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Why hot air balloons and football games are a bad idea

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A flashback to the Metropolitan Stadium days

2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images for Lumix

While social media, by and large, is relatively awful, every once in a while you come across something that’s actually kind of informative.

This happened last night when one of the columns in my Tweetdeck popped up with a random retweet of something illustrating an incident involving the Minnesota Vikings that I, honestly, hadn’t heard of until now.

The Vikings were hosting the San Francisco 49ers in December of 1969. The pre-game festivities featured a few different entertainers, but there was one in particular that I’m guessing anyone that was in attendance that afternoon still hasn’t forgotten.

Here’s a retelling of the story from Joe Soucheray, then a writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

On Dec. 14, 1969, an 11-year-old named Ricky Snyder and his mom climbed into the family’s red-and-white-striped hot-air balloon gondola at halftime of a Vikings-San Francisco game. They were to float only the length of the field at Metropolitan Stadium, to promote the upcoming St. Paul Winter Carnival balloon race.

Five men were holding a 200-foot mooring line, but when the balloon didn’t rise, Mrs. Snyder hopped out to lighten its load and the balloon jerked upward mightily, the mooring line now dangling free. And there went the kid, Ricky, just missing the left-field light towers, on his journey across southeast Bloomington.

It turned out that Ricky had flown a few times but never without a tether. The fans in the stadium could not see what was happening. And a crew frantically ran out to the parking lot to assemble a chase crew.

Ricky was cool and collected. He guided the balloon to a splashdown in the Minnesota River, about three miles away. The basket tipped on its side when it hit the water and Ricky swam 25 yards to shore, where an unidentified motorist picked him up and took him back to the stadium, where one of the Vikings doctors checked him out and said, “He’s OK.”

I guess this is as good an argument for a stadium with a roof on it as any.

Now, 1969 was before my time as a fan of the Vikings, in large part because 1969 was also before my time of being alive on this planet. So, I was wondering if any of the “old guard” among our readers remembers this incident. I’m sure it would have been something to see.