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James Ferragut, Published September 28 2013

Ferragut: Smiling in glow of ‘GameDay’

How do I explain what it feels like to see our often maligned, misunderstood and ignored town being presented for who we really are?

Cynical national media have occasionally thrown us a condescending bone of attention, but usually for the wrong reasons. Our resolve to defy convention and fight floods is worthy of coverage. But the “flat-cold-hick town” reference has gotten old. The film “FARGO, ya you betcha!” reference got old 10 years ago.

The brains behind ESPN’s “College GameDay” realized that a football dynasty that could beat Big 12 champion Kansas State was worth looking into. ESPN producer Lee Fitting saw an opportunity: Zero in on a football team that’s moving at light speed under the national radar. North Dakota is relatively unknown. Fargo is best known as star of a Coen Brothers movie and maybe for Roger Maris. Fitting knew the second he arrived that downtown Fargo would be possibly the best setting in the 26-year history of his award-winning program.

Downtown Fargo “is the picture-postcard of an American city and that’s how we’re going to show it.” Bison Nation was showcased in sporting green and yellow, and our typical 110 percent commitment to the team. Crowd noise was deafening, the energy off the charts, and praise from the ESPN team was endless.

But it was the visuals that gave me the biggest goosies. With overhead helicopter shots of the ESPN set and the surrounding crowds, to the one-off shots of beautiful, historic buildings – preconceived images of Fargo dissolved. Cameras panned the historic/contemporary architecture of the Kilbourne and Loretta buildings with setup shots contrasting the historic against the imposing Radisson and the 21st- century Gate City Bank building.

“This scene from downtown Fargo is unbelievable, and I believe the bar has just been raised for our ‘College GameDay’ show …” said ESPN anchor Chris Fowler.

When the broadcast was over, Fowler addressed the crowd with almost a sense of wonder when he said: “We’ve been to every hotbed you can think of, but this has been unforgettable” and later tweeted: “Huge thank you to Fargo and NDSU for one of the best ‘College GameDays’ ever!” Fitting said, “NDSU will not fall off our radar ever. Again, one of the best all-time spots.”

Fargo is finally seen, not as a blank spot on the nation’s consciousness but a contemporary, progressive and beautiful city.

When “Seinfeld” sitcom character George Costanza was so full of himself and so happy that everything was going his way, he’d say: “I’m busting, Jerry ... I’m busting!” I can relate. But I prefer a more subtle form of celebrating my hometown. Harkening back, ironically, to another Coen Brothers film, “O Brother Where Art Thou?,” when ‘GameDay’ was over, I smiled, like George Clooney’s pater familia, and said to myself, “we’re bonafide.” That’s the “Fargo” in me.

Ferragut is a marketing consultant and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary page.