Posted on Mon, Jul. 24, 2006

[size=18px]Wilf spreadin' the non-news[/size]

Pioneer Press

The Vikings, Anoka County and the city of Blaine held a joint news conference last week to announce that there was no news.

The Vikings still want a new stadium. They still want it in Blaine. And Blaine and Anoka County still would like to have them there. Thanks for coming, everyone. Coffee and doughnuts are now being served.

This type of non-news conference is reminiscent of the fledgling Minnesota Wild, who in the three years between the time they were awarded a franchise and actually played a game, held roughly 4,384 news conferences.

"Thank you all for coming. The Minnesota Wild today announce that they have decided to add four more toilets on the lower concourse of the new arena."

Most of us were convinced that the Wild would become the first sports franchise to call a news conference for the sole purpose of announcing the dates of future news conferences.

It used to be that actual information had to be involved to schedule one of these things. Hence, the term "news" conference. But first the Wild and now the Vikings realize it's not about information. Instead, it's about keeping your name out there in front of the public.

Zygi Wilf wants everyone to remember that he really, really needs a new stadium. And even though the next legislative session isn't until January, Zygi is trying to keep his grand development plans for Anoka County in full public view.

If it were in my power, I would grant the Vikings a new stadium if they promise to stop talking about one until January. In fact, I'd grant them two.

Zygi is a beauty. First he meets with the Minneapolis mayor, with whom talk turns toward a downtown stadium — as if that's going to happen in a million years. Then virtually hours later, he meets with Blaine and Anoka County officials to announce that he remains committed to them, even though he won't rule out Minneapolis.

That flurry of activity got the words "Vikings" and "stadium" in the paper quite a few times, just in case anyone had forgotten how critical the situation is. That's a real public relations bonanza.

I understand the owner's sense of urgency. Currently, his Vikings have found favor with the public. Big money has been spent on free agents. New coach Brad Childress is experiencing a honeymoon period. This seems like a good time to gain public sympathy. With luck, that sympathy will carry over to the next legislative session.

But the Vikings are good for one major scandal a season. Plus, we don't even know if Childress — also known as "Little Andy" for his unceasing efforts to become a perfect copy of Andy Reid, his former boss with the Eagles — can coach. Come January, the team could be in one of the aforementioned toilets of which the Wild were so proud.

If the good will evaporates, so too might the political will to authorize a new stadium.

A terrible start, and the number of non-news conferences designed to highlight the stadium issue likely will dwindle. Right now, however, must seem like a great time to do extra-early campaigning. The team hasn't played a down and has been scandal-free for several months. That's like hitting the daily double.

The strategy now probably calls for Zygi to meet with the St. Paul mayor to discuss developing something or other, and then casually talking about building a stadium near Xcel. That will result in another non-news conference in Anoka County to confirm the status quo.

You can't buy publicity like this. Especially for doing nothing.

Tom Powers can be reached at [email protected]

Wilf spreadin' the non-news