There are mixed feelings about saying goodbye to the Metrodome. We will transition to our new football stadium via two seasons at TCF Bank. Outdoor Vikings' football returns to Minnesota.
I was one who loved Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. The parking area surrounding the stadium meant the best tailgating possible. The winter elements were on our side. No more joyous feeling can a Vikings' fan have than watching the 49ers or Rams players try and keep warm with heaters on the sideline while your team went without.
Men against boys.
When the Metrodome replaced the Met in 1982 things changed. Suddenly the Twins had assembled a team that could win on a turf field with a big baggy for a wall. Blowing air helped carry some homers out while keeping others in. Balls lost in the white-topped roof. Ground balls bouncing high into the air.
A baseball heaven.
Among the greatest Metrodome moments, many are baseball ones. Eight World Series games,two Game Sevens in 1987 and 1991, the latter a 10-inning 1-0 Jack Morris shutout (which I attended). Clinching in 1987. All-Star games. Quite a few 3,000th hits. And maybe my most favorite moment of all: the impromptu pep rally for the 1987 team after getting to the World Series via Detroit.
Baseball enjoyed the Dome. Football not so much.
The Vikings were easily one of the best teams in the decade of the 1970s. The went to three Super Bowls in four years (1973-76). When the second half of any season began, the Met became a frozen tundra. Fans took pride in going to the game, facing the elements, and empowering the team with iron will (and a few tail-gated beers). The defense, led by the Purple People Eaters, actually ate teams. The faces on the offensive players of fair-weathered opponents as they had to return to the zero degree, minus fifteen wind-chilled field, to face our defense, were priceless.
'Goodbye heaters', they would sigh as they jogged onto the field.
When Minnesota moved to the Dome in 1982 Minnesota football changed. Roaring motorcycles, blasted music, little plastic chairs stuck together, and a big Teflon bag hiding the outdoor elements. Football became a concert for corporate Minnesota. Our wintry advantage gone.
We were told it had to be this way. Mike Lynn, snubbed for ownership, finagled a deal that benefited Lynn more than the fans. Something like Lynn got fifty cents on every beer. Suites were named Lynn1, Lynn2 and so on...sic.
The Metropolitans Sports Facilities Commission was behind it all. Governor Wendell Anderson had decried that we would lose both football and baseball if a new stadium was not built. And frankly, as wonderful as the Met was, it was built for a minor league baseball team. A commission of regular Minnesotans from across the state. Local businessman Harvey Mackay pushed all the right buttons.
So we built the Metrodome.
In thirty-two years the Minnesota Vikings have a 168-92 overall record. Their play-off record 6-4. Sound pretty good. Minnesota assembled a few powerful offenses, most notably in the Randy Moss era. Moss was easily the most exciting Viking to enter the Dome. The Brett Favre led Vikings of 2009 were also impressive. So too the 1987 team, that overcame an 0-3 replacement start to make the playoffs in a strike-shortened year.
In the 1998-99 season, Minnesota hosted the NFC Championship. Anyone over twenty will remember what happened. Gary Anderson, perfect on the season, missed a 38-yard chip shot to lock up the game. The Vikings lost in overtime to the Falcons. A 15-1 season for naught. Criticism of Coach Denny Green's handling of time was the beginning of the end of "the Sheriff", despite his success that has not been repeated since. A home playoff loss that rivaled the "Hail Mary" loss to the Cowboys in the 1970s.
The most memorable game in Dome history for the Vikings...
A heartbreaking loss.
Fifteen years later we say goodbye. For the next two seasons, Vikings' players will brave the elements. A new coach will stand on the sidelines in zero degrees. Fans will huddle near each other to stay warm. Opposing teams will huddle around heaters on the sidelines again.
And we will remember why we liked outdoor stadiums.