|Dean Bresciani (Fargo Monthly image)|
Fargo! And, we all remember how that bastion of the northern plains humbled our University of Minnesota Gophers. The Bison are quite ahead of our Gophers in inspiring enthusiasm.
We hear constantly about how the participants in football face health issues that all families ought to recognize. That appeals to the rational part of us. When you're dealing with a drug, though, like football, rationality can be quickly swept aside.
I have fought with this demon myself. I normally consume lots of cable TV news. It's normally quite a steady diet for me, but I have become so sickened by the endless obsessive coverage of the presidential campaign, I have to withdraw. Withdraw to what? It's hard to accept the typical sludge on the range of cable TV channels. I have to confess, I'm back to watching more football than my good sense tells me to watch. So, I have to hand it to this magical game and all its media sycophants. We listen to the color analysts, former players who probably go home at the end of the day and wonder about their frequently-occurring headaches.
We heard Vince Vaughn in the movie "Dodgeball" say "everybody has a price." But the line needs to be drawn somewhere. NDSU poked into territory beyond that line and is now humbled. Not only that, the president of the school, the apparently embattled Dean Bresciani, has been twisted into a pretzel trying to explain it all. It's a pretzel worthy of spitting out, as the institution has now arranged for an outside consultant to determine if the president has been speaking with forked tongue.
|Kathy Perkins, lawyer/watchdog|
Fargo! Who would have thought that school could reach such heights? I remember when I was young, I heard that if you worked for a company and got assigned to Fargo, you were at the bottom of the totem pole. That's a mean thing to consider. Today, due to the massive inroads of technology, "remote" places are simply not remote anymore. Fargo can be a quite relevant place. Naming a movie "Fargo" was a way of suggesting the old remoteness. That's Hollywood. That's stereotyping.
No longer are the NDSU Bison cannon fodder for a Big 10 team in the non-conference schedule. NDSU is big-time, and in response to that, we see the Vince Vaughn credo in effect. "We've grown so much that we need to protect our brand," was the chutzpah-filled quote from Jeremy Jorgenson, NDSU director of sales and broadcasting.
Jorgenson pulled the strings for shafting the whole range of media outlets that did not have NDSU "broadcast rights agreements." They wouldn't be allowed to do one-on-one interviews with the head football or basketball coaches on radio, TV or Internet in season without the written consent of NDSU. Might permission be granted through a special request? Jorgenson said "it would probably be denied."
Excrement hit the fan
Just days after all this was announced, President Bresciani said "shame," in effect, and took charge by saying these new rules were hooey and would be discarded. He said he was profoundly disappointed when learning of the restrictions. Yes, just like Chris Christie was disappointed when learning about Bridgegate. What a tangled web we weave. Apologies spilled forward. But, who knew what, when?
A Kansas lawyer was selected to conduct an independent investigation into President Bresciani's handling of the short-lived media policy. Kathy Perkins, based in Lawrence, Kansas, has entered the picture to ensure the truth comes out, because apparently the principals involved in this cannot be trusted to do so. Should NDSU administration be whistling past the graveyard?
Perkins' legal practice focuses largely on workplace and employment law, investigations and mediation. Her estimated fee is $8,000 to $12,000. At issue: whether Bresciani's handling of the media guidelines violated any board policies. Bresciani "declined comment." Oh my.
Here's the tangled web: Text messages between Bresciani and athletic department officials showed that the president initially supported efforts to defend the new media rules. He mocked those critical of them, a la Chris Christie re. his Bridgegate accusers. "I worked the cones!"
Current testimony indicates that it's quite likely Christie was aware of the traffic problems while they were on. Clever like a fox (or lawyer), Christie's denials were probably finely tuned to technically escape accusations of speaking with forked tongue.
Nothing to see here?
Bresciani has tried saying his comments were "misinterpreted." The NDSU board already had communication issues with its president. Perkins' findings are expected soon, maybe even by today (Friday, Sept. 30).
When I use the expression "forked tongue," I of course am doing something questionable, invoking language from old Indian movie stereotypes. I hope it's taken as innocuous here, and of course Indians were misled, lied to, on many occasions. NDSU's prime rival, University of North Dakota, has been through a thicket of controversy over the longstanding "Fighting Sioux" name, now replaced by "Fighting Hawks."
It seems quaint now, thinking back to when so many UND supporters felt it essential to cling to something like a sports nickname. Why do college sports teams even need nicknames? They mean nothing, except that in UND's case there was an impugning of a whole race of people. One of UND's rivals had fans that would chant "smallpox blankets." That was the lowest of the low. UND in its early days had the "Flickertails" nickname. Maybe they should have just gone back to that.
Tradition can be excruciatingly hard to shed in college sports. Look how some students rioted over the ouster of elderly Coach Joe Paterno at Penn State. Did Paterno fight to preserve his job because of certain things he wanted kept swept under the carpet? Look at the ruckus when the irritating Bob Knight was let go at University of Indiana. Today, fans at Penn State and Indiana can feel embarrassment over how so many of the faithful were reluctant to get rid of a decaying status quo.
NDSU is bringing great pride to that northern wasteland place known as Fargo (at least according to the old stereotype). We all ought to be shedding our enthusiasm for football. It's quite the grudging process. Football has found the magical key to attracting eyeballs. Still, there may be some whistling past the graveyard.