I have long believed that it would take an “Act of God” for Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to get a new publicly financed football stadium. After all, despite Wilf’s pleadings and threats, taxpayers are less than eager these days to subsidize the billionaires among us. This is particularly true in Minnesota, where the Twins just opened a new publicly funded ballpark despite the fact that in 2007 a freaking bridge collapsed in the Twin Cities, sending 13 people to their deaths. Clearly there are other priorities for public funds.
Cue the Neoliberal Almighty. In a scene that looked like an outtake from Kirk Cameron’s latest bible film, the Metrodome’s roof collapsed under 17 inches of snow. The debris hadn’t even been cleared before team president Mark Wilf (no relation to Zygi… just kidding it’s his kid brother) said that it would be "premature to discuss" whether the collapse "changes the debate over a new stadium.” In other words, the Wilf family wants you to know that it’s absolutely premature to discuss this thing that they don’t want to discuss. His fellow owner John Mara of the New York Giants was only too happy to be “premature”, saying that the roof-rupture "bolsters their argument why they need a new stadium. For this to happen nowadays is pretty incredible."
Their press minions beat the drum as well. Kurt Badenhausen, who writes a blog for Forbes Magazine called, rather revoltingly, Jock Rich wrote within hours of the roof’s collapse, “The Vikings more than any other NFL team need a new stadium from a financial perspective and now apparently from a structural perspective If Wilf can’t get public funding for a new stadium after Sunday’s collapse, Minneapolis can kiss the NFL goodbye.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune also frantically put up a poll where they posed the question, “Does the Metrodome roof collapse convince you that the Vikings do indeed need a new stadium?” Currently 66 percent of the roughly 15,000 respondents say YES the team does need a new stadium.
Somewhere Naomi Klein is shaking her head. This is Shock Doctrine 101: a calamitous event propels the priorities of those in power. The Internet is now abuzz with conspiracy theorists asking if this wasn’t an Act of God but an act of Wilf—an artful piece of stadium sabotage (after all, 17 inches of snow is known in Minnesota as a “dusting.”) Such theories have no factual basis but it’s not hard to see who benefits from this. As Minnpost.com wrote acidly of the accident, "If you look closely, I believe you can see Zygi Wilf with a box cutter rappelling down the north side."
Why do the otherwise eminently sane people of the Twin Cities leap to the land of conspiracy? I asked Minnesota’s finest labor history professor, Peter Rachleff for his take.