OUR OPINION: Sioux v. Bison: There is no substitute
For a rivalry that has been dead for six years, the Bison-Sioux matchup sure conjurs up a powerful ghost. That ghost bought nearly 11,000 tickets to the UND-North Dakota State University men's basketball game in Fargo, the NDSU basketball program...
For a rivalry that has been dead for six years, the Bison-Sioux matchup sure conjurs up a powerful ghost.
That ghost bought nearly 11,000 tickets to the UND-North Dakota State University men's basketball game in Fargo, the NDSU basketball program's biggest-ever home draw.
Herald sportswriter Tom Miller put the ticket sale in perspective. "When 10,000 fans show up at the Fargodome on Saturday to watch UND and NDSU renew their rivalry for the first time in a major sport, it should be a wake-up call to administrators that these rivalry games need to be scheduled in every sport, every year," Miller wrote on "Tom's take," his sports blog on areavoices.com:.
"It doesn't matter whether UND or NDSU needs the game more. It doesn't matter how bitter the breakup was for the two schools when NDSU first made the move to Division I. ...
"What matters is that 10k-plus want to see a dog of a game. The Sioux will play the Bison in a nonconference tilt that pits a team 305th in RPI (Ratings Percentage Index, an NCAA formula) against a team ranked 57th. A record-breaking crowd wants to watch a game not many in the stands think will be close.
"How many athletic departments have the luxury of scheduling a nonconference game that will probably be the second-most attended basketball game in the history of the state?"
By the way, if you think the rivalry is dead, just claim Sioux (or Bison) superiority in some aspect of sport, as Herald columnist Virg Foss did in a recent column. Then, watch the mail pour in.
"I've spent the better part of the week answering e-mails from mostly NDSU Bison fans who got a little (or very) upset with my column of a week ago," Foss wrote Saturday.
"Fans on both sides can and do claim the rivalry is dead and gone. ... The spicy tone of letters to my mailbox this week from Bison fans responding to my last column and the interest in tonight's Sioux-Bison basketball game expose that as a lie.
"The Sioux need the Bison. The Bison need the Sioux. The fans in the area and state need for the rivalry to resume, in all sports."
Speaking of fans who claim the rivalry is dead and gone, it's great fun to read Sioux and Bison loyalists who so deeply resent the other team that they want nothing -- nothing -- to do with them ever again. "Nothing," that is, except writing about the rivalry at every turn, most recently in trying to explain away the largest crowd ever to watch an NDSU home basketball game:
"Yes, there were over 10,700 fans but was that because of a rivalry or other reasons?" wrote one critic on bisonville.com.
"I say other reasons such as the first Bison basketball game in the FargoDome since 1999, no TV, large buyout of tickets by Buffalo Wild Wings and many ticket purchases by Fighting Sioux fans located in Fargo." But if playing in the Dome, pulling the plug on the TV cameras and winning a generous corporate sponsorship is the key to selling tickets, why doesn't NDSU do those things for every game?
Because every game isn't the UND-NDSU game.
This rivalry makes money for the schools, generates electric snap and bite among fans and commands unmatched interest around North Dakota and beyond. Nothing else comes close, as the attendance at Saturday's game makes clear. That's why Tom Miller is right: "These rivalry games need to be scheduled in every sport, every year."