The Twins played the Royals, my Royals. It seemed important that the Royals won 5-3, because it’s always important when the Royals win. And it seemed odd that the public-address announcer warned us repeatedly that if we had planned to cross the I-35 bridge, we’d better come up with another plan.
If there was talk of a bridge collapse, I didn’t hear it, and neither did my 9-year-old son, George. I would have learned the news and hustled to the newsroom to help publish it had I been able to call home, but I couldn’t. I blamed my cheap cellphone.
Later, from somewhere on Interstate 94, I reached my wife. She screamed, cried and worked an expletive into this sentence: “The whole bridge fell down.”
She had assumed for five hours that George and I were in the river.
I’ve learned since that many in the Dome that night didn’t know of the drama playing out a few blocks away.
I’ve learned this, too. The Royals victory wasn’t that important.
Purple pain following NFC Championship Game loss
The four worst days of my life involved the Vikings playing in Super Bowls. Yet I was still willing to risk a fifth.
I had just moved back to Minnesota in 1998, after being gone for 15 years, and my family went in on eight Vikings season tickets. A crew went to every home game, tailgating starting at 9 a.m. It turned out to be the most exciting Vikings season ever.
The Vikings rolled into the NFC Championship Game and were heavily favored to beat the Falcons. But the day before the game, two of my crew called to say they couldn’t make it. As luck would have it, a good friend of mine called from New Jersey saying his brother-in-law needed two tickets. Perfect. Meet me at the game.
Needless to say, none of us were happy with the outcome — except the Jersey guys. They actually were Falcons fans from Atlanta, and to my horror they showed up at the game wearing Falcons jerseys. It never occurred to me I was selling my tickets to Falcons fans, and not only did I have to put up with the guilt of selling to the enemy, but I had to sit next to them and watch them celebrate as Gary Anderson’s kick sailed wide, the Falcons rallied to tie the score and eventually won in overtime. Purple pain, purple pain.
A historic day for a rookie running back
I remember standing in front of LaDainian Tomlinson in the visitor’s locker room and watching him just shake his head when asked for his thoughts on what a rookie running back had just done in his eighth NFL game back on Nov. 4, 2007.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the future Pro Football Hall of Famer, who, at the time, was the NFL’s reigning MVP and rushing champion.
Like LT, to me the most memorable part of Adrian Peterson’s NFL-record 296 yards rushing was just how routine the first half was and how immortal the second half was. Peterson had 13 first-half carries for 43 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, he had 253 yards and two touchdowns on only 17 carries while carrying the Vikings to a 35-17 victory over a Chargers team that also made history that day with Antonio Cromartie’s 109-yard return of a missed field-goal attempt.
To this day, Peterson believes a 300-yard game is in his future. Some say it should have come back on Nov. 4, 2007, which was only the fourth home game of Peterson’s career. With 1:58 left in the game, Peterson had just run 35 yards to reach 293. He needed 3 more to break Jamal Lewis’ record, but the next carry went to Chester Taylor, who gained 6 yards that could have been Peterson’s. Finally realizing just how close Peterson was to the record, the Vikings gave him one more carry before taking a knee. Peterson, naturally, gained the 3 yards he needed.
As loud as it has ever been; as silent as it has ever been
The noise inside the Metrodome after Kirby Puckett’s home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series was the loudest I’ve ever heard at a sporting event, even louder than the next night when the championship was won. So it’s a little ironic that when I think of the Metrodome, I’ll always remember how quiet it was.
It always seemed strangely silent when I’d arrive several hours before a Twins game, with only the sounds of early batting practice shattering the stillness. From the press box halfway up, you could hear players greet each other on the field, heckle each other in the infield, even hold conversations, interrupted only with the rhythmic “whack” of a bat on ball.
But no silence compared to the vast emptiness on Aug. 2, 2007, the day after the I-35 bridge collapse. That night’s game with the Royals had been postponed by the tragedy, but some Wi-Fi and car troubles left me with no place to work on a second-day story. The Twins graciously allowed me to come to the Dome and sit in the empty press box, in an emptier stadium.
The place was all shadows, moody and depressing, as if reflecting the sadness a few blocks away. And so quiet! I could hear the swish of traffic rolling by outside, the occasional helicopter hovering above the bridge, a door closing on the other side of the stadium, 600 feet away. Even the faint creaking of the dingy Teflon roof in the breeze. It was the eeriest, creepiest day I’ve ever spent in a sports arena, my quietest day in baseball’s loudest stadium.
Less than a year old, and already an emergency
It was New Year’s Day 1983 and, with the temperature hovering at 27 degrees with a stiff wind, I was standing in the Metrodome parking lot at 8 a.m. The Metrodome’s inflatable roof had collapsed — the stadium had been open for less than a year — and workers were hoisting a 5,000-pound panel to replace a section that had ripped during snow shoveling.
The Vikings were set to play the Dallas Cowboys at the stadium in two days. Inside, workers making $3.50 an hour were shoveling snow out of the seats in Section 109. One worker said a man with a seeing-eye dog showed up, hoping to join the work crew. A couple wandered through the parking lot to watch the roof patching, with the man explaining that “[I] got nothing much to do today, I guess.”
Before a news conference began, a Metrodome spokesman complained that a TV station helicopter hovering above the stadium was kicking up too much wind and snow. With the new panel in place, reporters noticed that its dark tan color was at odds with the existing off-white roof. In an emergency, one Metrodome official acknowledged, one cannot be choosy.
A glorious run for the Dome, a glorious time to work here