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McFeely: Politics, Frisco, Alerus Center and smoked meat in this week's mailbag

Readers ask, 'What can Democrats do to be more competitive in legislative races?' and 'Who is the worst ND politician you've seen?'

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FARGO — My apologies for posting this week's mailbag a few hours later than normal. This morning was the morning after the Bierstube, an annual Fargo fundraising event put on by the El Zagal Shriners, and the morning after the Biestube can get a little fuzzy. The thoughts aren't flowing as freely, the fingers aren't typing as fast.

What is the Bierstube, you ask? It's only the greatest under-the-radar gathering since I used to attend $2 keggers in the basement of some sketchy house a block or two from Moorhead State, when it was called Moorhead State.

For $20 in advance ($25 at the door) you get all the bratwurst, baked beans and German potato salad you can eat and all the beer you can drink (two flavors!). Plus a band.

I am 56 and far past my prime, so don't assume my brain was working slower this morning because of the brews. I limited myself to a couple. No, it was grilled perfection of two brats smothered in sauerkraut and mustard mixed with a pile of warm German potato salad and side of beans.

Food coma, not hangover.

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But we powered through this afternoon and are able to present to you this week's McFeely Mess Mailbag.

As always, if you want to submit a question send it to mmcfeely@forumcomm.com.

Glad to see the FCS game moving to 1 p.m Central time. An 11 a.m. starts make it very hard for fans to take in tailgating, pre-game activities that the NCAA sets up at the stadium, as well as just getting to your seat on time with a very congested morning of traffic. Add in the fact it will usually make for better weather (it does get cool there), just a better overall experience.

Now for the viewers at home, do you think ESPN/ABC will make the halftime show about FCS or will it be another 20 minute info-commercial for Monday's FBS national championship? It would be great if the halftime would talk about the first half, show great plays and games of the FCS season and highlight players and teams to watch of upcoming season. I think that would increase interest/ratings of next year's FCS season. Everyone already knows all the stories about Monday's game. More respect for FCS at the national level would be appreciated.

— Shane

Sorry, Shane, it is highly unlikely the TV powers will give any more love to the FCS even if the title game is moved to Sunday at 1 p.m. Central, as it looks will happen. The FCS championship, and FCS football generally, is not viewed as a high priority for ESPN/ABC. It is, for lack of a better term, a throw-in to the television contract between the NCAA and the TV networks.

The priorities, and the biggest money-makers, are the big boys. The College Football Playoffs and the NCAA men's basketball tournament. They are worth billions to the television overlords and the NCAA.

All you need to know is the number of eyeballs watching. According to ESPN, the viewership of the network's MegaCast drew 22.6 million viewers to the Alabama-Georgia FBS title game last season. The men's basketball title game drew about 18 million viewers to several cable channels and streaming services. All those viewers translate into ad revenue for the network.

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North Dakota State's victory over Montana State in the FCS title in January drew an average of 1.86 million viewers to ESPN2. NDSU's highest-rated nationally televised game was the title game following the 2019 season, when the Bison's victory over James Madison drew an average audience of 2.686 million on ABC.

The numbers just don't compare. So, it's likely ABC/ESPN will continue to promote the FBS title game during the FCS championship.

In your years of covering North Dakota who is the worst politician you've seen?

— MC

This is a broad question that could be taken many ways. You talking worst person? Most unqualified. Worst policies? Biggest slimebag?

The potentially grossest politician was the Republican-endorsed candidate for Secretary of State in 2018, Will Gardner. The NDGOP pushed loyal party soldier Al Jaeger out the door in favor of Gardner, until The Forum found out Gardner got in trouble years prior for peeping in women's windows at NDSU.

Gardner desperately wanted to stay in the race, but even the Republicans in charge wanted nothing to do with him. So he dropped out and faded into oblivion.

Except there was one prominent Republican who thought Gardner should've stayed in — then-Rep. Kevin Cramer.

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And that leads to my answer: Kevin Cramer.

Cramer is an unapologetic opportunist who rails against the evils of government, despite being a guy who's held down government jobs for decades. His endless boot-licking and worship of Donald Trump was embarrassing, if Cramer was capable of being embarrassed.

Cramer is a pious, preaching, hyper-partisan politician who over the course of the last few years has supported a creep like Gardner, insulted sexual-assault victims, called Nancy Pelosi a vulgar slang word associated with mental disability, dismissed the Jan. 6 insurrection, gave fuel to the "Stop the Steal" meatheads and called for the U.S. Department of Justice to be "busted up" after it obtained the stolen classified documents from Trump's resort.

And surely there are a dozen or two other ham-handed, offensive things Cramer's said or done just since he was elected U.S. Senator in 2018 for which we don't have space.

And from this avowed lefty position, Cramer's political stances are wrong and dangerous. He appears OK with a theocracy and clearly has no problem with Trump's clear authoritarian tendencies.

Other Republicans say and do things for political expedience. It's part of the game, frustrating as it might be. Cramer is a true believer, without enough self-reflection or humility to consider he might be wrong, and to me that makes Republicans like him most dangerous.

The Alerus Center is hosting a concert Dec. 9. Traditionally that is a potential FCS playoff day. Does UND not have a hold date agreement with the Alerus for potential playoff dates?

Last year FCS played a quarterfinal on ESPN 2 and ESPN on Friday night and Saturday morning. The other two were on ESPN + on Saturday evening. A lot of "ifs" have to happen but if hosting a quarterfinal and the main network comes calling do you want to tell them, "No thanks, Five Finger Death Punch is playing?"

— RS

Indeed, something called Five Finger Death Punch is playing in Grand Forks on Friday, Dec. 9. If the UND football team was to advance that far, there might be a conflict if the NCAA and ESPN wanted the Hawks to play a Friday night playoff game.

Alas, good news for UND fans. I contacted the athletic department about this potentially sticky wicket and a spokesman said to not worry.

"There are contingencies in place if we are lucky enough to host that weekend at the Alerus Center on either Friday or Saturday," the spokesman said.

What are three things that Democrats could do to make some progress in North Dakota for legislative offices? Obviously without more talent and balance at that level, you can't even think about statewide or national posts.

— AJ

I thought an obvious answer would be to at least field a candidate for every contested seat, even if Democrats knew they were going to get blown out. I thought that would be the basic minimum. But when I passed that idea by a smart political mind, he said I was wrong.

"I don't give a (waste matter) if they fill every spot," was the response.

OK, then.

Instead, he offered three things Dems could do be more competitive:

— Target resources. Get strong candidates in the handful of districts that are competitive and put it all in to those districts. Democrats have to win competitive districts before they can even think about winning red districts or statewide races.

— Candidates need to get in races earlier. It's hard to build a brand, even locally, when you wait until the filing deadline.

— Escape the Democrats' national brand, which is toxic to North Dakota voters. Easier said than done, obviously, given the "nationalization" of politics and the omnipresence of Fox News and social media. But the best way to do that is to door-knock and meet as many people as possible to shed the idea that every Democrat is AOC. Work twice as hard, knowing you might get half the result.

Gotta admit, that sounds reasonable. Also gotta admit, it sounds exceedingly difficult. Democrats have such an uphill battle in North Dakota. Not sure I'll see much change in my lifetime.

Why no programs at the Bison game on Saturday? Has the paper product gone the way of other print material? Didn’t it win some national awards under former sports information director George Ellis?

— Arlan

I haven't sat in the stands for a Bison game for more than 10 years, so I am not aware of what is available to fans. I do know that in the media world, much of what used to be printed is now digital. Not everything, but many things.

I asked current football sports information director Ryan Perrault why there are no printed programs at Bison games anymore and he provided the following answer:

"The last traditional printed game programs were in 2019. We switched to a digital program on GoBison.com/publications in 2020-21 for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball and added a free roster card that is available for pickup inside the doors.

"In 2021, we kept the digital program and roster card but also brought back a printed yearbook for football, which had the player photos, team information and advertisements much like the old game programs. The yearbook did not have anything game-specific — it was the same book for the entire season. Sales were not what we hoped for the yearbook, so this year we are back to digital programs only along with the printed roster card. Both are free and have updated information for each regular-season game.

"The NCAA will continue to provide programs in the postseason, although they were digital last year as well."

I know you use to have an old smoker years back. Do you still use that smoker or did you move on to something else? And what's your favorite meat to smoke?

— Jerry

Like many red-blooded American males, I once had delusions of grandeur about smoking meat. Turkeys. Brisket. Ribs. Just like they do on Food Network TV shows or in Kansas City and Texas. I was going to be a pitmaster. Throw in a brisket in the morning and feast on juicy, tender, sliced deliciousness in the evening.

Seemed easy.

So when I had the chance to pick up a free, cheap electric smoker I jumped at the chance. It was an old Wal-Mart thing and absolutely the simplest smoker possible. I smoked things. Chicken. Pork. Fish.

They sucked.

So I read. Asked questions. Watched YouTube. And tried again.

They still sucked.

I, as it turned out, do not have the skill to smoke meat. Or perhaps I have the skill but don't know what I'm doing. Next to being able to fix a gas engine with my own hands, smoking meat is the Man Skill I'd most like to possess. I'd give about anything to be able to smoke my own brisket and slice it in my kitchen, the knife cutting through the crispy bark into the juicy tender middle.

Just like those dudes on the Food Network.

Unfortunately, I quit trying and am reduced to buying smoked meat in restaurants or butcher shops. I left the smoker on the curb a few years ago during Clean Up Week and somebody snapped it up right away. If that person is reading this, and that old smoker is working for you, I am easy to get ahold of. And I'll bring the Grain Belt if there's brisket on the menu.

Related Topics: THE MCFEELY MESS
Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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