The guy from the local newspaper sitting at press row over the last couple of decades has usually left the subject of effort by the home team up to the respective head coaches. It's a hard thing to judge.
You don't know if a player or wrestler is injured and is already giving the 110 percent, whatever that means anyway. You don't know if a player or wrestler has nothing left in the gas tank because there are no gas gauges on the outside of uniforms.
You don't know if that dive for the loose ball on the floor was a flop or a sincere but unathletic attempt at getting it. You don't know if the middleweight is getting the pulp beat out of him or is just not very good that night. There are so many variables that you simply cannot be the "Effort Police" and be accurate at it.
So this is as close as I'm going to get: Effort to me is more about attitude than working until you can't breathe anymore. And I'm not convinced the attitude has been at full throttle at Scheels Arena at Sanford Health Athletic Complex this winter, with any sport.
Two weeks ago, Roger Kish was sure it wasn't.
He's the head wrestling coach who had a discussion with his team after getting throttled in a home dual against the University of Wyoming. Seconds after the Bison shook hands with the Cowboys, he motioned the troops immediately back to the locker room.
While assistant coach Jarrod Garnett handled the post-dual press conference, I had this picture of Kish turning into Herb Brooks from the hockey flick "Miracle."
It's one of the more famous scenes in sports movie history, when Brooks tells his 1980 U.S. Olympic team to start skating sprints following an uninspiring exhibition-game performance.
"You guys don't want to work during the match? No problem, we'll work now," Kish was shouting at his wrestlers, in my imagination.
"You think you can win on talent alone? You don't have enough talent to win on talent alone. Again!." Kish shouted, while his wrestlers did repeated drills.
That didn't quite happen in real life.
"Some really hard conversations on some guys why the performance wasn't there," Kish said. "And it was important to do it at that time. It's fresh. Our guys were embarrassed with their output and were frustrated. Everyone wants to say coaches get upset and angry and maybe some do, but I was more frustrated, mainly because I have high expectations."
One of the Bison assistant coaches tweeted an apology to the fans after the Wyoming dual. On behalf of the fans, apology accepted. These are Division I athletes, not high school kids at a summer camp.
"If you're just putting in hard work but you don't have a good attitude about it, it's not going to amount to much," said NDSU senior captain Clay Ream. "Although if you work hard in practice and in a match you're put in that same situation, and if you don't have the right attitude, you're just going to crumble. But if you can change your mindset to yeah, I'm getting tired but so is he, I can push through and break him."
That new mindset will be on display Friday night when NDSU hosts Iowa State in a Big 12 Conference dual. It's the last home weekend for the Bison, who host Air Force on Sunday.
"I don't anticipate it to be a boring," Kish said.
Not after the humbling loss, he said. Adjustments were made.
"Looking back at that dual meet, it gave us a chance to identify some of the problems we had within our group and to get to work on those issues right away," Kish said. "Getting humbled is an important part of learning."
Kish said it wasn't a "practice" per se, but more of a re-assessment and reflection of what went wrong. He called it a great learning opportunity. He said the conversations were simple.
Ream, who said he sensed "something was off" against Wyoming. The responded with a better performance last weekend beating Northern Illinois 34-3.
"We got out-toughed and we needed to get tougher as a team," Ream said. "That's how we went through it, talking about different scenarios where we need get tougher yet. We have time to turn this around. There's lot more fight. There's seven minutes of wrestling instead of just giving up easy takedowns as we saw against Wyoming."