If there really is such a thing as a catbird seat, he's sitting in it.
A couple days ago, Vikings VP of Stadium Affairs Lester Bagley let it be known that there is a 'mystery city' that has contacted the Vikings about maybe moving there if/when the Vikings lease at the Metrodome runs out, and the Vikings pack up and leave.
I've tried to approach this story from a funny, disembodied heads angle using some core players and the Scooby Doo gang, but man, that approach is terrible. Way not funny. Well, the opening is pretty funny, but the rest is flat out dumb.
So then I decided that maybe this needed a more serious approach, seeing as how the Vikings leaving would be a huge deal. And I can join at the hip my two nightmare scenarios, one of which has already come true: Albert Pujols leaving the Cardinals, and the Vikings leaving Minnesota.
Both the Pujols negotiations and the upcoming Vikings negotiations will probably take on many of the same aspects, so let's see how this plays out--or even if this mystery city even exists.
I know there probably aren't a lot of baseball fans on a Vikings site, and if you are, there's even less a chance that you're a St. Louis Cardinals fan. But the free agent signing of Pujols by the Angels is a case study in 'mystery teams' and what they can do to wreak havoc on negotiations.
A little background: Albert Pujols is the most iconic player in St. Louis Cardinals history besides the beloved Stan 'The Man' Musial, and it seemed that the Cardinals would have the inside track to re-sign him to a contract that would keep him in St. Louis for the rest of his career. There was an aggressive push by the
Florida Miami Marlins to sign Pujols away, and it looked like a real possibility that he would. However, the Cardinals apparently matched their offer and when I went to bed Wednesday night it seemed that Albert was getting ready to re-sign with St. Louis.
But while we slept Wednesday, which coincidentally was Pearl Harbor Day, a 'mystery team' entered into the sweepstakes, and eventually came in with an offer that blew St. Louis out of the water, and now Pujols is a Los Angels Angel of Anaheim. The Angels came out of nowhere, gave Pujols a Godfather offer, and he is on his way to SoCal.
Is there a Mystery City and will they give Wilf an offer he can't refuse?
So, if we look at this from a free agent player negotiation, let's assume that Los Angeles will be a player for the Vikings, along with Mystery City. And of course, Minnesota is the team that currently owns the player.
Minnesota hasn't really done anything to show Wilf that his franchise is valued and wanted--to the contrary, politicians have gone out of the way to get stadium deals done for the Twins and Gophers...kind of like the Cardinals did in getting deals done for Matt Holliday and re-done for Chris Carpenter...and have sat idly by while the state of Minnesota has done nothing but muddy the waters in regards to getting a new stadium.
The state would be wise to get a deal done, because once the Vikings hit free agency, the bidding war for an NFL franchise will make the Pujols negotiations look like nickel and dime stuff. We know that Los Angeles will have deep pockets and bring in a good offer, much like the Miami Marlins did for Pujols.
But what of this Mystery City? There are a few options as to who this Mystery City is: Stalking Horse, a town like San Antonio, Portland, or Las Vegas, or a city that will allow the NFL to go international. Let's look at these options, and see what we can see, if anything.
Stalking Horse: A stalking horse offer is usually associated with bankruptcy, but it's essentially the owner trying to set the market by trying to make other possible suitors think that there will be a bidding war, and it essentially gets one suitor overbidding to maximize the amount of money the owner can get. Is that a possibility here? Yes, but an NFL franchise hitting the open market doesn't happen very often, so I'd be surprised if one or more cities besides LA don't get involved. Unlike Minnesota, these cities see the value and prestige of having an NFL franchise, and I would bet Wilf will have multiple offers before this is over.
City With An Existing NFL Team: Right now, the only two cities that really qualify are Jacksonville and...wait for it...St. Louis. Nobody was really happy when the Rams left LA back in the early 90's and came to St. Louis, and there are rumblings here that the Rams want a new stadium or they'll pull up stakes. It's not nearly at the stage the Vikings are at, but it's a possibility. The Jaguars have long been the other NFL team rumored to move along with the Vikings, and both the Rams and Jags were bought by new owners--and the new Jags owner is from Illinois, near St. Louis. So I could see an NFL shell game where the Rams move back to LA, the Jags go to St. Louis, and the Vikes go to Jacksonville. But the only problem with that, near that I can tell, is the timing. The Vikes can move come February. I think Jacksonville and and St. Louis aren't able to move that quickly, so I think this shellgame is a longshot. Now, I will say this: If Minnesota is stupid enough to let the Vikings walk, about the only scenario where I can see myself remaining a fan of the team is if they move to St. Louis. But that isn't happening.
City With No NFL Team: Really, about the only two cities that qualify would be Portland, OR, and San Antonio, TX. There are a couple problems with that, though. Portland falls within Seattle's territory, sort of, and Paul Allen might not like someone moving in to his territory. And if Portland might be a problem with Paul Allen, I think Jerry Jones would be none too pleased with another NFL franchise setting up shop 300 miles from Dallas. With Portland, though, you could move the Vikings to the NFC West, the Rams to the NFC North, and you keep geographic continuity. Move them to San Antonio, and you'll have a geographic nightmare.
The International Option: If there's a real stalking horse option, I think this might be it. The NFL has been itching to go international for a few years, and a game in London is an annual event. I personally think that these continual forays into London are to get used to teams traveling internationally, and to keep working the bugs out. And if the NFL is going to go international, London is the perfect location. With a population of around 13,000,000, that becomes the third largest market in the NFL, and opens up an entire freaking, sports crazed continent to the National Football League. With a franchise with a storied pedigree and relative success that the Vikings have had, with stars like Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson, and up and an up and coming player like Christian Ponder, it would be the perfect opportunity for the NFL to launch and go global.
Look, at the end of the day I want the Vikes to stay in Minnesota, but it becomes clearer with each passing day that the Vikings moving is more and more a reality. And looking at possible landing locations is something we must, unfortunately, do.