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This is getting embarrassing, Bison fans

by Mike McFeely

Stop embarrassing yourselves, Bison fans.

While your passion for your team and your university are laudable, do you really believe whining and starting Facebook campaigns to influence ESPN's decision-makers is making you look big-time? 

Or do you think it makes you look parochial and bush-league?

Because here's the deal: The way some of you are griping about the decision to base ESPN's College GameDay in downtown Fargo and not near the Fargodome for the North Dakota State game makes it seem like y'all don't get out much.

ESPN, which knows a thing or two about good sports television and a thing or three about producing an excellent college football pre-game show, has stated clearly the reason it chose downtown Fargo is because of its uniqueness. It is something that, as outsiders coming to our community for the first time, stands out to them. And they know how to make it into good television ... which is their No. 1 goal.

"Downtown Fargo will create the best backdrop. It's like a postcard.  It's like 'Downtown, USA,'" ESPN producer Lee Fitting said in an e-mail. "It Will be great for America to get a glimpse of this. We rarely do shows by a stadium anymore. It just doesn't create the best backdrop. I'd like to think people will come, even though it requires a little effort.  It will be worth it."

Seems clear enough. Yet a fair number of NDSU fans, even when given that entirely logical explanation, continue to belly-ache that the Fargodome or the tailgating area would be the best location from which to broadcast GameDay.

Their biggest complaint seems to be based on tailgating. No. 1, that fans can't easily walk from tailgating to the GameDay set. No. 2, that ESPN is going to miss the Bison game-day atmosphere because NDSU tailgating is just so huge and so outstanding that no person in their right mind could see it any other way.

To address No. 1: ESPN coming to Fargo/NDSU is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. If you can't set down your cocktail wienies and beer long enough to travel 2.1 miles downtown to see a once-in-a-lifetime event being broadcast worldwide, then you are more interested in boozing than cheering for your team/school and enjoying the game-day excitement.

To address No. 2: NDSU tailgating, while having grown into a big deal for Fargo and Bison fans the last several years, is not in any way unique to college football nor is it all that large compared to major football universities. ESPN, folks, has broadcast from universities where tailgating is much larger and much crazier ... and the network still didn't base its production at tailgating. Going back to Fitting's quote: "We rarely do shows by stadiums anymore."

Look at it from ESPN's perspective: It travels to college town. Fans tailgate. They drink. They grill. They act wacky. They drink. They paint their face. They drink.

How is NDSU's tailgating any different than ANY OTHER TAILGATING IN THE COUNTRY?

 Fans tailgate at other college football games, too, including Texas A&M. (Photo courtesy Associated Press)

The answer: Other than being on a smaller scale, it is not different. It is not unique.

This is not meant to criticize NDSU tailgating. It has grown into a big, fun event. It is the party on the prairie. Bison fans travel well and they take their tailgating on the road. It is all good.

But places like Ole Miss, Texas A&M, LSU, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame -- you know, the truly big-time football schools -- know how to tailgate, too. And they've been doing it for decades and they do it on a big scale.

Take Texas A&M, for example. has an estimated 35,000-40,000 fans tailgating before the game. That's twice as many people that are inside the Fargodome during a sold-out game. Aggie fans were voted the No. 1 tailgaters in the country by something called Tailgaters Magazine. Ole Miss' tailgating in "The Grove" is a remarkable experience. The list goes on.

 The University of Washington has a pretty nice setting for its football stadium. People tailgate here, too.

Take ESPN's visit as a compliment, and a convergence of forces. Producers had an opportunity to do something outside the box and chose your town and your school. Embrace it.

And stop whining. This is getting embarrassing. 

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)