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Who’s dumber on the Vikings stadium: Dean Urdahl or Jim Souhan?

[Update: Late Wednesday, the Star Tribune added a clarification to Souhan’s column noting Urdahl’s vote.]

There’s something ironic about a journalist ripping someone for asking a question, much less attacking them for “dumbing down” an issue while missing a crucial fact himself.

Star Tribune sports columnist Jim Souhan delivered a haymaker on state Rep. Dean Urdahl for asking Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley at a House Government Operations hearing Monday, “Why should the state of Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire owner?”

“Some of our elected officials are often no smarter than the guy who writes in the comments section of an online newspaper, ‘Your stupid’,” thundered Souhan. “Urdahl should recognize that he has marked himself as a Republican who is trying to kill a jobs and economic stimulus project.”

One problem: Urdahl voted for the stadium bill.

“Your dumb,” meet “your dumber.”

Unless Souhan truly believes a mere question is more powerful than an actual vote, it seems he simply didn’t know how Urdahl voted. The columnist did not answer an email or phone call this morning, but it’s possible he based his rant on Star Tribune reporter Mike Kaszuba’s story, which recounted Urdahl’s question but did not state which button the Grove City Republican pressed.

“He never talked to me,” Urdahl said of Souhan Tuesday. “This is pretty irresponsible. It starts with Kaszuba just putting the quote out there, but didn’t report the preface to the statement, which was — and I paraphrase — ‘Here’s a question I get asked most frequently, it’s on everyone’s mind, let’s get it out of the way.’”

Unlike some Republicans who apparently switched their votes when the committee’s “no” verdict became clear, Urdahl says, “I was voting ‘yes’ all along. I wasn’t one of the ones that passed [on the initial round of voting]. No gamesmanship — I was voting yes to move to the next committee.”

MinnPost’s Doug Grow, who attended the hearing, said, “It was almost like the planted question to get straight to the fundamental question before delving into details.”

The best columnists report, but not all do, at least not as often they should, especially when many of them have radio shows and other media obligations/compulsions. Columnists have license to unload, and great columns have bounced off someone else’s reporting. The risk of non-reporting? Looking like a lazy-know-it-all.

“My next call, I’m calling his editor,” Urdahl says. “I want a clarification in his column. People read that I’m shallow, have a third-grade mentality, I’m a job-killer … this is just so wrong, egregiously wrong. Who could read that column and assume I voted ‘yes’?”

Clarifications on opinion pieces are rare, so we’ll see how that goes. But even if Souhan dwelled in ignorance, what about his underlying point: that even raising the “billionaire” question was stupid?

“I’m a state representative; I represent the people of my district,” Urdahl says. “I thought if one of my constituents was sitting here, and had Lester Bagley in front of them, what question would he want asked? I knew the answer; I wanted to get the Vikings on the record for the people of Minnesota answering that question. When you’re dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars, I don’t think it’s an inappropriate question.”

(Urdahl says Bagley answered that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was making the third-biggest stadium contribution of any stadium owner, which doesn’t quite answer the question.)

Urdahl says he’s had to field “a couple hundred calls and emails” since Kaszuba’s initial story, and after pro-stadium initially, erroneously listed him as a “no” vote. Souhan’s piece, he says, has only kept the fire going.

The representative says he’s no stranger to critical voter feedback, but in this case, it’s especially galling since “I’ve had to defend a vote I didn’t take.” 

Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 04/18/2012 - 01:42 pm.

    Souhan Stoopid?

    I’m shocked. Shocked! that Jim Souhan would write a column that was misinformed and wrongheaded.

  2. Submitted by Ross Williams on 04/18/2012 - 02:43 pm.

    Viking Candy Bar Financing Plan

    ” ‘Your stupid’,”

    Is anyone else troubled by this? Shouldn’t it be ‘You’re stupid’?

    Anyway, there is absolutely nothing new about misleading information in the STRIB. This is commercial media, its about entertainment and audience.

    The real problem is this “he has marked himself as a Republican who is trying to kill a jobs and economic stimulus project.” Anything that spends that much public money can be justified on that basis. We could waste the money in almost any fashion imaginable while creating jobs.

    Or we could build new public facilities that would be used more than 8 times a year as a studio for televised football games. There really aren’t any other uses where we don’t already have several appropriate venues already available.

    I have a financing plan for a new stadium. Why doesn’t the legislature create a candy bar and let Vikings fans sell them door to door? I have kids coming by regularly selling stuff for various school sports teams. I am sure with guys like Souhan and the other sport radio media celebrities to promote their sales, they shouldn’t have too much trouble making sales. Of course they would have to get off their couches so …

  3. Submitted by Steve Sundberg on 04/18/2012 - 02:49 pm.


    Please tell me that you used Souhan’s own spelling and merely forgot to include the [sic]?

    • Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 04/19/2012 - 01:34 pm.

      Souhan was quoting

      I assume Souhan know the difference between “your’ and “you’re”, thus the quotes.

  4. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 04/18/2012 - 02:58 pm.

    We’re all stoopid….

    Souhan, on his way to pick up his check from Ziggy, writes a stupid column. He, the mayor, the guv, Ziggy and the rest of those theives know that all of us who oppose this boondoggle are stupid; that’s why they won’t allow a vote, even though it is clearly against the intent of the Minneapolis referendum law. I think the only job Souhan is worried about is his own. Our opinions are stupid but those guys that show up at hearings in costumes and with their faces painted purple, they’re rocket scientists.

  5. Submitted by David Brauer on 04/18/2012 - 02:59 pm.


    Fellas, Jim S. used the [sic] version of you’re to show how stupid commenters are. I’m just riffing off his [sic], which was the one part of his column I liked.

    • Submitted by Steve Sundberg on 04/18/2012 - 03:06 pm.

      Thank you for that clarification, David

      I thought the Vandals had finally sacked Rome, and civilization was advancing quickly (or more quickly than is comfortable) into the Dark Grammar Ages.


    • Submitted by chuck turchick on 04/21/2012 - 11:03 am.

      Not only was Souhan’s article clueless on Urdah’s question

      but his mocking of a commenter for writing “Your stupid,” was in a column where T.S. Eliot was spelled “T.S. Eliiot.” Probably just a typo, but still….

  6. Submitted by Nick Coleman on 04/18/2012 - 03:15 pm.

    Stadium Follies

    When was the last time a Strib columnist criticized the Wilfare plan for a $1B stadium? Oh, yeah, that would be me: January ’09, just before I had my column killed. Now it’s Rah Rah Rah all the time. Even Lori Sturdevant is on board, so (she says) “we can move on to talking about important stuff.” No mention of Strib scoring up to $100M off their empty parking lots. My guess is Souhan and Reusse et al get a big AttaBoy from the boss whenever they bang the drum, no matter how stoopidly. Why not? Intelligence is not part of the discussion.

    • Submitted by Nick Coleman on 04/18/2012 - 05:01 pm.

      Follies, Part II

      I want to mention that Rachel Blount made a valiant effort, in the Strib’s sports section, to criticize the unrestrained greed and unceasing demands of the NFL and the Wilfs for a new Vikings stadium, in October, 2009; but as Mr Brauer pointed out, Blount’s column (ironically) was unavailable to online readers unless you paid the Strib’s Purple Pom-Pom Tax, subscribing to the paper’s premium Vikings coverage. As far as I know, Rachel has not returned to the subject, while her male, pro-sports worshiping colleagues have been howling for a stadium from locker rooms and luxury boxes. Meanwhile neither of the Strib’s in-house Metro columnists has condescended to take a squint at the topic, with Jon Tevlin haughtily declaring that the topic was beneath his talents: “The topic in general, rehashed relentlessly over the decades, is not very interesting to me,” he told Brauer last year. “I’m happy to let someone else own that, as I will with, say, abortion and other top five topics of talk radio.” How dull it is to be a columnist! Of course, Tevlin is smarter than I was: Writing about the stadium is to court trouble with a newspaper committed to its own special interests. And that’s why the Silence of the Lambs at the StarTribune is so revealing. The whole Vikings stadium boondoggle does not reflect well on a newspaper that stands to profit hugely from a stadium. But it offers citizens a great, real-world laboratory for understanding how important “public” decisions are crafted in closed-door meetings, pushed along by hidden agendas and proceed by rolling over everything in their path. If I were still writing a column at the Strib, I would be following every step in this process, very closely.
      Of course, that’s why I am NOT still writing a column at the Strib.

      • Submitted by Dave Eldred on 04/18/2012 - 07:46 pm.

        Speaking of accuracy in columns…

        How’s that legal challenge to the Twins stadium deal that a certain Strib columnist claimed flouted state law going? 🙂

  7. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 04/18/2012 - 04:11 pm.

    Maybe it’s about time

    some alt-weekly did a hard-hitting look at the pampered world of big time sports journalism, and their matador coverage of the rich and ownerous.

  8. Submitted by Dave Eldred on 04/18/2012 - 04:23 pm.


    As if we needed yet another reason to ignore his lazy analysis on…well, just about anything.

  9. Submitted by Solly Johnson on 04/18/2012 - 04:41 pm.

    1500 AM

    Souhan, along with his comrades on 1500 radio, act as if they have all the answers in sports or politics. More disturbing is that they often call others idiots if they disagree with them.

