Ode to the Metrodome

Think for a moment about the parallels between the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome and the Space Shuttle.

Both are white.
Both are made of technologically impressive materials.
Both are creatures of late-70s liberal values.
Both represent a technocratic achievement of the highest magnitude.
Both are designed to be flexible and re-usable.
Both feature advanced hydraulic systems (e.g. pitcher's mound, satellite bay arm) and a pressurized artificial atmosphere.
Both offer awkward views of beautiful things (baseball, Earth).
Both have seen moments of triumph and moments of complete failure.
Both forcefully eject you when you open the door (which is far less pleasant in space, mind you).

And in the 21st century, both are unsexy and obsolete, abandoned by the societies around them. Both have been mothballed and/or destroyed. Both have seen their egalitarian pragmatism phased out, replaced by elite speculative fancy (luxury boxes, space tourism).

It is fitting that the last day of the Metrodome be a remorseless gray winter one. It's not that I love the building, or find myself fond of it. The dome represents both good and horrible aspects of our particular strain of Minnesotan modernism. On the one hand, you have practical efficiency, a culture of sharing (for post-industrial capitalism, anyway) with all seats being equal, except for those that aren't, but even they aren't all that great...

I've lots of fond memories. I grew up going to baseball games. I remember being at the '85 All Star Game. I remember chanting during Game One of the '87 ALCS, when the Twins scored four on Doyle Alexander, the Tiger's ace. I was with my sister  in the left field nose bleeds during Game Seven of the '91 series (best Series ever) when soon to be non-Hall of Famer Jack Morris was famously stubborn. In that era, we used to sit just over the general admission line in left field, moving closer at some point during the 5th or 6th inning. Sometimes, my brother and I would circumnavigate the dome like Magellan, going up to the top of the upper deck and gradually walking all the way around the half-empty place.

Later during the 2000s, I camped myself in Section 212 for five-dollars-a-game to see Johan Santana's filthy change-up. I remember watching Torii hunter slam himself into the outfield wall trying to rob another dinger in the 8th inning of a blowout against the A-Rod era Rangers. Tee sound of his body reverberated through the clunky outfield. For a while I had a friend who had a friend who worked for the Twins, and he'd get us tickets to Royals games behind home plate, sitting with the players wives. (According to him, Mientkeiwicz's wife was the hottest one...) I was there are the Knoblauch hot dog game, I saw Matt Garza's debut, and Corky Miller's only at bat. I've also been to one Vikings game (the '08 playoff loss against the Eagles), a few Gopher football games (including one in a luxury box provided by the U). There's a appealing simplicity to the building that seems out of place in the 21st century. The Metrodome is DOS prompt internet, a glamourless world of disembodiment that requires a charitable imagination. We're not to see its like again.

On the other hand, I'm still not fond of the place.  Andy Sturdevant recently called the Metrodome "sterile, in the non pejorative sense," but I wish to embrace the pejorative. The building embodies the Minnesotan fascination with escape and artifice. Like the skyways and the 'dale malls, the Metrodome is a statement of self-loathing, an abdication of our environment. We will replace the sky and make it average! We will create ourselves a grey and tasteless San Diego. I loathe this strain of the Minneapolis psyche.

[Alien crash site on top. "Take me to your leeeder" on bottom.]

At this moment, it's tempting to declare the death of the Dome to be the beginning of the end of Minnesotan techno-modernism. It'd be nice to watch the building demolished, preferably by monster trucks (Sunday! Sunday! Sunnn-dayyyy!) and think, no more will we attempt to escape ourselves, replace our world and its sometimes extreme diversity with false techno-babble fantasy.

The problem is that its replacement will be no improvement. If the Metrodome is a space shuttle of egalitarian self-delusion, the new stadium is an otherworldy post-modern intrusion. The new stadium resembles nothing if not an alien spaceship crashing into a distant planet with half-hostile intentions. It will be equally atmospherically false, only far better guarded. It will have advanced technology, and harbor a race with strange hierarchical codes that our people will not understand. I fear it will sit like un-exploded ordinance for generations, making me miss the days of the vast white marshmallow techno-bubble surrounded by faded asphalt.


1 comment:

Shovelfoot said...

Thanks to MLB video licensing I will never have a true visual of the Chuck Knoblauch Hot Dog incident.