FROM THE MOST POPULAR CITY IN THE COUNTRY -- In the late 1970s, one of Minnesota's favorite sons issued a warning that haunts its citizens to this day. This state, thundered Hubert H. Humphrey, would be nothing more than a "cold Omaha" without its professional sports teams. Since then, taxpayers have doled out more than $1 billion in public funds to retain their Vikings and Twins, as well as to replace the departed Minneapolis Lakers and Minnesota North Stars.
It was with that unique blend of insecurity and ambition that Minnesotans celebrated the NFL's unexpected decision Tuesday to award Super Bowl LII to the Twin Cities. The reaction in the Minnesota board room -- you can watch the squealing, jumping and awkward high-fives here -- illustrated the ingrained belief that sports had once again elevated the region into play with the big boys.
I've lived here for 15 years and can tell you with certainty that this announcement shot a charge into the populace. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area is the country's 13th-largest market. It's fueled by high-quality public education and stocked with elite corporate headquarters from Target to Best Buy to 3M. But being awarded one of the world's premier sporting events will engender civic pride in a way nothing else could.
As a friend and longtime local likes to say on such occasions: "They like us! They really like us!"
Of course, most reasoned observers understand what happened here. At their first opportunity, NFL owners rewarded a region that contributed $498 million in public money for a stadium that will open for the 2016 season.
My thought was that owners would grant a sentimental nod toward New Orleans, which will celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2018, and then slot Minnesota for Super Bowl LIII in 2019. If anything, though, I underestimated the league's desire to reinforce the reward due any municipality that enters a public-private partnership for a new stadium. That message should be heard in San Diego, where the Chargers have been unable to elicit public help, and makes you wonder if New Orleans will need to build a new stadium to host another Super Bowl.
Regardless, it took only a few moments to boil down Tuesday's post-announcement narrative: Minnesota taxpayers bought the Super Bowl. Why else would the league award a week-long event to a region with temperatures that routinely hover in the single digits during January and February?
This explanation will hit Minnesotans hard. This is no cold Omaha, we're trying to tell you. We are a big league city and we are hearty and are never more defensive than when people make fun of our weather.
Lest anyone think otherwise, Minnesotans will be motivated to make good on the themes embedded in the state's bid presentation. We'll want people to see how we embrace winter with fun outdoor activities such as the St. Paul Winter Carnival. (It's a real thing.) We'll want you to know about the really cool and hip people who live here. Skier Lindsey Vonn -- born in Minnesota, resident of Colorado -- provided a video testimonial. You'll like us. You'll really like us. We paid dearly for it.