Since my childhood the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, North Stars, Wild, Gopher football and basketball teams, and even the Swarm have had one thing in common. They all played under a roof. Watching football and baseball under the yellowing canvas of the Metrodome had a comforting nostalgia akin to sitting in a backyard tent with your childhood friends on a hot summer day. Thus my experience at TCF Bank Stadium momentarily brought on a feeling of something else: agoraphobia.
agoraphobia: An abnormal fear of open or public places. (from TheFreeDictionary.com)
No, I didn't actually have a panic attack. But while I've been to bowl games in open air stadiums and outdoor stadiums such as Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, I wasn't prepared to walk into an open air stadium here in Minnesota. The roar of the flyover by a team of fighter pilots solidified the reality of the experience.
The unbearably long lines at the alcohol-free concession stands were the only drawback of the evening. Apparently there weren't any digital cash registers, and all calculations were being done by hand. The lost revenue due to long lines likely would have paid for the digital cash registers twofold. There's almost always a hitch to publicly funded projects: The Twins will play in the Metrodome but we can't afford to build a bullpen; We can build Interstate 35E through St. Paul but you can only go 45 miles per hour; We'll put a statue of Herb Brooks outside of the Excel Center but it will only be four feet tall. Fortunately, the concession stand inadequacies could be fixed by this Saturday. Not bad for my only complaint of the first game in a brand new stadium.
Sometimes you have to see it to believe it. Years of being an indoor domesticated fan had conditioned me to expect a tent-ish enclosed sports environment, a less than exuberant crowd, and a gameday experience that struck me as somehow inferior to those of other games on television. Well, this indoor domesticated fan has been let out of doors.
Everything about the TCF Bank Stadium experience was big. The 100 foot scoreboard looked like a 60 inch LCD television on my wall. The home crowd was the largest I've ever seen at a Gopher football game. The student section was completely full. The victory was a big win for the program. The fireworks were bigger than the glorified sparklers that I'd grown accustomed to in the Metrodome. And you could look up at that big, open, endless sky if you so dared.
So, how long does it take an indoor domesticated fan to go feral once released into the open? Perhaps a sustained wild fan base will be the next stage in Gopher football history.