Name Games

Will the kin of the late Hubert H. Humphrey please step forward and demand the old man's name be ripped from the Metrodome's marquee? Might some wise old soul march to the town square, right now, and cry out with fiery conviction, "Enough is enough"?

Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome? Are we sure the paperwork has been filed on this? Is there no time to renege? What are we calling it for short, M.A.F.H.H.H.M.?

I don't know how much more abuse this vilified edifice can take. It's already bringing up the rear in America's stadium parade. It's been maligned relentlessly over the years for its cut-rate, low-budget presentation, mocked repeatedly as a drab, Soviet-style sports shell. But this latest assault pushes the place to the border of caricature.

Spend a little time with that convoluted name. Allow all of the letters to settle on your tongue for a spell. Feel their coarse, currency-encrusted texture before spitting them past your lips. Take note of the disparate themes, the marriage of the seemingly noble (Hubert) with the hopelessly tacky (Mall). Ask yourself what kind of cutthroat numbers-cruncher would take credit for such mockery.

It serves only one purpose beyond lining pockets. It keeps alive the Twin Cities' grand tradition of tagging stadiums with horrid monikers. Until now the names haven't risen to the level of crime, they've merely been deadening. In the era of Candlestick, Three Rivers, Soldier Field, and Madison Square Garden, our names read like something out of an Orwell novel: Metropolitan Stadium (uninspiring); the Metropolitan Sports Center (no, not again); the Civic Center (all the color and panache of a bar rag); Municipal Stadium (Walmart-like in its charm); and the Metrodome, which never needed to be referred to as such. It was unveiled as the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and though I would have preferred Humphrey Stadium, I didn't quibble. My assumption was that it would come to be known as "the Hump." After all, what nickname was more suitable? It's precisely how the place appeared on our skyline, and it was a shortened version of its official title.

Nope, for a quarter-century we went with "Metrodome," the least lively of the options.

What is our fascination with drab urban vernacular? Where is our imagination? How is it that we can now add to this boring name the equally soulless Mall of America? Yet another offering that has that muted, utilitarian feel to it.

When the Washington Redskins played in a stadium honoring a great senator, they called it RFK. For 36 years they stuck with those familiar initials. They figured when you name a place in honor of a man, you actually speak his name. We gave our senator a hollow honor. It was a bait and switch. The family showed up for the ribbon cutting, and afterward the Happy Warrior was never mentioned again, until this last week, when the poor guy's name was inserted next to the Mall of America. You could almost hear the PR blowhards pitching it: Three treasured Minnesota brands, all under one canopy: Humphrey, the Vikings, and the Megamall. What a great day in the Land of Lakes.

We need to pick a direction here: revenue or respect. Don't straddle the two. I'll live with Megamall Stadium; it's the Humphrey part I want to salvage and spirit away. Give the man some dignity—the kind he received from the University of Minnesota with its Humphrey Institute for Public Policy. One doesn't get as queasy referring to that joint. It fits; it's proper.

F. Scott Fitzgerald gets his own theater. We haven't called it Menards-Fitzgerald Stage just yet. Enjoy a name that hasn't been monetized while you still can.

If we're now permanently in the world of Target Field, Xcel Energy Center, and TCF Bank Stadium, so be it. I realize that ship has sailed. But then let's not fake the high-mindedness and bend over backward to wedge a fine man's name where it no longer belongs and where it was never really appreciated to begin with. 

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