League and medical officials continue to debate and discuss the effects that concussions had on former players. And while no line can be clearly drawn between the hits that Seau took in his career and his untimely death, it’s hard to ignore the long line of players who have lost their lives – suicide or otherwise – in recent years.

It’s been almost 10 years since Hall of Fame center Mike Webster died at the age of 50 after suffering from amnesia and dementia during his post-playing career.

It’s been only one year since former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson committed suicide. Following his death, it was found that Duerson suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions.

The most shocking fact of all might be this: Seau is already the eighth player from the 1994 San Diego Chargers team that reached a Super Bowl to pass away too soon, joining the likes of Chris Mims and Rodney Culver.

Why Seau supposedly chose to take his own life, we may never know. But hopefully some steps can be taken quickly to solve the concussion issue and at least help prevent future NFL tragedies.

Vikings stadium still tough sell with politicians

One of the more interesting excerpts among the many facts and quotes in Don Davis’ story about the Vikings stadium defeat on InForum is this quote from Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley:

“We have done everything we have been asked,” Bagley said. “What else are we supposed to do?”

Well, there’s always MORE that can be done. The team was to contribute $427 million toward the $975 million proposed Vikings stadium, which was defeated 9-6 by a Minnesota House subcommittee on Monday night.

The Vikings’ share – roughly 44 percent of the stadium’s cost – is pretty fair by today’s standards. For example, the Miami Marlins opened their baseball stadium earlier this month, with owner Jeffrey Loria contributing just shy of 30 percent of the stadium’s $515 million cost.

But this is all a tough sell for the state of Minnesota, which has had budget issues in recent years and has signed off on two stadium projects – TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field – just in the last decade.

This is all a far cry from decades ago. If you’ve ever watched the HBO documentary “Ghosts of Flatbush” about the Brooklyn Dodgers – and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it – you’ll learn that the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after owner Walter O’Malley offered to pay for the entire stadium in Brooklyn! O’Malley simply wanted the city help him put the parcels of land together, and the city balked, so the Dodgers moved.

But the days of owners offering to pay for entire stadiums are over. The modern-day stadium is paid for in large part by taxpayers. And unless Minnesota politicians can revive stadium talks before the end of the session, the Vikings could be following that Dodgers path to LA.

NFL gets it right with Saints suspensions

A one-year suspension for Sean Payton? Who saw that coming?

The National Football League handed down suspensions Wednesday to those responsible for the New Orleans Saints bounty system, which paid players to, among other things, knock opposing quarterbacks out of games.

Payton, the Saints head coach, received a one-year suspension, while then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams – now with the St. Louis Rams – has been suspended indefinitely. Other members of the Saints organization received suspensions, while the team was fined and also lost a couple draft picks.

Pro football is violent. There’s no question about that. But I hardly think Wednesday’s developments suggest in any way that it can’t still be.

Are there defensive players trying to knock quarterbacks out of games? Of course there are. But there’s something wrong with an organization that seems to encourage that behavior.

Quarterback Drew Brees – currently a free agent who the Saints are trying to re-sign – defended his coach on Twitter. Brees added that he wants an explanation.

But Brees as much as anyone should be appalled by the behavior of the coaching staff. Because if you’re a defensive player playing against the Saints and you knew that New Orleans players is targeting your team’s quarterback, chances are your method of retaliation would be to try and take Brees out.

There’s a line between physical contact and brutality. But I don’t think that line is as fine as others do, and I have no doubt that the Saints crossed it.