Yesterday, the National Football League awarded the 2018 Super Bowl to Minnesota. The Minnesota delegation, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, erupted with unrestrained joy upon hearing the news at the Ritz-Carlton outside Atlanta, where the NFL conducted the vote. Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf, owners (with their cousin Leonard Wilf) of the Minnesota Vikings and Garden Homes, smiled for the press.
The Wilfs know better than to make a public display. The family’s style is low key — or, preferably, invisible. As the Observer has reported, the Wilfs have recently been dragged into the spotlight, the result of getting $500 million in public subsidies for the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium and an embarrassing legal judgment in excess of $100 million for cheating partners in a New Jersey apartment complex. (The Wilfs, after posting a $110 million bond, are appealing the New Jersey judgment.)
In the green room at the Ritz-Carlton, other members of the Minnesota delegation, according to the Star Tribune, “danced, jumped up and down, hugged and high-fived on hearing the news.” Someone played Queen’s “We Are the Champions” on their phone as they sang, danced, and held hands.
They must not have realized – though the Wilfs surely did – that they were celebrating a very expensive purchase. The Minnesotans told the NFL owners about the “real,” “authentic” people of the state, the wonders of the ever-expanding Mall of America, and an eight-story ice castle the St. Paul Winter Carnival will build.
Fortunately, they also reminded the NFL that they just ponied up a half-billion dollars for a stadium. NFL owners understand that kind of reasoning. Although the voting is secret, several owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell commented on the importance of the new stadium.
Zygi Wilf said, “I saw our Super Bowl committee in our green room, on TV. The way they jumped for joy is the way I felt inside. We really feel great about it.”
He should feel great about it. His Vikings get the stadium whether or not Minnesota hosts a Super Bowl. Richard Davis, CEO of U.S. Bancorp and co-chair of the Minnesota delegation, has predicted an economic impact from the Super Bowl of $350 million. After taking the public money, Zygi and Mark Wilf did the right thing by delivering the NFL vote.
Even if that $350 million is wildly optimistic, the Wilf family can recede into the background for that debate, as well as for the three-and-a-half-year process of getting the donations and volunteers that making hosting a Super Bowl so lucrative. Staying out of the spotlight brings the family joy, on the inside.