Photo By Hillary Ehlen
You win some, you lose some. Unless you’re North Dakota State, then you just win them. You win them so much that you find yourself the topic of a Twitter debate between ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and fans of the American Athletic Conference. In response to a claim that he’s SEC-biased in overlooking several one-loss Group of Five teams, including Boise State, Cincinnati and Memphis in favor of a three-loss Auburn squad, Herbstreit insinuated that those three 10-1 teams ranked Nos. 18, 19, and 20 in the latest FBS poll would all lose to the Bison. On the surface, at least, it appears that’s what Herbstreit was implying.
In a high-minded Twitter dialogue – aren’t they all – the Bison somehow found themselves in a blender of sorts with four teams rated in the Top 25 of the FBS. It was Herbstreit that brought up the Bison. He’s a guy that knows more about college football than you, or I, ever will.
Earlier in the weekend, the Bison were sprayed all across ABC’s primetime game of the week with fancy graphics packages and HiDef highlights in recognition of their second 33-game winning streak since 2012. Those are the two longest winning streak in FCS history. If the Bison end up raising another national championship trophy in Frisco, their eighth title in nine years, they’ll have entered a third calendar year since their last defeat.
Such a feat would give NDSU a 37-game winning streak, tied with the great Yale teams of 1887–1889 and 1890–1893 for the third-longest streak in Division I history. And that’s boring? That’s the latest mantra being bandied about in some corners; that Bison fans are tired and bored with their historic success, and their team’s obnoxious habit of putting more years on those pesky, cluttered championship banners inside the Fargodome. Yes, sir, those same fans are complaining about having too much money, being way too happy and not having a care in the world.
If you’re a fan, you’d like to see NDSU move to FBS. You’re curious how they’d compete against, say, the likes of Boise State, Cincinnati and Memphis. That isn’t fruit from the boredom tree. It’s a healthy vision. Many fans, this one included, take a special interest in comments like Herbstreit’s because those who follow college football at the highest levels think enough of NDSU to throw Twitter jabs saying the Bison would beat some of the best teams in the country. That’s far from boring. It’s the quintessential opposite of boring. It’s Maximus standing headstrong and fierce in Ancient Rome, demanding of the crowd, “Are you not entertained!” Of course, Maximus made it all the way to the Colosseum, his day’s version of The Rose Bowl, before meeting his fate.
Meanwhile, NDSU goes about its business winning games and making history. Humbly, with quiet confidence, playing the game with crisp execution and discipline befitting of Eddie Robinson, Bud Wilkinson, and Tom Osborne. Nobody sets out and says, “Let’s win 33-straight football games … again” or, “How about we try and win eight national championships in nine years.” History is funny like that, and we’re living in it. Winston Churchill once famously said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Churchill was a prolific writer. In fact, he was one of the most noteworthy and accomplished authors of the twentieth century. Churchill literally wrote, among other things, histories of both World Wars, himself playing a starring role in each. Churchill was being quite literal in his quote about history being kind to him. He understood history.
As for the Bison, while perhaps not Churchillian, at least not yet, they too are writing their own history. History’s road is before us. Regardless of the foes in the way, however seemingly daunting and impossible winning at such a level rarely seen before in college football, this is the era of the Bison. The Bison losing would be a bigger story than any other team winning. It’s Notre Dame snapping UCLA’s historic 88-game winning streak, Douglas beating Tyson, North Carolina State toppling Phi Slamma Jamma. It’d be a 30 for 30. Everyone else is a bit player on this stage. The spotlight shines on the Bison.
I suspect this team, this program and its players and coaches, rise to the challenge, any tweets from Herbstreit or the College GameDay crew notwithstanding. The Bison aren’t playing bored. They aren’t focusing on history’s bigger road. They’ll leave that to us. You don’t, you can’t, win 33 games in a row, at any level, and all these championships by losing focus on what’s in front of you.
There are too many obstacles on the road to history to outdrive your headlights. Churchill also said, “The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.”
For my part, give me the questions of victory, even if the answers lead to intense yet worthy debate. It’s better than asking the questions of defeat, like ‘how do we catch North Dakota State?’
Everybody up for the kickoff, the march is on.