North Dakota State University is undoubtedly a powerhouse among FCS football teams. They won the national championship (not that national championship, but you know what I’m talking about) the last five years in a row and were expected by many to do so again this year. Sadly for the bison, their dreams did not come true in 2017, as they did not take home the title (let alone even make it to the title game). And while they are good, and I mean damn good — going so far as to beat many an FBS team — I just can’t find it in me to hate their fans, even as an alumnus of another FCS school. For whatever reason, NDSU fans are just the nicest people in college football and the world.
I ran into quite a few NDSU fans at the FCS National Championship this past weekend in Frisco, Texas. I was obviously intrigued when I saw them in attendance. Why the hell would someone go to a game in which their team wasn’t even playing? Moreover, why would they go to a game in which a team they thought they’d beat was playing? I had to ask.
Right off the bat, the folks I talked to were friendly, kind, and downright all-around good people. After several hours of tailgating, I can guarantee I was none of those things. Regardless, they answered me with some kind of weird, almost overly nice Midwestern honesty that really took me aback.
I think every NDSU fan I spoke with said they’d been expecting to be playing in the championship game. Not only that, but they went so far as to say they had expected to win. That, right there, from anyone else in the world, would seem like a very dickish thing to say. But they were so upbeat and cheery about it all that I just couldn’t get mad. They weren’t being braggadocious; they were being sincere. I couldn’t even talk shit back. I just couldn’t.
They had made travel arrangements, reserved hotel rooms, and bought tickets to the game weeks, and even months, prior. They weren’t there to be assholes. They weren’t there to ruin our fun. They were just there to get their money’s worth and watch a good game of FCS football. It was honestly shocking.
College football fans are generally very aggressive when it comes to their team and its honor. These NDSU fans were not. They acknowledged that they lost, obviously dropped a line or two about how they’d be back in the championship next year (we’ll see), and joined the rest of us in having a few beers, kicking back, and watching one of America’s greatest traditions, college football, with their friends and families.
I’ve seen many a brawl break out between opposing fans in my day in the tailgate lot. I’ve seen heckling in the stands. I’ve seen a near-death experience at a hot dog stand. But I’ve never seen something like this. As much as I want to hate them, I just can’t. NDSU fans are just the nicest people in the game. I have to respect the shit out of that..
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