L.A. Vikings? Not So Fast

For the last seven years, Vikings fans have been worried that their franchise is being dangled as bait for an open market in Los Angeles. But those fears may take a back seat to a NFL city in much more trouble -- giving the league its team in L.A., but only having to move team personnel up the California coast.

Vikings fans that have been fearful of the team bolting to Los Angeles have had the same fears ever since Red McCombs bought the team in 1998. While those fears weren't put to rest when New Jersey's Zygi Wilf bought the team, news coming from out west may be welcomed for those who have been nervously chattering "the sky is falling."

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders – an unknown in NFL circles until Friday – went on record to say Friday that the city "can't do a new stadium" for the Chargers, whose lease expires at their existing facility after the 2008 season. The Chargers have been given a legitimate "out" to their deal if the ownership is willing to pay $60 million in city bonds for infrastructure improvements and stadium leases. Considering that L.A., the second-largest media market in the country and a pre-disposed landing spot for some NFL team, is available, $60 million is little more than a parking ticket away from sending the Chargers to the City of Angels.

Fortunately for Vikings fans, San Diego is a city in crisis. According to the local media, the city has a $1.4 billion (yes, billion) deficit in its city employee pension benefit program. They're scrambling. Advantage NFL.

With other potential franchise drop sites to L.A. falling by the wayside – the Cards are staying put in Arizona, no right-thinking legislator in Indiana is going to let the Colts go and the Saints are practically obligated to stay in New Orleans until the next hurricane – the malaise in San Diego is good news for Minnesota.

Ironically, the first olive branch being extended to the Chargers has come from San Antonio, which played host to the Saints when they were displaced. If you listen closely, you can probably hear Red McCombs saying he will get back involved in the NFL. But, the league has a mandate to get the NFL back into L.A. and now they have an opening.

Hopefully, this won't be an opportunity for election-year Minnesota politicians to make a campaign stand against a Vikings stadium. The new U of M college football stadium is all but passed and a Twins stadium deal is working its way through channels nicely. The Vikings are third on the list and that isn't going to change. Being an election year, those with knowledge of the high feelings about public funding for private enterprise likely would find it difficult to stand up and take a stand in favor of state funding for a new stadium for the Vikes. Call it timing or call it politics, the Vikings stadium proposal has always been thought of as an odd-year proposal – when neither senators nor congressmen are up for re-election. The economic impact that "Zygi-land" would have on the area is enormous and most legislators likely see the viability of the Northern Lights complex.

The downside to the problems in San Diego is that it may give those with an agenda against public funding of stadiums a reprieve from the NFL's hammer over the State Legislature when it comes to dictating policy.

If the Minnesota politicians take a moment to reflect on how much economic impact having the NFL means to the state merely in taxes paid by the players and team personnel as workers in the state, they will get a deal done. If the Chargers are now the franchise that can put a gun to the head of local officials, so be it. The NFL has it out to put a team in L.A., but it shouldn't change the ideology of business in Minnesota. Without the Vikings, the Twin Cities are little more than Omaha with more stop lights.

Thank you, San Diego. Los Angeles already has "our" Lakers – last time we checked there aren't many lakes in Los Angeles. The L.A. Vikings doesn't make sense. San Diego lost the Clippers. Now they might lose the Chargers. As long as Minnesota legislators can see that they've been given a break, all is good. Better them than us, as the saying goes.

SATURDAY NOTES
* The Brett Favre Watch took an interesting turn Friday. As it stands, the Packers are in line to take Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk with the fifth pick in the draft. From what VU has been told, the hope was to sign free agent linebacker LaVar Arrington and use the fifth pick to take Maryland TE Vernon Davis to persuade Favre to come back. Unfortunately for the green and gold faithful, Arrington said Friday he has no intention of signing with the Pack. That's got to leave a mark.
* From the Poison Pill Department comes this – on the final day for teams to offer restricted free agents contracts, the Bears made Panthers cornerback Ricky Manning a five-year, $21 million offer. But, the offer is pretty well as advertised – the Bears opted out of making it a deal the Panthers couldn't match. The Panthers have until draft weekend eve to match or decline – expect to see the team wait until the last possible moment to make a decision.
* The Texans have begun contract talks with both Reggie Bush and Mario Williams. Nice in theory, but more of the NFL subterfuge that surrounds the draft these days. With no trade offers coming, if anyone believes the Texans are taking Williams, they're drinking their own bath water. Bush and Texas have been synonymous for decades. Why should that change.
* Attorneys for Fred Smoot and Bryant McKinnie asked that charges against their clients be dropped. While it might be the prudent thing to do from the financial perspective for prosecutors – defendants rarely have the financial resources to fight against those bringing charges – don't expect to see the charges dismissed. The judge hearing the appeals is expected to act within the next two weeks.

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