The Minneapolis airport was filled with green and yellow the day before North Dakota State played Illinois State for the national championship. Talk of a fourth straight title and a weekend of celebrating were thick in the air as excited fans prepared to board flights heading to Texas. With the exception of one Bison fan, he may have been the only guy in the entire airport wearing green and yellow not boarding a plane to Dallas.
Ryan Dosch was that fan. He graduated from NDSU in 2010 with a degree in construction management, but had a much more important trip to take. He was on his way from Spokane, Wash., where he lives with his fiancé, to Bismarck to watch the game with his dad, Andy Dosch.
Andy Dosch, a manager at Dan’s Supermarket in the capitol city, was diagnosed in early December with stage-three prostate cancer after visiting the doctor for abdominal pain. Ryan Dosch couldn’t stand the thought of his dad going through chemotherapy treatments and watching the game without him.
As the Bison marched through the regular season, Ryan Dosch thought this was the year he’d finally get to Frisco to watch the championship in person. That changed when Andy Dosch was diagnosed. “I felt terrible that my dad had been diagnosed with cancer, and I was almost 1,000 miles away and unable to help,” said Ryan Dosch. He decided that his dad and his fight were rightfully more important than the one the Bison faced against the Redbirds in Texas.
In Ryan Dosch’s mind, the choice was easy. When he started at NDSU, Andy Dosch took an interest in his son’s new favorite team — so much so that Andy Dosch started attending one Bison football game every fall and a basketball game each winter with his son. As is father visited Fargo for all those Bison games through the years, Ryan Dosch knew he needed to be with dad for this championship game.
Ryan Dosch decided to keep the visit a surprise in hopes of boosting his dad’s spirits through some tough rounds of chemotherapy. The decision was made all the more easy as Ryan Dosch teased that he could not allow his dad to watch the game alone with his younger brother, a sophomore at the University of North Dakota.
Even though Ryan Dosch can watch Bison games on ESPN3 through his Xbox in Spokane, the game feed is about 30 seconds behind what his dad sees on the North Dakota NBC Network. “I learned to turn off my phone during games,” he joked, “because my dad would text me when a big play would happen and spoil the outcome for me.”
With thoughts like these in mind, as he boarded his flight in Minneapolis for Bismarck, Ryan Dosch knew surprising his dad would more than compensate for watching the rest of Bison Nation flying south. “He told me he thought of all of the surprises he has had in his life, this was the best surprise.” It would only get better as the weekend moved on.
When Ryan Dosch arrived at home it was dad surprising him, saying they needed to start the tailgating spread for the game. “I hadn’t been home since my dad started chemo treatments, but I heard he spent most of the day in bed sleeping or just feeling nauseous so I didn’t know what to expect for the game.” Having his son home, combined with cheering the Bison towards another championship, proved the shot of energy Ryan Dosch hoped for. “Friday night when I got home, he was saying how we needed to get his football shaped crock-pot out and make chili, chip dip and little smokeys. He was very excited.”
On Saturday, just as the Bison started battling the Redbirds in Frisco, Andy Dosch was fighting his battle. “Saturday, unfortunately, he wasn’t feeling good,” Ryan Dosch said, as chemo treatments days earlier on Wednesday and Thursday started taking their toll on his dad. This left Andy Dosch exhausted and nauseous, so he started watching the game from bed. But just like their favorite team, Andy Dosch was determined not to let his opponent get the better of him with his son home. “To our surprise, he walked into the living room before the second half with his NDSU long-sleeved T-shirt and Bison beanie hat on. He even got to partake in the chili and smokeys.”
Andy and Ryan Dosch were able to watch together, father and son, as the Bison won the most dramatic championship game of the four-peat with some last minute heroics by Bismarck natives Carson Wentz and Esley Thorton. After the Redbirds scored the go-ahead touchdown leaving the Bison only a 1:38 left for a comeback attempt, it was Wentz, Thorton and the Bison lifting Andy Dosch’s spirit just as his son did with his surprise visit. “He perked up more than I have seen him in a long time when the game-winning touchdown happened.”
From exhaustion and nausea, the Wentz touchdown had Andy Dosch, like the rest of the Bison Family in Frisco, fist pumping and high-fiving. “He was whooping and fist pumping, and even handing out high fives,” said Ryan Dosch, describing the scene as it unfolded.
The celebration in Frisco triggered an unforgettable Kodak moment in the Dosch home. It was a moment, those once-in-a-lifetime moments, that they will never forget. “As soon as the Bison scored, he insisted I run and grab my iPad so we could watch the trophy ceremony on ESPN3,” Ryan Dosch said.
While the Bison were lifting their fourth straight championship trophy on the stage in Toyota Stadium, Andy and Ryan Dosch raised their own trophy, a photo of father and son triumphantly holding up the Bison horns, Ryan Dosch’s arm around his dad, big smiles on both their faces, a symbol of their love for each other, their shared love for the Bison and a symbol of Andy Dosch’s fighting spirit.
The photo found its way onto NDSU Athletics’ Facebook page, generating an outpouring of support and prayers for Andy Dosch from their Bison family. “We had the picture taken as soon as the game was over. He was as happy as I’ve seen him in a long time, even pre-chemo,” said Ryan Dosch. Bison football brought father and son together to celebrate their relationship, the team, and the moments that make each so special.
That shared passion for Bison football and the surprise visit created a moment where cancer didn’t matter, a moment when life, hope and love triumphed; a moment proving this team, that the Bison Family to which we all belong, have a power beyond being just a game. “We have watched football and basketball games together in person, watched games on TV together and apart with me avoiding his spoiler texts. We will now have this four-peat championship memory to remember for the rest of our lives,” concluded Ryan Dosch.
For father and son, it was bigger than the game. And just like the championship victory, it’s something we can all celebrate.
Bison Illustrated offers our support and prayers for a full recovery for Andy and all those Bison battling cancer. The strength of the Herd is the Bison, and the strength of the Bison is the Herd.