This winter/spring athletic season doesn’t have to be about the big picture or the grand scheme of things. It can be about something simpler. It can be about being grateful that there are even games we can enjoy on the road back to normalcy. It can be about the North Dakota State Bison having an opportunity to play with spring on the horizon, and a virus on the retreat. The fact NDSU and the Missouri Valley Football Conference and Summit League have managed to put together multiple seasons in every sport – for the student-athletes, coaches and their fans – is cause enough for celebration.
I shake my head when some well-meaning fans complain, for example, that they can’t tailgate. Are you hearing yourselves if you’re among those fans mad that they can’t pound 12 beers in the west parking lot while it’s 5 degrees?
Consider this. It’s not about you.
There is a lot going on right now. Literally every sport at NDSU is “in season.” Football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, volleyball, softball, track and field, golf, cross country and soccer. There are games or meets nearly every day of the week. The leagues we’re in, our university and the athletic department are trying to create an environment to allow these games and meets to occur during what is, arguably, the largest public health crisis that our country has ever faced. The logistics are staggering, and if you really think about them, exhausting given the number of hours people are having to put in.
Instead of complaining, try this one on. If you see someone in the athletic department, or one of our coaches – or, just as importantly, their spouses or significant others – give them an “atta boy or atta girl” and offer to buy them a drink, like a triple espresso or Red Bull.
Why? Because we owe them one for even pulling this off. It ain’t as easy as it looks, folks. If you think you’re busy, here’s what NDSU is looking at.
Let’s take one February weekend as an example. Here’s what the docket looks like for NDSU Athletics the weekend of February 19–21, a Friday to Sunday. On February 19 and 21, soccer has Western Illinois. The baseball team has three games, February 19–21, against Western Kentucky. Basketball, men and women, each play on February 19 and 20 versus South Dakota State. That’s four games in two days at Scheels Arena, just for hoops. Track and field has a meet in Grand Forks. Softball has three games against Boise State, Memphis and Louisiana Tech on February 20 and 21 in Louisiana. On February 21 and 22, volleyball is down the road playing South Dakota. And, of course, on Sunday, February 21 at 2:30 p.m., football kicks-off its season against Youngstown State. As if this wasn’t a busy enough weekend, on Monday and Tuesday February 22 and 23, men’s golf has “The Joust” event in California.
That’s 17 different athletic competitions spanning five days if you’re scoring at home. That’s an average of 3.4 events or games, per day, while the majority of us are enjoying our weekends. From Fargo to California, down to Louisiana and over to Kentucky, and up-and-down I-29 in Grand Forks and Vermillion. And you, Bison fan, are up in arms because you can’t tailgate? Sheesh. I mean, double sheesh. Pull up a barstool at Herd & Horns, Labby’s, the Turf, Chubs or your own living room, and be grateful this is even happening.
My twin brother worked in college athletics for nearly 20 years. I have friends that still work in college athletics. These games and events don’t magically happen with the flip of a switch. It is a grind. Some games take days to plan and prepare for, with scores of meetings and coordination between a team of people that you probably haven’t heard about.
People like athletic trainers, ticketing staff, medical personnel, fundraisers, the stat-takers and scorekeepers, the officials, the public address announcer, the janitorial and building staff and the athletic staffer producing whatever game or event it is. For us, as fans, it all seems and feels seamless. We show up, sit down, cheer for a while, fire off some tweets and then adjourn to our homes or favorite watering holes to, most times, celebrate a Bison win. Meanwhile, the people that put together the four basketball games against the Jackrabbits at the SHAC have to immediately flip the script and start on the football game across the road at the Fargodome.
Then, the weekend after that, and throughout the rest of the spring into May, and hopefully another trip to Frisco, Tex., they have to do it all over again while trying to manage lives outside of work that involves their families, their own kids’ events, keeping the driveway clear of snow and worrying about their players in a global pandemic.
This spring, I don’t want to hear any complaints from Bison fans. A simple and heartfelt thank you to our coaches, players, the athletic department and everyone else in between for even pulling this off will suffice.
So, to all of you who are working those long hours and making this happen, thank you. You are the true Strength of the Herd.
Everybody up for the kickoff, the march is on!