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P.J. Fleck Straps 75-Lb. Backpacks on Players to… Commemorate 9/11 or Something?

Plus bridge woes, labor graphs, and new life inside the ol' Dangerous Man in today's Flyover news roundup.

MGoBlog via Flickr|

Fleck, seen here in 2017 remembering 9/11.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Ski-U-Wha? (9/11 Edition)

When P.J. Fleck arrived as the Gophers head football coach in 2017, we knew he was wired differently. There was the hyperactive sloganeering, the relentless deviation to rowing metaphors, and, in a recent darker turn, toxic culture allegations that involve something called “the Fleck Bank.” So perhaps it’s unsurprising to learn that the U of M’s $6 million man commemorated the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 in a uniquely Fleckian fashion.

Per Bring Me the News, the Gophs coach had his players—most of whom were born after 9/11—strap on 75-pound backpacks Sunday to feel what New York City firefighters felt as they climbed into the burning Twin Towers. "This is not life and death. This is football,” Fleck told reporters Monday, adding that he also showed his team a recent 9/11 remembrance from 60 Minutes. “They had to give the command to actually go up in the buildings with 75 pounds apiece on their back going up 90 floors. So we kind of did an example of us, just kind of had a backpack of what 75 pounds feels like."

But it gets stranger! Here’s what Fleck told his young players, who we imagine were desperately hoping to return to their smartphones: "OK, here's 75 pounds on your back... You're never going to come back home—would you do it?" (No word on whether our college football team vowed to be as brave as 9/11 first responders.) You might be asking yourself... why? Great question. Here, again, is Fleck: “I wanted to make sure I shared that with them because you're constantly giving perspective as a leader.” Uh huh... In any case, the whole thing smacks of Snap Fitness’s bizarre "9/11 memorial workouts/boot camps,” which were questioned two years ago on this very site. Never forget, Row the Boat, etc., etc. 

You Win Some (Bridges), You Lose Some (Bridges)

Good news! The Third Avenue Bridge, which has been closed for repairs since time immemorial (or at least 2021) will reopen on October 28. And for one glorious winter, all the bridges crossing the Mississippi in and around downtown Minneapolis will be usable. Until next spring, that is, when the 140-year-old Stone Arch Bridge will become uncrossable. Don’t worry—this time it’s not to protect Michael Rainville from fireworks. MnDOT will be replacing rocks, stones and mortar in the bridge’s foundation; the department estimates that the bridge repairs will cost somewhere between $22 and $26 million and be completed in 2026. (Keep in mind, though, that the Third Avenue Bridge was supposed to reopen last year.) You’ll still be able to cross the Stone Arch halfway while work is being done—repairs will begin on the east half in April 2024 and on the west half in 2025, and the bridge will reopen in full for winter 2024, while no work is being done. We'd be happy to complain about the inconvenience, but fixing bridges does seem like a good idea.

Minnesotans: We’re in Labor!

Christopher Ingraham and Max Nesterak kicked off Monday morning at Minnesota Reformer with a look at Minnesota’s labor market in five charts. What did they find? Some good news, some bad trends, and some ugly stuff. Let’s start with the good: According to the numbers, Minnesota has consistently had more people in the workforce or looking for work than the national average, according to data spanning the last 16 years. That’s 68% of our residents versus 62% nationwide. Right now, it’s also easier for people with less schooling and less experience to find work, and that will likely continue to be the case as more Boomers retire. Also good: We’re unionized. “About one in seven Minnesota workers is a member of a union compared to one in 10 Americans,” according to the Reformer.

The bad? Well, the local housing market is jacked; homes cost more than what most of us are earning. It’s no better for renters, either, with 46% reporting they “are moderately or severely burdened by the monthly cost of rent.” And the ugly? Our bosses (or, in Racket’s case, former bosses) are getting paid way more than us. “CEO pay has soared 1,322% over the past five decades, increasing faster than inflation, faster than the average worker, and faster than the stock market,” the Reformer notes. “The average CEO at a Fortune 500 company is paid 263 times that of the typical worker.” But hey... at least that's lower than the national average of 324 times that of the average worker?

Vinai, Vinai, Vinai

Friday's news that pioneering Northeast brewery Dangerous Man would close next month included a promise that the "beloved space is in good hands and will continue to be a community gathering place," which of course got our gears spinning. Would another brewery move in? Another location of a neighborhood institution like Broders', maybe? Or perhaps Daniel del Prado planned to expand his sprawling empire? None of the above, it turns out. The news came today via press release: Yia Vang's long-awaited Hmong restaurant Vinai, which has been in the works since before the pandemic, will take over Dangerous Man's space at at 1300 2nd St. NE. What a delightful thing to be very wrong about! The release goes on to say that Vang, who just opened a second location of his Union Hmong Kitchen on Lake Street earlier this summer, will be not only a tenant but a partial owner of the building itself. “This restaurant is about carrying on my parents' legacy,” Vang said. “But it’s also about carrying on a piece of Dangerous Man’s legacy, and the legacy of the community here.”

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