The Metrodome and I are almost the same age. I came about in 1981 and the Metrodome opened for business less than a year later. And judging from how I felt after playing two hours of soccer last night, we're both just as creaky and smelly.
The Vikings PR department would like you to believe that the Metrodome is hallowed ground. There have been countless articles by local media that have counted down the top moments in the stadium's history. After all, it's the only building that has hosted a World Series, MLB All-Star Game, Final Four, and Super Bowl. That's pretty impressive, even if the NFL team that played in the Metrodome for the past 32 seasons never made it to that last event while the Dome was around.
What's more impressive is that the Metrodome lasted 32 seasons in the first place. Kevin Seifert wrote an excellent article on how the building was an architectural and engineering marvel in all the wrong ways. He explains how it was pretty amazing that the roof lasted all the way until 2010 before collapsing.
Ted has already told you that he'll be glad to see the Metrodome go, mostly because he's old and crotchety and misses the good old days of Met Stadium where you had to walk uphill in three feet of snow both ways to get to your seats and if you were wimpy enough to wear gloves to the game Bud Grant would find you and personally punch you in the face.
While I don't quite share Ted's disdain for the place, I think calling the Dome a classic monument to sports history is almost as dumb as calling it "Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome". My feelings for the Dome can be summarized by the modern philosopher Rod Farva from Super Troopers at 3:21 of this clip:
To paraphrase: "I guess that's it for the old Dome, huh? She stinks like ass but I'll sure miss her." The Dome is a decrepit piece of crap but it's nearly all I know in my lifetime of Minnesota sports fandom. I have seen at least 50 Vikings games, over 100 Twins games, a couple Timberwolves games, an NCAA Basketball Tournament opening round, a handful of state high school football games, and a partridge in a pear tree there. Almost every live sports memory I have, both positive and negative, was created at the Metrodome. I'm glad to move on but
Favra's Locker the Dome will always hold a special place in my heart. That's why I felt obligated to send it off in person on Sunday, even if the game between the Vikings and Lions is largely meaningless. (Full disclosure: the free tickets from my friend and my wife's cousin's awesome tailgating setup may have helped to influence that decision.)
I also felt obligated to go to the game because I have attended the final games of the last two Vikings head coaches. I was there for Mike Tice's last game in 2005, a meaningless victory over the playoff-bound Bears that were resting their starters. I was there for Brad Childress' last game in 2010, a 31-3 embarrassment at the hands of the Packers that finally sent Mr. Noodle packing. So it only seems fitting that I'll be at Leslie Frazier's last game, which almost poetically comes against yet another NFC North opponent.
Of course Frazier might not be the only head coach sent packing after the game. Jim Schwartz is probably getting his walking papers after failing to lead his team to the playoffs even when every (collarbone) break was going his team's way this season. Schwartz has led the Lions to exactly one playoff appearance in his five seasons with the team. He did take over a team that went 0-16 the year before he got there, but going 29-50 with the talent he's had on the Detroit roster isn't going to cut it.
Since neither team could cut it this season, actually previewing the game in detail this week seems kind of pointless, doesn't it? Calvin Johnson probably isn't going to play. In fact, just about everyone on either team with any sort of nagging injury probably isn't going to play. Even Adrian Peterson. AP is usually programmed, er, dedicated to play no matter how low the stakes are, but he's still listed as doubtful. (On the bright side, that means we'll probably get another game full of Matt Asiata doing his best Leroy Hoard impression.) So instead of worrying about X's and O's or stats on Sunday, enjoy the last chapter of many rather forgettable eras. Savor the last "meaningful" Vikings game you'll see for over eight months. Appreciate the hustle of players auditioning for potential new teams and contracts. Just don't get too riled up about the final score unless you think one last Vikings loss will be the difference for the team snagging that crucial franchise-changing player in the draft.
But since this is technically a picks article, I still have to make a prediction. Feel free to treat this guess in the same manner I plan on treating the Metrodome troughs one last time on Sunday.
Prediction: Vikings 30, Lions 28
And now for the rest of my Week 17 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):
Panthers over FALCONS: Carolina is going to finish eight games ahead of Atlanta, just like everybody predicted.
BENGALS over Ravens: You better kill them off now, Cincy. Don't keep Baltimore alive for another miracle playoff run. Maybe if I give your team the final Gratuitous Picture of the Week of the regular season it'll give your team the good karma it needs to bury the 2013 Ravens for good?
STEELERS over Browns: My Survivor Pool pick of the week, still eliminated only four times over (12-4) after the Chargers won last week. So far the "Steelers are in if they win and everyone else loses" scenario is still alive if my picks are right!
DOLPHINS over Jets: OK never mind.
TITANS over Texans: Houston was 12-2 last year before their game against Minnesota. Since then they've gone 3-16. Sometimes it's really, really hard to get that Vikings stink off of you.
COLTS over Jaguars: I have absolutely no idea what to think of the Colts heading into the playoffs. At this point they could go to the AFC Championship Game or lose by 40 in the first round and neither would surprise me that much.
GIANTS over Redskins: Drink every time they cut to a shot of a sullen Robert Griffin III on the sidelines looking like he's putting on a good face for his team while secretly wanting to strangle Mike Shanahan.
PATRIOTS over Bills: "Buffalo always plays New England tough" gets trumped by "Thad Lewis is starting for Buffalo".
Packers over BEARS: Dammit, Chicago. It's all your fault. You could have wrapped up the division last week but instead you left piles of feces all over Lincoln Financial Field. Now you're going to lose to the Packers and we're all going to have to deal with a full week of every talking head screaming "THE PACKERS ARE TOTALLY DANGEROUS WITH AARON RODGERS BACK!" I didn't think it was possible to be upset about a Bears loss, but you proved me wrong.
CHARGERS over Chiefs: Kansas City will be too busy looking at Colts game film to care about this one.
SEAHAWKS over Rams: Time for Seattle to start a new home winning streak.
SAINTS over Buccaneers: Time for New Orleans to realize that this is probably their last home game of the year, which means this is probably their second-to-last game of the year.
Eagles over COWBOYS: It's sad that Tony Romo's injury robbed us of making fun of him for another Week 17 do-or-die failure. Of course we could hold out hope that Kyle Orton leads the Cowboys to victory, but I'm afraid not even Ol' Neckbeard will be able to give us that narrative.
So once my picks this week go 16-0, here's what the playoff picture will look like*:
Byes: Denver, New England
Wild Card: Miami @ Cincinnati, Kansas City @ Indianapolis
Byes: Seattle, Carolina
Wild Card: New Orleans @ Philadelphia, San Francisco @ Green Bay
* = I have gone 17-15 over the last two weeks with my picks. The actual playoff picture will probably look nothing like this.
Last week: 9-7
Season so far: 154-85-1