Time for Vikings to deliver ultimatum
So how can it be that at Monday's House committee hearing, the first question asked of the Vikings' representative was this one by Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City:
"Why should the state of Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire owner?"
The answer should be obvious to Urdahl and everyone else in the state. But apparently, it isn't.
So, now that the committee's "no" vote later that evening likely has killed a stadium deal for another year (or maybe forever), it's time for the Vikings' owners to make their answer explicit.
It's time for the team to declare that if no deal is reached by a certain date, the Vikings will move to a new home outside of Minnesota.
Clearly, that's the reality lawmakers and voters alike need to face before a stadium deal will be reached.
The fact that Urdahl even could ask his question suggests he senses no urgency about the deal. In effect, he must think all the talk about the Vikings leaving is a bluff.
The Vikings themselves are partly to blame for this, because that talk has originated elsewhere, not with the team itself.
For years, the Vikings' owners have stayed coy about their intentions. They've refused to say they'll start entertaining offers from other markets if Minnesota doesn't come through.
This reluctance was understandable for a while. After all, issuing an ultimatum may have provoked a backlash in the Capitol and across the state.
But in hindsight, continuing the strategy this year was a mistake.
Among other things, it prevented the team's representatives from answering Urdahl directly at the hearing. That's a shame, because a direct answer could have clarified the situation for everyone:
"Why should Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire owner? Because if Minnesota doesn't, another state will," the representatives should have said.
"As others have pointed out, 'the supply of NFL teams is small, but demand for them is high.' And in markets of the Twin Cities' size, the cost of a getting or keeping a team tends to include taxpayers paying for some of the stadium's costs.
"I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is."
The Vikings have been patient; Minnesotans can see this for themselves. That means there's less threat of a backlash than there used to be: "There are no more reasons to tiptoe around skittish state leaders who root for the Vikings but won't commit public money to maintain their long-term presence," ESPN.com sportswriter Kevin Seifert wrote Tuesday.
"It's time for the Vikings to play their last remaining card, the one I'm surprised they haven't used already."
It's time for the team to tell the governor, the Legislature and Minnesota voters that the Vikings' presence is at stake.