Photos by Paul Flessland
A few months ago, I was driving back from somewhere in western North Dakota. Another work trip for court in Minot, North Dakota, or maybe it was the recently adjourned legislative session. My tie was loose and I had traded my suit coat for a Bison pullover at the last gas station on the way out of town. It was a late Friday afternoon turning into evening with several hours of driving still ahead. The combination of sugar-free Red Bull and coffee, one each sitting in the cup holders, kept me caffeinated. The other tool keeping me awake were the trusty podcasts playing from the iPhone through my Kia’s blue tooth system. On these drives, they are my go-to after piling up time calling family, friends, and of course, clients.
Tired of phone calls, my fingers eventually flip through the dozen or so podcasts on the iPhone. It’s a diverse portfolio including the SI Media Podcast with Richard Deitsch and The Axe Files with David Axelrod. There are several of the business and entrepreneur variety, like NPR’s How I Built This and Harvard Business Review’s IdeaCast. And my favorite, well, my former favorite—it’s still towards the top of the list—the TED Radio Hour, a thought-provoking hour long adventure diving into all areas of the human experience. If you’re not up on podcasts, you should be. Take this TED Radio Hour for example. The topic: Champions. The description: From Little League to the Olympics, athletic mastery plays a major role in our sense of achievement. This hour, TED speakers explore the minds and bodies of champions who achieve extraordinary feats.
Beaming into my car somewhere on I-94, the sun long ago having descended beneath the prairie horizon, are great discussions on sports, leadership, business, and politics. If Bob Seger had podcasts, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a long and lonesome highway east of Omaha. John Kasich and Axelrod talk about the lack of civility in our politics and Kasich’s new book. Deitsch takes me behind the scenes of the mass layoffs at ESPN and CBS hiring Tony Romo for its A-team. Guy Raz interviews the founders of Kate Spade, a billion dollar fashion line, whose first purse was made of burlap from a potato-sack manufacturer in their apartment because they couldn’t get materials anywhere else. The best part? There’s zero dial scanning, and podcasts are free! I’m having an uninterrupted cup of coffee with some of the most brilliant people in our country and not paying a dime for it.
Ten years ago, the summer of 2007, I’m clerking at a large law firm in the same Omaha, Nebraska, that Seger described in his timeless hit. The phone rings. I don’t recognize the number, so the call goes to voicemail. The voicemail is from a guy named Dave Swenson. He’s starting a new magazine called Bison Illustrated and was wondering if I’d like to write for it. The idea is to give a fan’s voice to North Dakota State Athletics, to take a backstage look alongside our coaches, student-athletes, alums, and other supporters, into all things Bison. For a decade, we’ve done just that. But like any successful operation, we need to stay quick on our feet, to adapt and consider new platforms for bringing content to you, Bison Nation. Ten years and many columns and articles later, I’m listening to podcasts and wondering out loud, why don’t we have one?
Back in Fargo, Joe Kerlin, the editor of this magazine, and myself are at Herd & Horns having a pint. I explain to him this idea for a podcast. Bison Nation is clamoring for it! The market is there, it’s a no-brainer sure-fire idea! The elevator pitch for the Bison Illustrated Podcast lasts thirty seconds. He’s onboard. In fact, he’s had the same idea for a while. Works for me, we’re innovators, now. We do a test run on the spot with a couple sideways glances from patrons wondering who, or what, we’re talking to. A few weeks after that, we’re sitting at a couple microphones in the backroom of Herd & Horns around a mobile studio. I hit record on Episode 1: “It’s a brave new world for Bison Illustrated as we dive into our inaugural Bison Illustrated Podcast for the magazine, long time coming … we’re talking all things Bison on what we hope to become a fan favorite weekly podcast.”
What started with a call to an Omaha law office ten years ago to a technology platform that didn’t even exist at the time, the goal and mission always staying the same – bringing you, the fan, the best content focusing exclusively on our shared passion, North Dakota State.
The Bison Illustrated Podcast gives a fresh, new voice to the fan’s perspective, much like we set out to do when we started this journey. It’s also free and available on iTunes and SoundCloud (search Bison Illustrated). Or, you can simply visit our website, bisonillustrated.com/podcast, which has every episode available at the click of a button. We link every episode to Twitter and Facebook as well. Give us five minutes of your time, and we’re confident you’ll like what you hear. We welcome feedback, questions, and even criticism as we work to get better with each podcast. In our second episode, we debate the best games in Fargodome history as the Bison enter our 25th season of playing in one of the best venues in all of college athletics. Was it the famous “Georgia Southern II” game, the 2007 quarterback duel between Steve Walker and Sam Houston State’s Rhett Bomar, or does one of the instant classics against Northern Iowa or South Dakota State take the belt? In the episode that follows, Justin Swanson, North Dakota State’s Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Fan Engagement, takes listeners on a backstage tour of what goes into producing the Bison Game Day experience. More guests will follow, including Bison greats, coaches, and you, the fans.
You can literally listen anywhere in the world and have insight into NDSU Athletics unlike anything else out there. Join us for this new adventure. It’s not our podcast. It belongs to you, Bison Nation. It’s informative, entertaining, and a must for every Bison fan.
Everybody up for the kickoff, the podcast is on!