As a pregame stroll through the concourse of the Metrodome turned to a slow shuffle and then a halt at one of the many clog-up points on Sunday, a man was heard to remark: “I sure won’t miss this part.”
Miss it or not, though, it was experienced for the final time. The bathroom troughs … the wall-to-wall blue seats … the smell of hot dogs no matter where you are … no more.
Seeing one final Vikings game on Sunday didn’t make me so much nostalgic as bring back what I consider to be an odd collection of memories of Vikings games past:
• The first Vikings game I ever attended at the Dome was Jan. 1, 1995 — a playoff game against the Bears. It was Christmas break from my freshman year at the U of M. I was back home in North Dakota when a longtime friend and fellow Vikings sufferer hatched the plan: I needed to get back to Minneapolis, anyway. Why not head back in time for a New Year’s Day playoff game? We left Grand Forks at about 2 a.m., drove through the night, arrived exhausted at the game, cheered like mad … and of course Minnesota lost 35-18. Disappointment in my first game, not to mention the depletion of much-needed funds for a poor college student. Perfect.
• In 1998, the same friend and I had a partial season ticket package and were able to get tickets to the NFC title game against the Falcons. But work duties at the Star Tribune trumped my ticket. I ended up watching the game on a tiny TV in the office, charting plays for publication. It ended up being the best possible scenario. I can’t even imagine being in the Dome that day.
• By 2000, we had full season tickets — obstructed view, $99 for the whole year. We were in the far corner of the upper deck, and the seat numbers were 8 and 11 — seats 9 and 10 were not sold because they were directly behind a pillar. But when Daunte Culpepper, starting for the first year, ran for three second-half TDs in a comeback win in the opener vs. the Bears … well, it was worth craning our necks around that pillar.
• In 2009, I worked the Vikings/Cowboys playoff game. After one of the most dominant performances ever witnessed by the Purple inside the Metrodome, many of us left that day convinced by the 34-3 victory that the Vikings were finally heading back to the Super Bowl. But of course, more heartbreak followed.
• Sunday: Well, the final game was something. I’m still not sure what. The first half felt like a preseason game. The entire game felt disjointed — like two teams whose coaches are on thin ice going through the motions. But a flawed game was probably a perfect end to a flawed building. And hey, if you are a Vikings fan you saw a victory. That couldn’t always be said, as we all know, over the years.