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The Time ESPN's College GameDay Visited Fargo, North Dakota

by Dan Gunderson

When I woke up Saturday morning, a couple of things came to mind. First was what time is it? I didn't want to know so I tried not to look but unfortunately I did. 3:30. In the a.m. Great. There were times in college when I wouldn't get home until this time.

The second thought, a much happier thought, was that this Saturday morning was different than any other Saturday morning. It was the Saturday morning that ESPN's College GameDay would be in downtown Fargo.

This thought kept running through my mind as I showered and headed out to help some of KFGO's sister stations with setting up at tailgating. My thoughts were interrupted by what I was greeted with when I got up to the Fargodome.

When I arrived at the tailgating lot on the west side of the Fargodome, I saw a line of tailgaters waiting to get into the tailgating lot.

I went up to the first guy in line because I was curious what time they arrived. Two men, one sleeping, were in the pickup that was at the front of the line. I had asked what time these guys rolled into Fargo.

"9 p.m. Yesterday."

The two men, Josh and Justin Miller, had traveled up from Wahpeton, N.D. last night, parked their pickup with the trailer behind it and left it there to go to their hotel room. Surprisingly, these dedicated Bison fans are married. Not surprisingly, their wives had decided to stay back and sleep at the hotel instead of wait in the pickup for the lot to open.

As the sun began to show over the horizon, the tailgaters with reserved spots started to show up in their lot South of the Fargodome. They didn't seem concerned about whether or not they were going to have time to head downtown to see College GameDay. 

They were more concerned about playing Thunderstruck, which I first heard at 6:48 a.m. There needs to be a law put in place to make sure that song cannot be played before 8 a.m.

As the tailgating lots were being opened up at 7 a.m., I was headed to the bus stop on University to get on a shuttle that would take me to downtown. I was ready to see this production in all of its glory. 

I was the only one on the bus for all of 15 minutes before we grabbed 10 to 15 people, presumably all students, at T lot and headed downtown.

After the bus dropped us off, we headed to Broadway and 3rd Avenue North. When I turned the corner, I was blown away at the amount of fans that had shown up for this event. I knew Bison fans were passionate but this was pretty incredible.

I weaved my way through the crowd and headed up to where Mike McFeely and Tank were broadcasting on 740 The Fan. They were broadcasting from a balcony just above the College GameDay stage. It was a pretty nice vantage point.

It became obvious that the Absolute Marketing Group were being pretty gracious hosts to not only our company but to several other people. It became cramped on the balcony so I moved around to see if I could find a better spot to see the crowd. 

Don't ask me how, but I found a way to access the roof. When I got up there, I made a friend by the name of Jeff. I called him rooftop Jeff. He too was pretty amazed at the amount of fans that decided to head downtown.

Jeff wasn't so excited that he was going to miss out on food though. "I hear that one of the bars down here is giving away free breakfast food." He looked at me in a way to say, "Nice to meet you but you don't have food. They do. See ya."

So, I followed suit and went down onto the street to see if I could move around and get a better view of the production. That was wishful thinking as the sidewalks were backed with Bison fans sporting their green and gold attire.

I even ran into some of our friends from the north, although I think they were confused. They must of thought there was a hockey game in downtown Fargo.

While on the ground the one thing that stood out to me more than anything was the atmosphere. People were curious. They wanted to see how all of this would work, how ESPN would make Fargo look and how much NDSU and their football team was mentioned.

There wasn't a lot of intensity in the air, like their would be at tailgating before a big game or in the Fargodome prior to kickoff. It was a mix between being at a concert and a street fair. People were reserved for the most part but wanted to figure out what was going on.

When I got back to work and sat down to watch the remaining 30 minutes or so of the show, I kept getting goosebumps. That was my town, the college I graduated from and ESPN was in town to highlight the best of both.

There are certain times in your life where you feel pride in something just because of a small connection. This was one of those moments. I am no longer a student nor do I have anything to do with the success of the Bison football program. 

I still, at the end of the day, felt like sticking out my chest because Fargo and NDSU had been featured on ESPN. I know that seems like some misplaced pride but I will venture a guess and say a lot of people felt the same way at the end of the day.

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called “The Pinto and White Shadow Show.” Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.