    Souhan can flip positions faster than Mitt Romney. When the Vikings played the Bears at Soldier Field in Favre’s last season, Souhan, in his pregame show, said the Vikings would win because the Bears had not played anybody good to that point. On the Monday afternoon radio program after the Vikings had lost to the Bears, Souhan said the Vikings had not played anybody good to that point!

    Also, one of Reusse’s sidekicks on a later radio show complained that people don’t properly use the correct your or you’re. Then shortly after complaining he used the nominative case after a preposition, which so many people do today.

    Although Paul Allen is a cheerleader for the Vikings, he admits it and has always treated any callers with respect when I have listened to him on a rival station. Even though I care little about the Vikings, I do admire Paul Allen for his courtesy.

  10. Submitted by Christopher Steller on 04/19/2012 - 01:20 am.

    What They Said

    This seemed like it was verging on a game of telephone, so at the risk of hanging too much on these guys’ every word, I listened to the House audio. Here is the full exchange between Rep. Urdahl and Leter Bagley.

    URDAHL: “Just a question that is frequently out there. You might as well answer it for the record. Why should the state of Minnesota contribute a stadium for a billionaire who could pay for it all himself?”

    BAGLEY: “The stadium, as I concluded, will be owned by the public, used by everyone. The Metrodome has had 90 million people through it in the 30 years since it opened. It’s truly a statewide asset. A lot of high school sports–high school soccer, baseball, football, cheerleading teams that some of their highlights of their careers have been playing on the field where the Vikings, where the Twins used to play. The facility is not a private facility. We have in front of us an opportunity to leverage the third-largest private contribution up front, and to make sure that we have a facility that can be used by everyone going forward and all the events that are consistent with what currently occur at the Metrodome.”

    In Mike Kaszuba’s defense, there wasn’t much more context or setup to Urdahl’s question than what he quoted. That said, what he quoted wasn’t quite how Urdahl said it. Urdahl said “contribute a stadium” (not “contribute to a stadium”) and “billionaire” (not “billionaire owner”), and Kaszuba left off the last part: “… who could pay for it all himself.”

    Also, Bagley’s response seems more on point than Urdahl’s memory of it suggested.

  11. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 04/19/2012 - 09:02 am.

    Actually Nick, maybe you’re not a Stribber…

    because, while you’re on the other side of the issue, you’re just as biased as Souhan. Your last sentence….”Intelligence is not part of the discussion”…is very telling. When it comes down to it, the matter is simply a choice of how much you value having an NFL team in this market. It has nothing to do with “intelligence”. I can understand every aspect of this debate and decide I want to pay the price.And, even though I’m personally anti-stadium, for you to suggest those who want a staium are unintelligent is pretty condescending and disrespectful.

    • Submitted by Nick Coleman on 04/19/2012 - 11:20 am.

      Actually nothing, Jack….

      You miss a huge distinction: As a columnist, you are supposed to have a viewpoint. As a journalist, you are not supposed to have a conflict of interest that greatly affects that point of view…
      Yes, I am opposed to public financing for the most profitable pro sports league in the world. Just as much as Souhan might support it. But Souhan makes his living — a rather nice one — sitting in the NFL’s press boxes and stringing NFL press releases into “columns.” He needs the Vikings. So does the Strib, which may entirely be able to wipe out its residual debt, thus making the paper much more attractive to new owners, if the stadium comes to pass and the Strib unloads its otherwise almost worthless real estate. So here’s the deal, Jack: Viewpoints opposed to a stadium deal have been suppressed, and rarely even appear in the Strib. While pro-stadium editorials and Jock-ocracy columns flow freely. The result is not only to mute, or dampen a real discussion. It is to tilt the “debate” almost totally in favor of the Strib’s — and Souhan’s — self-interests. That ain’t journalism. That is propaganda.
      A fish stinks from the head.

  12. Submitted by frank watson on 04/19/2012 - 09:15 am.

    Viking Stadium

    So someone is going to pay Zygi $1.2 billion for the Vikings, you know he is NOT going to give it away. And the new owner is going to move to LA and NOT collect Naming Rights, Suites, Concessions, advertising and PSL income. They better have really deep pockets, really deep. The Emperor has NO clothes.

  13. Submitted by sean mckenna on 04/19/2012 - 09:25 am.

    I realize Mr. Souhan is a columnist and not a reporter but this is a glaring example of why sportswriters should recuse themselves from writing on the stadium issue and allow it to be covered by the newsroom. Sportswriters are going to favor stadium building. It’s that simple. It’s their life, job, bread and butter to have more sports, more facilities, etc. The stadium bill continues to fail not because people are dumb, but because the presented legislation is incomplete and leaves taxpayers as the “back-up plan” in case revenue streams fail. Bring forth some meaningful legislation and Mr. Souhan (who gets into the games for free and eats his food for free) can have his shiny new stadium.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/19/2012 - 11:09 am.

