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 #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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