In early October, I became a dad. My wife, Libby, and I welcomed Maverick into the world and Bison fandom. We’re first time parents, and let me tell you, it’s some kind of trip. My tailgating time has been curtailed significantly while my efficiency at changing a full diaper rivals that of a NASCAR pit crew gunning a set of fresh Goodyear radials with lightning-quick speed. Every day is something new, wonderfully new. For example, when driving Maverick around town, I have a sense of what it must feel like to be the Secret Service agent driving the president somewhere. My head is on a swivel, man. I’m thinking about routes, eyeballing every vehicle in sight, and if my SUV had police lights and sirens – it doesn’t, not yet anyway – they’d be running full blast.
It’s the best feeling ever. I also have the best seat in the house for every North Dakota State game. Home or away. Rain or shine. The seat isn’t a sideline pass. It’s not in a suite next to other Bison fans, in the student section or in the media press box. The best seat isn’t even in the stadium. It’s at my house, on the couch, by the end table near the window. It has nothing to do with the new flat screen from Costco mounted above the mantle, or the loaded fridge. It has everything to do with who I’m with and holding during the game, Maverick Swanson, the newest little Bison fan. He joins a long line of enthusiastic and diehard Bison fans, like his great grandparents Jim and Norma, his uncle Justin and aunt Kayla, his cousin Grady, and his grandparents, Pa and Ma Swany.
From start to finish, Maverick, or “Mav,”sits with me. From 1993 until this fall, you could count on one hand the number of Bison games at the Fargodome that I wasn’t at. I’ve had season tickets since that 1993 season, I served as ballboy for Rocky Hager and Bob Babich, I’ve covered games for NDSU’s student newspaper, The Spectrum, and for Bison Illustrated, I talk about the Bison on my radio show, Herd it Hear with Swany on 740AM The Fan, and the Bison Illustrated Podcast, and I’m a fervent and proud supporter of Six Flags Tailgating.
None of that remotely compares to watching a game with Maverick. I spend as much time watching him sleep as I do watching the game. The outcome doesn’t seem as important as the simple joy of watching the Bison with him. He’s got a green NDSU onesie jersey and a Bison hat that he wears. He can’t understand what I’m saying, of course, because he’s a newborn, and he won’t remember these first few games. But his dad will remember. I’ll never forget these first few games, especially the very first one, a 46-14 homecoming win over Northern Iowa. I’ve been to every FCS national championship in Frisco, the big FBS wins over Minnesota, Kansas State, Iowa State and Iowa, the College GameDays, every single playoff game at the Fargodome, games at Dacotah Field, and epic road wins like the one in Brookings earlier this fall.
My favorite Bison game so far, though, at least until the next one, are the ones on the couch with Mav. I’m absolutely beaming. Early in the afternoon, we sit down and flip on KVLY and statewide NBC for the pregame show. We watch Kyle Emanuel show Ryan Gellner how to rush the passer in the end zone, listen to Beth Hoole and Alex Egan talk about the keys to the game while Libby wonders why Alex’s sports coat is some shade of light green, and settle in for the call by Brian Shawn and Lee Timmerman.
It won’t be too long before Maverick knows who the players are, can recite stats, and he’s cheering for “the Rams” just like his old man. It won’t be too long before he’s throwing a football in the tailgating lots and running around with his cousin, Kye. We’ve even worked on our Bison history. Fortunately, through my day job, I took the month of October off – “man-ternity leave” – to be with Mav and Libby, and will be working from home a good part of the days through year-end.
That was the best decision I’ve ever made, hands down for so many reasons. Among them, Maverick and I have watched dozens of classic Bison games on DVR and Youtube. When mom is napping, that’s how Mav and dad relax. The first one we watched was last December’s semifinal win over South Dakota State. We’re also watching ESPN’s documentary, “College Football 150: The American Game.”
It’s a love for this university and team, and for college football, that I got from my dad growing up that I’m now sharing with Maverick. I’m going to be a hot, crying mess when I take Maverick to his first Bison game at the Fargodome with his grandpa. And that’s okay. Maverick will be too young to remember his dad, and probably his grandpa, shedding a few happy tears.
I still remember driving with my dad and his friends from Maddock to Fargo for my first ever game at Dacotah Field in November 1990, a quarterfinal win against Cal Poly. I’ll never forget a January day in early 2013, leaping over the railing at Toyota Stadium, and giving my brother a huge bear hug after NDSU beat Sam Houston State – a win we knew would get him a national championship ring, something he grew up dreaming of since we were little kids.
Like many of you, being a Bison and NDSU fan has been, and is, a huge part of our family. Now, like many of you, I’ve got the best seat in the house for games – watching the game with Maverick.
Everybody up for the kickoff, the march is on!