A Wintery Conspiracy Theory

On Saturday, central Minnesota got hammered by one heck of a winter storm, which dropped twenty inches of snow in some places, and created drifts more than five feet high. If you’re in the United States and have watched the national new in the last day or two, you’ve probably seen the video of the Metrodome, the enclosed sports arena in Minneapolis, collapsing under the weight of the snow.

Yep. A combination of snow, ice, and high winds caused, nearly twelve hours after the end of the snowstorm, the inflatable roof to collapse and fail, requiring the postponement and relocation of at least one NFL game, maybe more.

If you’re outside Minnesota, though, or at least the Twin Cities, you probably haven’t heard the conspiracy theories surrounding the collapse.

The first conspiracy theory is pretty stupid, in a Bubba Sixpackon sort of way – that the dome was allowed to collapse to postpone Sunday’s game, thereby allowing the Vikings’ star quarterback and primadonna Brett Favre extra time to recover from the injuries he received last week. This is easily disproven as bumpf, because the game had already been postponed hours before the dome went boom. Or crunch, or splat, or whatever sound a collapsing teflon-and-fiberglass structure makes.

The second one is a bit more plausible – the dome was permitted to collapse purely in order to highlight the Vikings’ demands for a new stadium.

See, for several years, the Vikings have made it clear that they want a new stadium in Minneapolis; they’ve actually hinted that failure to get one might affect whether or not the team stays in Minnesota, in fact. The Dome is only around 25 years old, and isn’t in bad shape at all, as professional sports stadiums go. Yet they’re unhappy with it for some reason, and want lots and lots of public money to pay for a new one. Back when the Vikings still remembered how to play football, it didn’t seem completely impossible that this could happen. The Minnesota Twins, our local baseball team, who used to play at the Metrodome, got themselves a brand-new stadium this season, meaning their interest in the replacement of the Dome was minimized; coupled with the Vikings’ inability to win and the economic blight facing the state, the talk of a new stadium had quietly been put on the back burner… until now, all of a sudden, the roof collapses and is badly damaged.

Coincidence? Not according to the conspiracy theorists.

Their position is bolstered slightly by a certain systemic dishonesty on the part of Metrodome officials between Saturday and today. See, Saturday night, as the snowfall ended, official word was that things were well under control, and the roof was in no danger whatsoever, but – but! – they’d suspended snow-removal efforts because of high winds. Nobody is at risk, they said. The roof is fine.

Seven hours later, the roof had collapsed and torn in several spots, one of the holes large enough to fly a very very small helicopter through. Unforseen, they said. Impossible to predict. Exact cause unknown, they admitted. They discussed all the efforts they’d taken to ensure that very thing didn’t happen.

Then they admitted that, had there been any events scheduled at the Metrodome on Saturday, the day of the storm, they would have cancelled them, out of – wait for it! – safety fears that the roof might have collapsed. Then they admitted that the snow-removal techniques they were using might have added several dozen tons of ice to the roof. Oops.

End result? Suddenly everyone is talking about stadium replacement again. And, with the Sunday game relocated to Detroit, while people try and decide if and how the roof can be repaired, “officials” seem curiously quick to discuss how much money Minneapolis is losing by not having the game there. In other words, how much they’d lose were the Vikings to make good on their threat and leave Minnesota. (Okay, it’s a slightly inflated figure, because it doesn’t take into account the money you’d get by razing the tenantless Dome and putting a giant parking garage in its place, my personal preferred use for the land. But, still…)

Anyway, it works out really conveniently for the Vikings. “Look at our ancient, crumbling stadium. Look at how much money you’d lose if we left Minneapolis. Look at the shiny new stadium we want. Look at how many people could be killed if the roof collapsed again, during a game or concert. Look at how relatively little the stadium we want costs. Look how we only want taxpayers to foot two-thirds of the bill…”

I don’t buy the conspiracy theory, sorry. I know you can’t control Mother Nature, but right now is a horrible time for the Vikings to be pushing the new-stadium issue. The state is flat broke, and doesn’t even seem willing to discuss the issue. Too, the Vikings’ horrible record this season has sapped a huge amount of popular support for the team. (The local newspaper had a poll on their website recently about the Vikings; the choices of opinion regarding the team were “anger, embarrasment, frustration, and indifference”. Embarrasment won, followed by indifference.) If they try to be hard-nosed about it and lay down an ultimatum about their leaving, most people are probably going to say “fine, don’t let the door hit you on the way out”.

The fun thing about conspiracy theories, though, is that there’s probably one to explain that: the Vikings suck this year because they’re playing in an ancient, collapse-prone stadium.

And that, really, is why I dislike conspiracy theories that aren’t funny: Because once you go down that road, positing cruel and sinister motives for everything, there’s no real end, except perhaps living in a power-less cabin in Montana, surrounded by survivalist magazines and firearms, and that’s just so late-1990s.

In short, when stuff falls down, catches fire, blows up, or sinks into a swamp, keep in mind the de Monet family motto: “Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by ignorance or stupidity.”

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on December 14th, 2010| No Comments »

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