I went to college in the Twin Cities, a refugee from the scowling confines of New Yawk. Minnesota was like another planet, a place I almost bolted after the first day when I was carded for trying to buy a lighter. But the people easily won me over. How could you not love a place that gave us Prince, Hulk Hogan, and cheese curds? The combination of fried dairy products, pro wrestling, and funk was just too much to resist. It’s the kind of place where my buddy John would choose to relocate and raise a family despite having roots in La Jolla, California. La Jolla is breathtaking: an oil painting come to life. But Minneapolis-St. Paul has something far more precious than sand and surf. The people of the Twin Cities always seem to have one eye on the greater good. It’s a place where Democrats proudly call themselves the ‘Democratic Farmer Labor Party’, where Republicans go by the name ‘Independent Republicans’, and where a coffee shop calls itself ‘Dunne Brothers’, in tribute to the leaders of the 1934 strike that shut down the city.
It was also a place, with its social democratic traditions, that constantly frustrated the ambitions of a man named Carl Pohlad. Pohlad is the 92-year-old multi-billionaire owner of the Minnesota Twins. He has spent the last two decades of his life trying to get the taxpayers of his home state to give him 500 million dollars for a state of the art mega dome. The people in numerous referendums were polite and firm that the Pohlad way was not the Minnesota way. But Pohlad would not be deterred.
As Rudolph Giuliani once said, the problem with stadium referendums is that people won’t vote for them. Pohlad took the Giuliani gospel to heart. He slunk behind the scenes, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians in both parties — eventually making a mockery of the Labor label on the Democrats and the Independence of the Republicans.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has vetoed every effort to raise taxes to refurbish the state’s infrastructure, became a born-again stadium supporter. Others as well “got religion” and began to worship at the altar of “revenue streams,” “naming rights,” and “luxury boxes.”
As the Minnesota City Pages put it, “After a long string of public relations disasters that have entrenched his reputation as a miserly, something-for-nothing businessman, Carl Pohlad — the richest owner in major league baseball — has finally learned his political lesson. This time all the hardball haggling occurred behind closed doors.”
Groundbreaking for the Pohlad’s monument to corporate greed and political graft was supposed to be on Thursday, August 2nd, but the plans were hastily scuttled. The irony was simply too much for even these assorted scoundrels to bear. To celebrate the fleecing of the public to the tune of half a billion dollars — over 300 dollars out of the pockets of every man woman and child — while bodies have still yet to be recovered from the fallen bridge, would have been monstrous.
But this monster is already long loose and rampaging the countryside. It’s difficult to not recall Hurricane Katrina and the way the Superdome became the homeless shelter from hell for 30,000 of the city’s poorest residents. The Superdome, also funded by the public dime, became completely unfit for humanity in a few short hours. At the time, many — particularly in the Northern liberal media — cluck clucked at New Orleans and their “priorities.” But even in Minnesota, the Pohlad Dome has been given more thought, planning, and consideration than the very bridges families assume will remain upright. Even in Minnesota, as Nick Coleman of the Star Tribune wrote, “Both political parties have tried to govern on the cheap, and both have dithered and dallied and spent public wealth on stadiums while scrimping on the basics.” Even in Minnesota. That might be the most frightening epitaph of all. Even in Minnesota the Dome came first and the people last. Every community needs to take this to heart and tell politicians we will no longer worship false idols. It’s time to tear down the Domes.
Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming book: “Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports” (Haymarket). Contact him at [email protected]
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon