Chris Tiedeman, Eagan, Minn., column: Decision fractures cornerstone of UND
By Chris Tiedeman EAGAN, Minn. -- One of my vivid memories of growing up in Crookston was my father bringing me to the Bremer Bank to hear Sioux hockey coach Gino Gasparini talk about the team's upcoming series against the dreaded University of M...
By Chris Tiedeman
EAGAN, Minn. -- One of my vivid memories of growing up in Crookston was my father bringing me to the Bremer Bank to hear Sioux hockey coach Gino Gasparini talk about the team's upcoming series against the dreaded University of Minnesota Gophers.
Having attended Sioux games regularly from before they were a conscious memory, I knew Gino was an icon; he was a mountain to me. In fact, my first pair of skates -- at 2 years old -- came from John Noah, UND hockey's first first-team All American, through Gino and his kids to me.
My dad leaned over to me, I remember, and told me to raise my hand and ask Gino what his plans were for Gopher center Pat Micheletti that weekend. A big smile came to Gino's face as he reached for an imaginary holster on his hip and said, "I've got my .45 caliber." (That is a handgun, for the PC crowd who are the impetus behind this piece).
I was glowing with excitement that I was able to ask Gasparini a question and even more excited when he approached us to say hi to my dad and me after the event.
The point is, the UND Fighting Sioux have a storied, even mystical history. John Noah and all that he did for the organization and the game. Jim Archibald and the outlaw image and records he still holds in the league. The Hrkac Circus (I still have the print "Dream Team" hanging on my wall matted with Christian Brothers' hockey sticks.)
And perhaps most important, the late Ralph Engelstad and all of the resources he gave -- not only to the hockey program, but also to the culture and the academics of the university.
Today, I've had to watch a string of e-mails bounce back and forth among my friends from Crookston, an even mix of Sioux, Gopher and even Maverick and Badger fans. They're discussing the North Dakota Board of Higher Education's decision to make UND forget about decades of history and eliminate its Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
I'm not going to spill any ink rehashing the arguments that have been debated ad nauseam in recent years. For example, it's a waste of energy to discuss the difference between the dignified, honorable Fighting Sioux logo and the stereotype of an intoxicated little leprechaun that represents Notre Dame and its Fighting Irish. (I'm 50 percent Irish, but not offended).
Even though this op-ed can't stop the name change freight train, I hope it will at least spark an honest and open discussion (for a change) on two items.
First, it's being reported that the Sioux name and logo change came to fruition because it may help UND get into the Summit League.
As a kid, I was able to hear from giants such as Gasparini that his successes came from hard work and a strong team. We learn today from news reports that success is attained from capitulation and caving to intimidation.
What a strange lesson to teach the next generation.
Second, I hope this column simply sparks a discussion on losing history. You won't hear from the historical registry on this, and there won't be people figuratively "tying themselves to the doors" of the name and logo as people do when a developer tries to build a mall on the site of an historic library.
Nonetheless, a generation of Sioux athletic fans and UND supporters are having a piece of history taken away from them. For those, especially the late Ralph Engelstad, who loved the program, the spirit and the storied tale of the Fighting Sioux, today's decision isn't much different than the bulldozing of that old library.
For me, I'll still be a fan of the Fighting Sioux. Gino still is the coach from my younger years. Bob Joyce, Steady Eddie, Ian Kidd and the Hrkac Circus still will adorn my wall.
But it'll always be hard for me to understand how an institution of higher learning can be a place that teaches narrowness, capitulation and submission to the anti-intellectual, almost nondebate that resulted in this decision today.
It'll be hard for me to have a piece of history replaced.
Tiedeman, a Crookston native, is an attorney doing public affairs and political consulting work in the Twin Cities.