If Fargo didn’t have a nickname before, we have one now, courtesy ESPN College GameDay host Chris Fowler. Fargo has been christened Boom City. And what do we do in Boom City? It’s pretty simple. The business is winning championships, at least according to Fowler. Fowler gave downtown Fargo a rousing introduction – an introduction worthy of Theodore Roosevelt, bully! – to a national television audience and the entire sports world when College GameDay made its first of what will hopefully be many trips to Boom City on September 21.
Broadcasting from Broadway with downtown completely draped in green and yellow, Bison banners and flags hanging from buildings, people raising the horns from balconies and posters of all kinds on full display in storefront windows, Fowler issued a proclamation that summarized a passionate fanbase that has evolved into Bison Nation. “Welcome to a Boom Town, where the business is winning championships, building a dynasty. … And this is a scene that’s got to be seen, and heard to be believed. As loud and proud and crazy, as invested as any hotbed anywhere. College GameDay, for the first time, roams to the home of the Mighty North Dakota State Bison.”
As they say, our reputation precedes us and was touted by ESPN during the three hour broadcast. You guys need to understand; GameDay doesn’t see that sort of passion with the “big boys.” It wasn’t flattery when GameDay co-host Kirk Herbstreit said the bar had been raised for every other school because of GameDay’s week in Fargo. What about South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame? Nope, that leprechaun can’t get half as crazy as Bison Nation, even on St. Patrick’s Day with a five hour head start. What say you, Bucky Badger in Wisconsin? If anywhere is just as crazy, it’d be the place where the official state meal is thick beer, cheese and bratwurst. Sorry, no discount double check for you. Bison Nation could hold our own on State Street in Madison any day of the week and twice on Saturday.
Don’t believe me? Ask Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney why he doesn’t want his teams scheduling the mighty Bison from Boom City. None of the “big boys” want any part of us. Just ask Kansas State. When you mess with the Bison, you get the horns! Our fan base – you, me, us – that gets together every weekend in the west lot of the FargoDome is not an FCS fan base. We’re big time. We are every part as good and then some as our Big Ten and Big XII cousins. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em … or in our case, if you can beat ‘em, join ‘em. We belong on that stage, week in and week out. The next Boise State? No, in ten years, college football fans and ESPN will be referring to up-and-comers as the next North Dakota State.
Part of the reason GameDay picked Fargo was you – our unbelievably committed fan base. Fowler said it himself, we’re loud, proud, and crazy. Bison Nation travels by the thousands, from here to Frisco, Manhattan, Fort Collins, Brookings, Minneapolis and everywhere in between. But it’s not just the travel, it’s entire sections of away stadiums swathed in yellow and decidedly committed to the Herd. Can you imagine being an athletic director from, oh, I don’t know, say South Dakota State, where chants of “Bison home game” echo throughout your stadium? Or how about the boosters of the same school, looking out on a tailgating scene where there are more Bison big rigs, buses, trailers and fans than in their own backyard? What about the head coach from Sam Houston State in a national championship game at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, only a few short hours from his campus, and the stands are decked in green and yellow?
Boom City has gained a nationwide reputation for a fan base, university, community and state completely behind our Bison. We gave the boys and gals from ESPN a show they won’t soon forget. The atmosphere was electric. Again, don’t take my words. Listen to how GameDay’s senior producer described it. Keep in mind, this is the guy who picks the sites each week, scripts the show and has seen it all from Gainesville, Florida to Lincoln, Nebraska, major towns in the GameDay landscape. “This is a combination of College GameDay meets Wrigley Field meets champion league soccer intensity,” said Lee Fitting, in describing Fargo. “We’ll make it a yearly stop if everything falls into place. Again, one of the all-time best spots.”
One of the all-time best spots. That’s not lip service, either. I’ve watched GameDay since I was a kid growing up on the prairie and playing 9-man football. What we did on ESPN was something never seen in the entire 21-year history of the biggest show in college football. We are one of the hottest tickets in college sports right now, and the sky is the limit. There is practically nothing that this university can’t do if it wants to. Why? The people, Bison Nation, the Herd. During a featured segment on the GameDay broadcast, reporter Tom Rinaldi asked Bison rancher and NDSU supporter Greg Maddock what is the power in the Herd. Maddock’s answer was perfect in describing the mindset of the Herd. “As far as the individual there isn’t such a thing with Bison because if one animal would get out of the fence the whole herd would go with him. They’re very much a team animal.” I guess you could say the same thing about our team and fan base.
ESPN gave us so much that weekend. But it’s not like we didn’t give something back, besides the Emmy-worthy television and an atmosphere that raised the bar for every other GameDay broadcast this year. We gave them some of our Herd mentality to take with on the road. We did something no other GameDay crowd has done in 21 years. At the show’s conclusion, Lee Corso walked the red carpet out of the Fargo Theatre with a young Bison calf wearing Thundar’s head. The young Bison calf had been christened Corso, after his namesake, the man famous for putting on mascot heads from Alabama’s elephant to Oregon’s duck. Joining that list is NDSU’s Bison. And why wouldn’t we, this is Boom City after all. Everyone up for the kickoff, the march is on!