Photos by Hillary Ehlen
Philadelphia has become a destination trip for a handful of NDSU fans. Since former Bison Carson Wentz was drafted No. 2 by the Eagles to become their franchise quarterback, “Bison Pride” flags and NDSU gear has been spotted throughout Lincoln Financial Field during home games. Philadelphia and North Dakota have formed a type of long-distance relationship with a number of stories pertaining to Wentz’s roots.
But on the weekend of Nov. 11, instead of Bison fans boarding a flight to cheer on Philadelphia, it was the other way around. One New Jersey couple, who are invested in all of Philadelphia’s sports teams, decided to visit Fargo and watch an NDSU game to see what makes their quarterback the person and player he is today.
Right Place at the Right Time
Tom Lendacki and Rose Maglietta live on Absecon Island, which is home to Atlantic City. Both in their lower-60s, neither pictured Fargo, North Dakota, as a weekend getaway spot. That all began to change in October 2016.
Brent Tehven, who is a part-owner of Herd and Horns restaurant in Fargo, was in Philadelphia with his father, Doug, for the Minnesota Vikings and Eagles game. The day after the game, the Tehvens were walking to get cheesesteaks for lunch. Lendacki, who works in the city, noticed their NDSU colors and struck up a conversation. The story of Wentz leaving a $500 tip at Herd and Horns came up. That became a key piece of conversation as the Tehvens and Lendacki went their separate ways after 10 minutes of conversing.
Without knowing the names of two North Dakota strangers he just met, Lendacki decided to send Herd and Horns an email the next day saying how much he enjoyed the talk and that he was glad the two guys he met had a good time in Philadelphia. Brent forwarded the email to Doug, which began a year-long email conversation between the two. Doug told Lendacki since they visited his city, he and his wife should come to Fargo someday. Lendacki and Maglietta looked at the schedules of the Eagles and Bison and saw two dates which could work. One happened to fall on a family wedding. The other happened to fall on Philadelphia’s bye week. Doug told them he could get his hands on two extra NDSU tickets for the South Dakota game that weekend. And just like that, they booked their flights and were Fargo bound on Nov. 10.
Experiencing Fargo and Bison Gameday
Lendacki and Maglietta didn’t really know what to expect when arriving in Fargo and going to an NDSU game. Lendacki said he did expect to meet a lot of really nice people, and that’s exactly what happened Friday night with a stop at Herd and Horns after landing. The welcoming continued the next day. Lendacki and Doug drove to the tailgating lots early. What started out as an empty tailgating lot quickly turned into what Lendacki called a “green and yellow tent city” in less than an hour.
Once the lots began to fill and Maglietta arrived, the two experienced a tailgating scene unlike any they’ve been a part of.
“The invitations to walk into other people’s tailgate, you would never find that in Philadelphia,” Maglietta said. “You might talk to other people. But you wouldn’t walk up and start eating their food or being offered a drink. I found it to be a very accepting atmosphere and it was extremely warm and welcoming.”
And when it came time for the game, it was also a unique atmosphere. With the Fargodome turning off the lights during the Bison’s entrance, the band in one section, the opposing fans in another section and the overall noise, Lendacki compared it to watching a college basketball game.
“The fans were really into it,” he said. “They were watching every play and reacting to every play. I thought it was a very high-quality Division I football game. We were both amazed at the variety of Bison gear in green and gold. It was almost like no one in the place had the same thing as everyone else. It was actually amazing.”
“And the number of alums that were there, it was like Fargo is NDSU,” Maglietta added. “It was amazing how they were just one in the same. To me, you couldn’t separate the two of them.”
‘It was America’
The two flew back to New Jersey the day after NDSU dominated No. 10 USD 49-14. But not before experiencing a little more of what it’s like living in North Dakota. Doug gave the two a lesson in farming, from driving a tractor to riding in a combine to learning about harvest season.
“It was America,” Maglietta said. ”It was really cool.”
Lendacki said seeing first-hand what Wentz’s roots were like made him understand even more what Philadelphia’s quarterback is all about. He has the same values and characteristics of the fans that fill Lincoln Financial Field on Sundays.
“I was telling Doug that Philadelphia values effort and accountability, and Carson is spot on with both of those,” Lendacki said. “Plus, he’s a really good player. That’s why the city is so excited about him.”
The couple both pointed out how impressed they were with Wentz during postgame press conferences, whether it’s after a win or a loss. His words aren’t an act for the media and fans. And Maglietta said she now realizes where Wentz gets that trait from.
“He’s very genuine,” Maglietta said. “When you go to Fargo, you see that with all the people there. He’s very sincere and very genuine.”
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