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I’m Pissed Off!

May 10, 2012

I’m pissed off.

There’s a Gethsemane Episcopal Church in downtown Minneapolis and I drive by it on my way home from work every day. I don’t know anything about the church but I love the building. The architecture style is Late Gothic Revival and it looks like a castle. The building is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and I don’t know if this is unique to the architect, or the style or the church, but the building has a bright red door as well as a bright red bench outside.

That’s all neither here nor there, because I’m pissed, remember?

Many times when I drive past the church I see a homeless guy bundled up in a sleeping bag sleeping on that red bench. I see him too often to not believe that the church has said it’s all right for him to spend time on that bench sleeping. Maybe the church even takes care of him – feeds him, helps him, stuff like that – I don’t know, but I like that it seems as if he’s occasionally allowed to sleep there peacefully.

You thought I was pissed, right? Well, I am.

So here’s this guy who can’t afford a bed and he sleeps on a hard wooden bench outside of a church, right? And here’s this church that helps this unfortunate guy, right? When I put them together, while I feel bad for the guy, I don’t feel quite so bad for him because he’s getting some comfort. I feel good about the church, and driving past it makes me feel sort of happy.

So if you feel happy, what the heck are you talking about here and why are you pissed?

I’m pissed because I can’t spit lately without hearing about a new $1 billion stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. A new stadium that, the last I heard, will have the state paying $348 million and the city of Minneapolis paying $150 million and the remainder being covered by Zygi Wilf, the team’s owner.

In reality, while it’s a lot of money, it’s maybe not as bad as it sounds because as I understand it, the state will pay for its portion through an expansion in charitable gambling (electronic pull tabs and bingo) and the city through a redirecting – or “repurposing” if you want the official political word – of the taxes the city collects through a general sales tax, a lodging tax and a liquor and restaurant tax, from paying for the Minneapolis Convention Center (a building I thought was losing a lot of money each year even with the tax money) to paying for the Minneapolis Convention Center and paying for the new stadium. There’s also a chance now that the Vikings owner could bring a professional soccer team to town which, in my opinion, is a good thing. Any additional costs to the stadium that would be needed to accommodate a soccer franchise – like a retractable roof – would be covered by the Vikings. The additional $40 million for a retractable roof shouldn’t be much of a financial burden for the team since they retain naming rights and can impose seat licensing fees and will more than likely raise ticket prices. So, bottom line, unless I’m missing something, it doesn’t sound like the new stadium will become a financial burden for Minnesota taxpayers.

It’s not the financing solution I would have preferred, but since I don’t live, shop or play in Minneapolis, it doesn’t seem like I’ll be affected financially. What I don’t like about this whole thing is that for the last however many years, I’ve been hearing about the necessity for a new stadium, about the potential financial ruin the state will face if the Vikings should leave town and about the many different options to fund the stadium with my – a non football fan who couldn’t care less about the game or the local team – money. I’ve heard from people who have said the stadium is necessary to create jobs for the state and these are the same people who told me that President Obama’s stimulus bill and government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler back in 2009 were bad things and would not create jobs. I’ve heard from fans and politicians and team executives and pundits and commentators and finally I’ve gotten to my point and here’s why I’m pissed: while everyone is busy talking about a billion dollar bailout for a billionaire professional sports team owner, not one of those people who are talking to me from every angle imaginable have talked to me about that one guy sleeping on the red bench outside of the Gethsemane Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis. Yeah, you’re right. Because of that one guy, I’m pissed off.

In response to the Minnesota Vikings proposed $477 million contribution to their new stadium, team president Lester Bagley said, “It is a heavy lift. But it’s the right thing to do for Minnesota.” A heavy lift. I’m sorry, but a heavy lift is filling up your car with gas and going to the grocery store and still being able to afford luxuries like paying for your health insurance and your rent/mortgage, and maybe – maybe – having something left over to rent a movie with or drop into your retirement plan, but I’ll ignore that comment and just ask Mr. Bagley if providing food, healthcare and a place to sleep for people sleeping on red benches outside of churches in downtown Minneapolis is also the right thing to do for Minnesota? To me, it is. And to me, funding a workplace for a billionaire sports team owner and his multi-millionaire athletes when people are hungry and food shelves are running out of food and people are sleeping on red benches,  is not the right thing to do.

The Vikings say the 30-year-old Metrodome has outlived its usefulness and I don’t deny that it probably has. But I wonder about the usefulness of a guy sleeping on a red bench outside of a church and why no one – from billionaire sports team owners to talk show hosts to ambitious politicos focused only on reelection – seems to think about him or his usefulness as a human being.

A human being just like me and you.

There, but for the grace of God…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2012 11:17 am

    Have a blessed day Michael… this too shall pass.


  2. Word Nerd permalink
    May 10, 2012 1:01 pm

    YES! My guess is that the man on the bench would agree with you, too.

    The Cubs are pushing for financial backing for Wrigley Field, too. If I’m not mistaken, teams and stadiums aren’t city, state, or country owned but are instead private ventures. As such, I think they should fund their own remodeling/rebuilding projects, dip into their own pockets.


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