If you are having trouble believing in Santa Claus, I direct your attention to the big fat load that came down the chimney last week in the offices of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the home of Santa's elves.

The elves practically sprained themselves trying to shoulder Santa's big bag, which is bursting its seams with a beautiful new football stadium for a little boy named Zygi. Some people object to the idea of Santa pouring all his goodies into one $900 million gift for just one brat, especially at a time when so many families are hurting. But this kid is demanding. His needs are big, and the elves ... well, the elves are small.

The commissioners held a solemn meeting on Thursday to unveil a staggering, state-of-the-art, near-billion-dollar stadium for the Minnesota Vikings -- which they had the chutzpah to characterize as a bare-bones facility that is $84 million cheaper today than a few months ago because many people are out of work.

Oh, them.

What a drag it is that the state is billions in the red and that many workers are underemployed or just plain unemployed and that the things that we used to be proud of are in a downward spiral just as the Vikings have come crying to us in their greed.

This unfortunate clash of greed and need has created a ticklish situation for the politicians and the stadium elves, all of whom are required to appear as if they are aware of the larger needs of the state while trying to clear the track for a grandiose, publicly financed stadium to replace the publicly financed stadium we already have.

That's the "facility" the Sports Facilities Commission is supposed to take care of, but there seems to be some confusion as to what exactly is the job of the commission.

At Thursday's meeting, Commission Chairman Roy Terwilliger and others said their duty is to provide information to the public on the stadium issue. Good. We need information. But then the goalposts kept moving, and it seemed what Terwilliger was really saying was, "Our job is to give the Vikings what they want."

That's a different job than public information. That's a bag boy's job.

Commissioner Paul Thatcher had an unvarnished take: The job, he said, is "to protect and defend and safe-keep the NFL franchise that we know and love as the Vikings."

I misted up at the nobility of it -- the determination of the little elves to use public funds to "safeguard" a profitable for-profit sports franchise worth almost a billion that has appreciated at least 40 percent in value since the Wilfs got hold of it in 2005. I could've kissed Thatcher.

But I have a tiny problem with this commission, which was formed in 1977. If your duty is to inform the public about an important issue, you shouldn't be unveiling expensive proposals that would not only end the debate but keep you in business.

Maybe these elves need a sunset clause.

The Vikings were involved in devising the plan unveiled Thursday but did not send a representative to the meeting or signal approval. They don't need no stinking meetings. They have the state on the run and are following a slick strategy: With one hand, they point a gun at the elves; with the other hand, they hold out a hat to legislators and a governor afraid to incur Zygi's wrath. Then, with another hand (that makes three, but this one works by remote) they fan public fear that the team will leave if it doesn't get what it wants. Already, the pols are in a panic.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty avoids budget-solving meetings but already has had a chat with Zygi. Legislators such as House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (a candidate for governor whose supporters include Paul Thatcher) are setting up "Purple Ribbon" study panels to give themselves cover.

Anyone who has seen this kind of Kabuki in the past knows how it likely will end: The Vikings will get a new, publicly financed stadium that will fatten their pockets while the state of Minnesota becomes increasingly threadbare and mean.

It's shameful. It's an outrage. Where is the Tea Party?

The stadium architect said his plan takes advantage of "bridge technology in Minnesota." That caused a few nervous looks around the room. But he went on to call it a plan that "embraces Minnesota values." Thankfully, he was only talking about technology and the environment, because "Minnesota values" would mean something new to me if the Vikings get a billion-dollar palace while the state goes broke.

Socializing the cost and privatizing the profits of a team that wears our name but cares only for itself? If we do that, we may have values. But not Minnesota ones.

Nick Coleman is a senior fellow at the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement at the College of St. Benedict/St. John's University. He can be reached at nickcoleman@gmail.com.