Why I volunteered for Super Bowl week

Twenty-five years ago today, I showed up at Minnesota Public Radio for my first job interview.

I knew nothing, really, about Minnesota other than Hubert Humphrey, Gene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, Garrison Keillor, and a meatpacker strike that killed a classmate who was covering it for ABC News.

I wasn’t sure if the fact that I was in flyover country was a sign that my once-promising career was going up or going down. It’s an East Coast thing.

After another trip and a long-wait for a simple answer (it’s a Minnesota thing), MPR hired me and I left my family for a month of living out of the Roseville Motel 6 and getting to know the editorial process of what was then just a radio station.

This is a tough place for newcomers. I used to say “Minnesota is cold and the weather is chilly, too.”

But you can warm to a place over 25 years and at some point it became my state, quirks and all.

Minnesota has been good to me and my family and as I watch the naked hatred sweep across the nation and dismantle its goodness acre by acre, I feel an enormous pride in what’s left of the Minnesota Miracle. It’s still what makes the state a unique patch of ground — the inherent decency a force field that may still repel the threat.

That’s why I signed up to volunteer during Super Bowl week next winter, a week in which the rich will fly in and go to the head of the line, that the NFL will make a bundle on thanks to a still-secret deal between local officials and the league, and that the stadium shakedown of taxpayers will reap its ultimate reward for the Vikings’ owners, their politician enablers, and the NFL.

The volunteers will get no pay; they’ll get a parka and a bag of swag, and that’s fine with me. If I get my way, I’ll stand at an airport or on a cold sidewalk and say “hello” to strangers, and ask them if I can help them and say, “welcome to my state.” Pretty much the same thing I did when I volunteered in my off-hours at the Minnesota State Fair for a local radio station.

In other words, I want to be very unMinnesotan for a week. I want to be welcoming to strangers just because I can be. We all can be even if we have to fake it.

Billionaire partners in thriving corporation seek free labor for annual party,” City Pages’ headline said this week.

“Crew 52” is asking for registrants to commit to “three or more shifts,” four to six hours each, in a “rewarding, yet demanding role.” Qualified volunters should be “outgoing and knowledgeable about Minnesota,” “willing to be flexible and help in all areas,” and like doing favors for rich people.

About that “all areas” part: Not quite all areas. “PLEASE NOTE,” reads a giant qualifier atop the volunteer plea: “We will not require any volunteer support inside U.S. Bank Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.”

Well, duh. If you let these volunteers into the stadium on game day, they wouldn’t have to buy a ticket, which will probably go for something like $5,000, average. You can’t go giving things out to people. Who do these peasants think they are? The NFL?

That’s one way to look at it, obviously.

Here’s another: I want people to think we’re a nice place with friendly people. I want them to go home thinking this niceness and helping others is something worth passing along, that maybe this Minnesota thing can spread.

I wouldn’t be doing it for the Vikings or the NFL. I’d be doing it for my home, for a state that’s been good to me and my family for 25 years.

Sure, the visitors will ask what visitors to Minnesota always ask us, “How can you people live here?”

“How can I not?” I’ll tell them.

I’ll tell them my story, how to get to where they want to go, wish them a pleasant stay and send them away with a final thought.

“Go, Patriots!”

Some things even 25 years in Minnesota can’t change.

  • Rob

    O.K., Bob C. Uh, whatever. Have a nice time. (scratching head)

      • Rob

        Not sure how a “different strokes” comment merits the intimation of being a hater. Have a wonderful day, BC.

        • Please see the last line of the leprechaun post.

          • Rob

            So why not just say that? The “hate” clip suggests that you didn’t follow your own advice, and took my commitment too seriously.

          • Good lord, man. It was a joke.


      • Jim in RF

        That’s a pretty strong reaction to a disagreement.

        • Please see the last line on the leprechaun post.

          • Jim in RF

            gotcha.I take it back. All is good. (But I’m still not supporting the carpet-bagging Wilfs.)

  • MrE85

    The Super Bowl was looking for Mary Richards, instead they got a Lou Grant.
    Kidding aside, you’ll make a fine volunteer. You may even get a story lead or two out of this experience. Have fun.

  • Mike Worcester

    I probably won’t volunteer, but bless you for being willing to do so, especially in the role you described. If the Patriots do end up again in the big game, will you be allowed to wear your Pat’s hoodie? 🙂

  • Thomas Mercier

    Maybe in retirement you can aspire to be one of the info desk people at MSP.

    • Cool idea. Do they get free parkas?

      • Bob Sinclair

        Definitely lots of swag!

  • Dane Smith

    Initially, I was in the City Pages mindset- why not pay people for this? But you’ve shown me that perhaps with volunteers they’ll attract only the most passionate people for a very front-facing representation of the state as a whole. Very similar to the Minneapolis DID (http://www.mplsdid.com/) program, which I’ve always thought was a great asset to the city.

    Maybe you and others (maybe me!) can erase collective memory of the last time the super bowl was here…

  • Jeff

    I’m not sure I’d survive the interview and background check but then I’d get a coat and a polo and the opportunity to work side by side with Bob and Chad Greenway (he seems like a nice guy). What else is there to do in February anyways? Alas I don’t think the Vikings will be there, I’m not encouraged by their free agency moves.

  • Mike

    Everyone knows the Packers will play in the first Super Bowl in our shiny new symbol of corporate-government corruption. 😉

    • Jack Ungerleider

      So you’re saying Packers vs. Patriots? It would be fun if it was Chiefs or Raiders vs Packers as a throw back to the early AFL/NFL games. (Can’t have Jets/Colts and Vikings/Chiefs would be too depressing for the home fans. 😉

  • Jack Ungerleider

    Good for you. I won’t volunteer for the Super Bowl. but my regular volunteer gig may bring me into contact with some of those visitors if they venture to the east and visit the Science Museum. One of the great experiences working as a public face in a venue like SMM, especially during the summer vacation/holiday season, is meeting people from all over the US and the world who come to the museum when I’m there.

    Have fun!

  • MikeB

    So your quibbles are overcome by your generosity? That’s a lousy example you’re providing.

  • Jim in RF

    Convincing, but I’m still with the City Pages on this one. Not going to be co-opted by the man no matter how many flowers he throws. Gazillionaires with a monopoly.

    • Well, make sure you don’t say “hello” to anyone during that week or help anyone who’s lost. Wouldn’t want to enable the Wilfs.

      • Jim in RF

        I probably won’t make it out of the bunker…

  • crystals

    Team Bob.

  • John

    I wonder if there will be any good deals on flights out of MSP that week. Seems like a good time for a vacation.

    • Kassie

      I just learned this is a TEN DAY event. That’s obnoxious. I can’t afford a 10 day vacation.

      • Pretty much the same as the baseball All Star week.

  • Jeff C.

    Great post, Bob. Thanks.

  • >>“Go, Patriots!”<<

    Get bent.


    • Jerry

      All this negativity is deflating.

      • …like the Metrodome in a snowstorm…

        • Jerry

          Like watching the Vikes’ season crumble as if it was US Bank Stadium’s facade.

  • Veronica

    The parka makes this quite, quite tempting.