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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 27 2012

Kolpack: Fan reveals compassionate side to Bison football team

Fargo - Tired of reading about a string of negative stories on the North Dakota State football team, Dirk Kringen grabbed his computer and sent an email to The Forum. He had a story to share.

He wanted to point out another side of Bison football, one that has touched him in the last two weeks. The ongoing saga of the voter fraud charges that continued to follow the program after the story broke earlier this month was not the reputation that this team deserved, he said.

“I thought this positive story should be told,” he wrote.

He told me the story this week, from his bed at a local hospital. The 39-year-old lifelong Bison football fan who lives in West Fargo is undergoing treatments for acute promyelcytic leukemia, or APL, which was diagnosed on Sept. 12.

Looking for something to lift his spirits, a couple of co-workers at Swanson Health Products in Fargo found some connection to NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. Two days later, a hand-written note from Bohl wishing him well in treatments, a game program from the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game in Frisco, Texas, and a program from this year’s season opener against Robert Morris showed up in his hands.

Last week, a get-well card signed by every member of the team and a championship patch they wore on their game jerseys in Frisco arrived via mail.

“I couldn’t believe they would do something like that for me,” Kringen said. “It definitely made my day.”

He’s got equity as a fan. As a little kid, he remembers sitting in the Dacotah Field stands watching the Bison play. He must have speedy fingers to dial a phone because he remembers listening to WDAY radio and winning tickets to the games “all the time.”

A believer in NDSU’s domination in NCAA Division II, he said he was apprehensive when the program made the move to Division I.

“I had faith they could be successful in Division I, but not this quickly,” he said. “I’ve been totally blown away that they’ve had this much success.”

He’s taking a couple different forms of chemotherapy and his outlook is positive. He’s looking forward to the day when he can start outpatient treatments.

When NDSU put out the news release that all 11 regular-season games will be televised for the first time in school history, it was followed with applause in the name of exposure for the program. The real benefit is for folks like Dirk who can watch every game from a hospital room.

“It’s good for my spirits,” he said.

Thanks, Dirk, for sharing your story. While we in the journalism business will continue to report the news – good or bad – your reflection on the Bison program I’m sure is the norm, not the exception. The football program does a lot of community service and rarely, if ever, does it ask for photo ops.

“Here they are, they don’t know me, never met me and probably will never meet me, and they took time out of their busy schedules to do something like this for one of their fans,” Dirk said. “I thought it would be cool to get that story out.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia