My colleague in commentary, The Forum’s Mike McFeely, likes his beer. He’s not an abuser of cold brew. Not his style. But he’s made clear in his writing over the years that he enjoys a beer or two when fishing, doing yard work and at sporting events. I, too, but infrequently, enjoy a cold beer after working up a sweat in the thick of a humid summer day. Good for me. Good for Mike. Good for anyone who can appreciate a frosty can (or two) of suds and not succumb to overindulgence. That being said, abuse of alcoholic beverages in Fargo is as common as snirt in a spring windstorm. Again and again in national rankings, Fargo has the undistinguished honor of showing up as among the country’s drunkest drunktowns. It’s not a good thing. It’s not an image that should be celebrated or enhanced.
- McFeely: NDSU pops the top on selling alcohol at sporting events
- McFeely: Beer at Bison games not a priority for NDSU, dome
In that light, the recent revelation that North Dakota State University will break with years of smart policy and begin selling beer and wine at Bison basketball games fits the definition of a bad idea. The school’s athletic officials likely know it’s a bad idea because the announcement was made in a less-than-transparent manner, described as a “fan improvement” in a press release. It might have remained obscure but for McFeely’s Oct. 2 page one commentary that told it like it is.
The change is being sold as a small step. It does seem relatively harmless because Fargodome management said it will not sell beer and booze at the dome during Bison football games. For now, the policy will apply only to the Sanford Health Athletic Complex, home of basketball and wrestling. It’s the “for now” that is of concern. Dome managers are focused on expanding the building’s concourses which, they say, are not suitable for beer vendors; not enough space for drinkers to imbibe, while keeping them out of the stands. Fair enough. For now.
The reality is the nose of the drunk camel is under the tent. In his commentary, McFeely said as much (not the drunk camel part). It’s “a dipping of the toe,” he wrote. It’s “a litmus test.” It’s more. It’s an opening, however small right now, that in time will be large enough to accommodate the Budweiser Clydesdales.
No big deal? Many sports fans think so. And it’s not new in most places. It will be new in Fargo. It will be new in sports venues that to date have been doing just fine, thank you, without lubricating the fans with potentially inebriating drinks. Controls, such as keeping drinks out of the stands, do not prevent fans who have had too much at the beer tent from stumbling into the stands and making asses of themselves. Well, say sports officials, then they get tossed out. But discerning the line between a boorish tipsy jerk and a sozzled drunkard is no easy call. No matter. Drunkenness in the stands of any degree changes the fan experience, particularly for families who do not equate sports with alcohol.
It is unlikely they will, but NDSU’s sages should rethink this one, maybe over drinks at a sports bar.