In this week’s edition of My Thoughts Exactly, Daniel “Pinto” Gunderson relives his car trip to and from Frisco, Texas to watch the North Dakota State University Bison football team defeat the Sam Houston State University Bearkats 39-13 for a second straight National Championship.
NDSU fans fill up the stands at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas for the FCS National Championship on Saturday, Jan. 5. (Photo by Daniel Gunderson)
When I first bought tickets to the Football Championship Subdivision National Championship game in Frisco, Texas on Saturday, January 5, I started to think about how I was going to get there.
I thought that maybe I could jump on one of the several busses headed down to Frisco or perhaps find a cheap flight out of Fargo or Minneapolis down to Dallas, the city just outside of Frisco. Well, unless I wanted to sell a non-vital organ for a plane ticket, I wasn’t going by air. And getting on a bus was not an option unless I wanted to be working on no sleep for the trip.
So, I rounded up a couple friends and traveled by car. According to Google Maps, the trip is supposed to take just under 16 hours at 1,065 miles away. We split up those miles by stopping by my friend’s house in Papillion, Neb.
Papillion is a small town just outside of Omaha, Neb. and is about 10 hours north of Frisco. We pulled in around 1 a.m. Friday morning after leaving Fargo around 6:30 p.m. on Thursday night. After a few hours of sleep, we were on the road again.
As we traveled, I kept thinking of how Frisco, even Texas itself, would appear to me. While most of the Midwest didn’t show much of a difference from North Dakota, I figured Texas would just be an oasis in the middle of a desert.
While it wasn’t an oasis, Texas was much more crowded than the states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. Frisco, a suburb of Dallas, has a population just over 120,000. On this particular weekend, it was pushed closer to 140,000 as Bison fans descended upon it in the tens of thousands.
With a chance to watch NDSU repeat as champions for the first time since the mid-80s, fans came down to Texas in droves. Plane, train or automobile, it didn’t matter. A bar by the name of 3rd Base was the popular hang out on Friday night as it was packed to the gills with Bison fans.
While regulars had NEVER seen the bar this packed, Bison fans just took it all in stride. Many of them didn’t even get a chance to buy a drink as they encountered about a dozen people they knew on their way to the bar. The conversations mostly followed the same pattern.
“When did you get in?” “Where are you staying?” “Where are your seats?” “What time are you going to the game tomorrow?” “How do you think it will go?”
When people had enough or they were ready to move on to Plano or Dallas via cab because the bars in Frisco closed down at midnight, they parted ways with their friends or made their way with friends reacquainted.
I was one who made his way back to the hotel after the midnight close. I slept on my makeshift bed, couch cushions on the floor of a hotel, and got all the rest I needed for tomorrow’s activities.
The next morning, the lobby of the hotel was filled with Bison fans either wiping the sleep from their eyes or the memories of a night gone too long. A quick breakfast and it was off to the tailgating.
An enormous amount Bison fans trumped the Bearkats showing tenfold. A sea of green and yellow spilled over from the north and the south on the east side of FC Dallas Stadium. I even ran into two cousins, one who I knew was going to be there, the other which I did not, and a handful of classmates from college.
The game itself was uneventful. No real drama as NDSU ran all over SHSU 39-13, the game all but over before the fourth quarter started. Thoughts began to drift to the journey back to Fargo the next day. The Vikings playoff game did little to give me relief from these thoughts as the purple were dominated 24-10 at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
As we packed up the car early Sunday morning, it was decided that we would skip a scheduled sleep over in Lincoln, Neb. and push through the night to arrive in Fargo early Monday morning. While I manned the wheel for the majority of the trip back, I did receive a little help on the home stretch.
As I think back on the trip, it all was worth it. I will be doing things differently next year. Buying tickets earlier, getting a hotel room earlier and flying. As far as the going back thing is concerned, it is all up to a team that returns 19 of 22 starters. Odds are high that they will have a spot in Frisco in 2014.
And another journey will ensue. It will not only be me, but 10,000 other Bison fans wanting to make the journey down to see the nation’s best football team.
Daniel “Pinto” Gunderson is the producer of the Mike McFeely Show, which is heard every weekday on 790 KFGO from 2-5 p.m. You can follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @pintoKFGO.