The sorry state of vision plaguing Alaska’s aging, political elite can today be condensed to one word: North.
North is the region to which the Midwest is trying to rebrand itself. The big, Minnesota-led push for North is set to emerge at the Superbowl.
The Superbowl is the biggest sporting event on U.S. television. More than 111 million people turned in to watch last year. An endless stream of news stories precede the Superbowl. There are so many reporters competing to find something new to write about that they are easily drawn to anything quote-unquote “new.”
Type “Superbowl north” into Google, and you’ll see the stories they are being drawn to now:
One letter of protest from the governor of Alaska to the governor of Minnesota – copied to all the media, of course – protesting the Midwest’s attempt to steal Alaska’s brand would be certain to attract some attention here.
Alaska does have a legitimate gripe.
“North to the Future” is the state’s motto. Alaska is the North. If the Midwest becomes the North, what would Alaska’s new motto be?
Somewhere to the Future? What is Future? Ain’t Got No Future?
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is 66-years-old, turning 67 in April. Maybe his eyesight is failing because you have to be blind to miss this opportunity. This is low-hanging fruit.
Tourism is one of Alaska’s biggest businesses and, at the moment, one of the few working well at bringing money into the state. Tourism lives and dies on exposure. People visit the places they know and think about. The Superbowl offers Alaska a no-cost chance to get more people thinking about Alaska.
Yes, we all know the governor is busy worrying about his long-dreamed-of natural gas pipeline to China that is supposed to save us all from economic doom even if it doesn’t net the state much money. And, yes, he has put some time into various schemes to tax Alaskans in one way or another to magically pull the state out of a recession in violation of all basic economic principles.
So he’s a busy man. But how hard is it for an attention monger like Walker to order someone on his staff to write a letter or letters that could snag the state possibly millions of dollars worth of free tourism advertising? Or better yet, maybe just fire up some social media.
President Donald Trump wouldn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity here:
“Middling Midwest tries to steal North. AK won’t stand for it. AK = North. See B4U Die! It’s huge. MN sucks!”
Tweet it, baby; Tweet it.
Seriously though, Alaska is the North. Let’s just review some objective markers that define North.
- Minnesota gets 36 to 70 inches.
- Alaska gets 75.5 inches (Anchorage) to 45 feet (Thompson Pass). Forty-five feet is enough to bury the average Minnesota home.
- Minnesota once hit 60 degrees below zero in Tower. Impressive.
- Alaska is littered with communities that have gone colder. Fairbanks, the largest city in the Interior, has gone to 62 below, and 23 communities have gone to 70 below or colder. The record? 80 below at the Prospect Creek Camp where it felt like a heat wave when the temperature climbed to minus-60.
- Minnesota has none. Global warming wiped them all out 10,000 years ago.
- Alaska has too many to count, but the best guess is about 100,000. And while many are shrinking, they’ll be around for a long, long time yet.
- Minnesota goes round and round at the “Alex Winter Spectacular.” Boring.
- Alaskans go 2,000 miles across vast wilderness from Big Lake to Nome and then back to Fairbanks in the Iron Dog, the world’s longest, toughest snowmachine race. (Alaska also calls the crotch-rockets of winter what they are – machines. A mobile is something you hang above a baby’s crib.)
- Minnesota had the Rainy Lake fizzle of 1865.
- Alaska greeted 100,000 gold seekers to Skagway on their way to the Klondike at the end of the 1800s; another 20,000 flocked to Nome in 1900; and tens of thousands more have come over the course of a golden history that started in 1861 in the state’s Panhandle and has never really ended.
- Minnesotans see them sometimes above the northern horizon.
- Alaskans see them regularly arching across the sky from north to south and east to west. Sometimes they pack so much energy you can hear them. Nobody has ever reporting hearing the aurora in Minnesota.
- Minnesota has Garrison Keillor and Lake Wobegon.
- Alaska has Jack London and Tales of the North. That would be Tales of the (real) North. Clearly the book would need to be renamed if the Midwest became the North. London never wrote diddly about Minnesota.
- Minnesota has a 2,301-foot, tree-covered, hill called “Eagle Mountain.”
- Alaska has 20,310 foot, glacier-covered, Mount Denali, the tallest mountain on the continent. It rises so high that the summer tourists visiting the north from Minnesota complain they can’t see the top because it’s lost in the clouds.
- Minnesota has more than 2,300 nesting pairs.
- Alaska so many bald eagles nobody has counted them all, but the number of nesting pairs are estimated at 30,000.
- Minnesota has none.
- Alaska has about 30,000.
- Minnesota has small runs of miniature king salmon, 3- to 4-pound average; miniature coho, 1.5- to 3-pounds, and miniature pink salmon, about a pound. They provide for a small, annual sport catch of salmon.
- Alaska is home to the world record salmon, a 97-pound, four ounce king salmon. And the state annually welcomes 200 to 300 million of salmon back from the sea. There are millions of reasons so many Minnesotans come NORTH each summer armed with fishing gear and coolers to haul home their catch.
Someone could have fun with an Alaska-Minnesota showdown over “North” and garner the 49th state a good bit of free publicity with no monetary investment and little effort. But nobody is doing anything because, well, because the political leadership in Alaska is preoccupied with the way things were and trying to keep them that way instead of seizing whatever new opportunities come by in the here and now.
In that sense, North is almost a metaphor for a state in recession and decline.