    Yet another great cultural contribution from sports

    I remind everyone that the whole “Shock Jock” genre started on sports radio. A couple weeks ago we had Soucheray blowing insults at local artists: and now this from Souhan. You’re never going to get quality discourse from blowhards with no integrity, and put blowhards with no integrity in front of microphones at your own peril.

  15. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 04/19/2012 - 01:19 pm.

    OK, you’re changing the point.

    If you’d have mentioned “ethics” or “conflict of interest”, I’d concur. But the word you used was “intelligence”. Souhan’s article seemed to imply that only idiots could oppose a stadium. I took your remark about intelligence to reach the same conclusion about those who support a stadium. Actually, anyone’s view only requires them to have all the facts, then apply their own judgment. I’ve been a huge Vikings fan since sitting in the Met’s right field bleachers as a kid. But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to contribute what they want to get a stadium, even if it means they’ll leave. People can agree or disagree with me without regard to intelligence.

    • Submitted by Nick Coleman on 04/19/2012 - 02:41 pm.

      Stadium IQ

      Jack: I have been writing on this topic for years, and blogging, too. My remarks about intelligence –and ethics — apply to the StarTribune, its managers, and editors. It is their decisions that have left intelligence mostly out of the discussion. p.s. I DID mention the Strib’s glaring conflict of interest in my remarks, rather extensively, in fact.

  16. Submitted by Corey Voegele on 04/19/2012 - 11:30 pm.

    To answer the question posed in the headline …

    Not dumb: Dean Urdahl.

    Dumb: _______ (Position reserved for Jim Souhan, barring a public apology.)

    Dumber: The hundred-plus sheep who posted comments supporting Souhan without checking the facts themselves.

    Dumbest: The stadium backers who posted anti-Urdahl comments even after they knew (or should have known) that Souhan had missed the mark so badly (putting it mildly).

  17. Submitted by Charles Kloos on 04/20/2012 - 01:48 pm.

    Doesn’t Souhan really need to say something?

    As far as I can tell, as of Friday afternoon Souhan has not said anything publicly about this, even though he has Tweeted in the past 24 hours about important things like Delmon Young baserunning mistakes. Wouldn’t it seem rather important if he wants to maintain any professional credibility at all that he say something – either defending what he did or, you would hope, apologizing for a mistake that makes him look absolutely terrible?

  18. Submitted by larry smith on 04/20/2012 - 06:00 pm.


    The public face of this stadium push just keeps getting uglier. Stadium pushers are really nasty. They think Minnesota is worthless except for the Vikings. If they slid a stadium through at some point without this struggle, I wouldn’t have thought much about it. But having been exposed to the real thoughts of Vikings fans like Souhan about political processes and the people’s voice in their government, I will definitely vote against all politicans supporting the stadium and cease to patronize the Vikings’ biggest advertisers.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2012 - 08:46 am.

    Maybe not dumb, but selfish and ignorant

    This game of Three Card Monty they call a stadium plan is entirely based on fabricated or exaggerated claims. Mondale lied to our faces, he testified that the Vikings are currently losing money at the dome. Economically this is nothing but an entitlement program for an out of state billionaire, the largest public subsidy for a private company in the history of MN, and it’s going to a company that will not create a single new job, and employs a handful of people year-round.

    Maybe a dumb person would believe that the Vikings are a huge economic asset with their whopping $12 million a year contribution to our $267 billion dollar economy, but I get the impression that most supporters just don’t care about the facts. It’s the dishonesty that bugs me. OK, so you like football and you want us to build you a new stadium so you can keep watching the Vikings. Don’t pretend it’s anything more than that. Souhan only embarrasses himself when he tries to bring intelligence into the discussion.

  20. Submitted by John Hottinger on 04/23/2012 - 06:51 pm.

    Disappointed in Souhan

    I usually like Souhan’s work, but this was so furiously wrong that he needs to be called out on it again and again until he acknowledges his foolishness. #1 I’m an avid DFLer, but know Republican Urdahl to be a good and in-fact erudite and educated member of the Legislature. #2 His question WAS the baseline question that needs to be answered for the public — and even for the supporters so they can justify their vote. #3 Journalism has gotten better at checking “facts” given out by politicians, but now politicians should have an avenue to CORRECT the irresponsiblity of reporters who guess — wrongly — at the facts and slander someone who is doing his job well, as Urdahl was. C’mon Souhan — do the right thing and apologize!

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