I have a confession to make.
I have a criminal history.
You might be wondering how I could land such a prestigious job as a newspaper editor if I had a criminal background. The answer is simple. I?was never actually arrested or charged with a crime.
But, I?am guilty of one, none-the-less.
Maybe you think I stole a five-cent candy bar in my youth. That's not it. This was much, much more serious than a penny-ante theft.
This was major grand theft larceny. Committed in broad daylight with a large contingent of law enforcement personnel lurking in the vicinity of my crime.
It has haunted my conscience for decades. It is now time to come clean and face the music.
It was Dec. 20, 1981, a long time ago.
My brother, Wild Bill, and I went to the final Minnesota Vikings game at Metropolitan Stadium.
If you don't know where the Met was located, there is a shopping center known as the Mall of America sitting on the site now.
At the time I?had season tickets to the Vikes games, and my two seats were on about the 10-yard line. Because the Met was used by both the Vikings and the Twins, it was more of a baseball stadium than a football one, and my seats were along the first base foul line and were in the section that was as close to the field as one could get.
Because of the curvature of the baseball field, some seats, even those in the front row, were a long ways away from the field.
While I wasn't in the front row, I was very close to one corner of one of the end zones.
In fact, the famous whiskey bottle thrown onto the field which hit a referee in the head (drawing blood) was tossed from the section where my seats were located.
No, I didn't throw it.
(In those days, fans tailgated in the parking lot of the Met and often brought their own food and booze into the stadium. I did do that.)
The now famous, first-ever, Hail Mary pass thrown by the Dallas Cowboys in the last seconds to beat the Vikings was completed right in front of me, too.
But I digress.
The Vikings lost the last home game at the Met in the final minutes, 10-6, to the Kansas City Chiefs. A pass to Joe Senser for a possible go-ahead touchdown was just short and the Chiefs ran out the clock for the win. Senser missed the catch right in front of my brother and me.
It was after the game that all holy heck broke loose. And not because the Vikings lost.
Fans stormed the field by the thousands, barging past the small contingent of security guards young guys with yellow jackets who were more like ushers than security guards and not much of a deterrent.
Fans climbed onto the goal posts and toppled them over then hauled them away. People dug up the turf (frozen dirt spray-painted green) on the field and took it. Remarkably, that was the one thing the yellow-jacketed usher/guards tried to prevent fans from doing. That seemed odd to me, what with all the things which were going on at the time.
Everything that wasn't bolted down and a whole of things which were was being taken away by the hordes of fans-turned-looters.
Brave (or inebriated) fans even climbed the scoreboard and removed the letters and numbers even the loudspeakers and lights.
But, the action was not just happening on the field. In the stands, fans were ripping up seats and hauling them away. Some were taking down signs like for the men's and ladies' restrooms. A group of four guys were even trying to remove by violent force the drinking water fountain in the corridor.
It was nuts. It was really something to see, and I stood there and watched it all.
That is when I, too, succumbed to the dark side.
Despite announcements saying anyone caught stealing items from the stadium would be arrested and charged with theft, my brother and I joined a few hundred others and removed the row of seats we had been sitting in.
We hauled it out and took it to his home in Bloomington, strapped to the roof of his car with a tow rope.
I have felt guilty ever since.
The memories of my crime activity were recently reactivated by the fact the Vikings played their final game in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (I'm sorry, Mall of America Field. Seems a bit ironic they changed the name of it to the very thing that replaced the Met Stadium, doesn't it?)
I went to the first Vikings game ever played in the Dome (and many, many others too many to count) but I didn't go to the final one.
My daughter did. And, in another coincidental twist of fate, I had just turned 31 years old at the time the last Vikings game was played in the Met. My daughter celebrated her 31st birthday at the final Vikings game at the Dome.
Maybe I didn't go to the one last week because I didn't trust myself. Perhaps I subconsciously feared my dark, inner-self would resurface and I would steal again.
Or, perhaps I am just older and wiser, content to stay home in my warm basement and watch the game on TV.
Sitting on my section 125, row 12, seat 35, Metropolitan Stadium chair.