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Published September 17 2013

Forum editorial: Downtown with ESPN just right

North Dakota State University football fans who are grousing about ESPN’s decision to broadcast its “College GameDay” program from downtown Fargo are an embarrassment to the university, the city and themselves. It’s utter nonsense to bite a hand that feeds you, but that’s what alleged fans are doing by whining about the ESPN-favored site for the gold standard of broadcast sports programming.

Arguably, there is no bigger TV sports show than “College GameDay.” The few schools and communities that land a football season live broadcast are showcased to millions of viewers. The prestige for the Bison that will attach to the Saturday show is huge. The two-time national champion football team certainly has put NDSU on the national sports map. But Saturday’s ESPN production will put all of NDSU, North Dakota and the campus’s home community, Fargo, in a bright national light.

It doesn’t get any better than that when it comes to college football. If a few myopic and, we might add, extraordinarily selfish fans don’t like the downtown setup for the show, so what. Let the dumber among them stew in their pique with a few beers in a Fargodome tailgate lot.

Moreover, as KFGO afternoon talk-show host Mike McFeely wryly put it during Monday’s broadcast, Bison fans on campus and elsewhere can find their way downtown. McFeely noted they had no trouble getting to Manhattan, Kan., or to Frisco, Texas, when the team played in those distant places. Surely, he suggested, they have the directional sense to make the short trip from campus to downtown.

Of course, the alleged fans who are more interested in turning the ESPN show into an extension of tailgating at the Dome will not be mollified. Too bad. If they are committed to the team, they will don their green and yellow, get themselves downtown and cheer on the Bison, NDSU and the ESPN folks.

Bison football does not belong exclusively to tailgaters or a booster club or even the loyal students. “Bison Nation” is as broad as North Dakota. It even encompasses all those North Dakotans who live elsewhere in the country. They, too, will be tuning in Saturday.

The city of Fargo has embraced Bison football in good times and bad. The iconic cityscape of restored downtown is a perfect stage not only to showcase NDSU and the team (ESPN camera crews will be all over the Dome, tailgating lots and the campus) but also to show the broader context of the team’s hometown and home state. It’s more than a sports story, and ESPN’s producers saw that immediately. They got it right. The shortsighted fans who seem unable or unwilling to see the bigger picture got it wrong.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.