Lileks: Let’s think like Minnesotans on this Super Bowl bidness

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 3, 2014 - 9:10 PM

Minneapolis has made its bid for Super Bowl LII (pronounced “lee”) and good things will surely result. CEOs of major companies will think “that blimp view of downtown, with the towers set against the setting sun, is spectacular. I think I’ll move my entire manufacturing base up from Tennessee.”

It would remind people all over the country that this is a city with parks, museums, a newly refurbished Orchestra Hall and innumerable cultural opportunities. Right? I mean, you can imagine John Madden saying, “I went to the, to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and boy, there’s a, there’s a place that has art.” You can imagine a reporter asking one of the nose tackles how he feels about the Guthrie’s decision to set a new production of Shakespeare’s “Richard II” in modern-day Russia.

“I think that’s part of a long tradition of seeing contemporary elements in the classic themes of Shakespeare,” the athlete might reply. Keeping with the genial trash-talking that precedes a high-stakes athletic contest, the nose tackle might say that the Guthrie should step up its game if it wanted to be seen in the same league as Orson Welles’ groundbreaking Harlem staging of “Macbeth” in 1936.

Or not. Let’s be honest: Anything about Minneapolis shown to the rest of the world will consist of the following:

• Aforementioned lovely aerial views, unless a blizzard strikes and the blimp is blown off course and ends up popped by the statue atop the Capitol dome.

• Shots of the beautiful new immense sports facility, reminding people that we are one of only 1,458 cities worldwide with a beautiful new immense sports facility.

• Brief shots of shirtless dudes painted purple standing outside and shouting, “WOOOOO!” and dropping snow down their pants to show they’re hard-core while the announcer chuckles: “People up here love their winter, all right. And their cheap, intoxicating spirits.”

It would be nice to get the attention and the money. Every hotel full, restaurants humming, and a halftime show that consists of “Prince is rumored to appear,” just for that uniquely Minnesota flavor.

There’s just one problem. How will we make sure the National Football League can afford it?

The argument goes like this: The event will bring, say, $300 million into state coffers. If we give the NFL $30 million in tax breaks, we’re up $270 million, right? Er. Hmm. Seems to me we wouldn’t have gotten the $300 million in the first place. We’d be up $300 million, and this money would surely be rebated to the people of Minnesota as a gesture of thanks.

But not in the form of checks. Send out people with iPads to go door to door and let citizens experience the thrill of e-pulltabs. Sir, please swipe your finger on this screen 10 times to play the fast-paced, exciting game that’s taken the state by storm. Yes, right there, 10 times. Annnd that’s good. Sorry you didn’t win, and remember to game responsibly.

There’s the sticky issue of exempting the players’ salaries from our taxes, which absolutely must be done. And more! Gate fees at airports must be waived; lodging taxes absorbed by the hotels; food and drink taxes rebated; gas tax on team buses rebated later with interest; and so on. I’d suggest we set up special cordons with velvet ropes that keep everyone else out, because these are people who must not be taxed, and such rare beings should not expect to share the sidewalks with rude mortals.

That’s the only way we’re going to get it. The NFL will look at the proposals, and think: New Orleans with tax breaks or Minnesota in January without tax breaks? Let’s flip a coin. Heads, New Orleans. Tails, Not Minnesota.

But what if we said, “Look, NFL, it’s not as if the Super Bowl is a money-loser. It’s not like you’re so desperate for ads you have to pay Bob’s House of Mattresses to run ads during the show. While we agree that your athletes are demigods entitled to every deference society can bestow, we would like to speak for every city, and say: No more. Now to speak on the same matter, here are the mayors of Indianapolis and New Orleans, and — guys? Guys? Where are you going?” and by then the other mayors are shaking hands with the NFL commissioners — the secret handshake where the pinkie fingers touch three times.

Perhaps there’s a compromise. Announce that we will not tax the players, but ask the NFL to urge their players to make a charitable contribution to a Minnesota foundation or nonprofit in any amount up to, and perhaps exceeding, what their tax payment would have been. The contributions will be made public, so everyone can be grateful to the visiting gladiators.

It would be the most Minnesotan solution imaginable. Voluntary. Public-spirited. Charitable.

And utterly passive-aggressive.

 

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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