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McFeely: Sent here as 'punishment,' regular guy from South Carolina becomes the King of Fargo

Collins Moe finished last in a fantasy football league so his buddies exiled him to Fargo, where he was smothered with kindness

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Collins Moe of Charleston, S.C., poses with Thundar the Bison mascot at Saturday's North Dakota State men's basketball game.
Contributed photo
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FARGO — Fargo was supposed to be punishment for Collins Moe, a fantasy football loser from Charleston, S.C. Instead, he came here without knowing a thing about the town or a soul who lives here and will leave with everything but the keys to the city.

There's still time, Mayor Mahoney.

We know what you're thinking. I just called Collins a loser. No, no, no. Not at all the case. He was a loser in a fantasy football league, which is how he ended up in Fargo this weekend.

His buddies sent him here thinking he was going to return to balmy South Carolina frozen like a Popsicle and whimpering like a child who'd just seen a ghost. How else would a Southern boy react to visiting the land of the Abominable Snowman?

Here's the deal: Collins is in a 12-man fantasy football league with some buddies back home and each year the last-place finisher is exiled to some faraway, usually cold locale as a joke. Last year, the loser went to Duluth, Minn. (which is actually a wonderful city).

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Collins finished last this year and the vote was to put him on a plane to — yuck, yuck — Fargo. What could be more miserable than that? What would shame the 27-year-old worse than stepping off an airplane onto the frozen, desolate tundra of Fargo, North Dakota?

A funny little thing happened on the way to young Collins shivering in the dark frigidity of the Wind Chill Capital of the World, though.

On his connecting flight in Chicago, Collins talked to some fellow passengers. One happened to be Rich McFarlane, a North Dakota State University graduate who teaches high school in Grand Forks. Collins told McFarlane his story and McFarlane began passing it down the line to his NDSU buddies in North Dakota.

Adam Jones, brainchild of the Dakota Marker Trophy. Pat Thiel, elementary teacher and assistant football coach at Fargo Shanley. Justin Swanson, honcho with the NDSU Foundation.

Next thing you know, Collins had an invite for lunch and beers at the Bison Turf and the offer of a ticket to the NDSU basketball game against Kansas City.

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Collins Moe of Charleston, S.C., poses with some his new Fargo friends like Pat Thiel, left, Connor Johnson, back right, and Justin Swanson, front right, at the Bison Turf on Saturday.
Contributed photo

So when he arrived in Fargo at 10 p.m. Friday, dropped his bag at the Jasper Hotel downtown and walked across the street to Dempsey's Public House, Collins already had a few plans for Saturday. Better than nothing. At least he wasn't going to shuffle around the frozen sidewalks by his lonesome, asking where his life went wrong.

That's when Fargo began to envelop him with warmth and smother him with kindness.

"I can't believe how nice everyone here is. I mean, unbelievably nice," Collins said at halftime of the basketball game at Scheels Center. "I have had a blast. I met some new friends on the airplane here and they said, 'Hey why don't you come to the game?' I didn't know these guys. But they're so nice. And here we are. It's been an awesome day."

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The cold, he admitted, was a shock. Collins had never been this far north. Had no idea what to expect. How could he? It was around 0 degrees when he landed.

"I mean, I step outside and I have never felt that cold before," he said. "It's been crazy. It is very cold. I didn't know it could get this cold."

Some of the folks on the airplane in Chicago teased him about his lack of North Dakota-worthy clothing.

"They said I wasn't dressed appropriately," Collins laughed. "How could I be? It was 80 degrees when I got on the airplane in Charleston. I can't fly on a plane with layers on. You're going to be inside when it's this cold, right?"

Well ...

Anyway, some of Collins' new Fargo friends alerted me to his tale. I sent a message to him on social media that we should talk. Might make a good story.

So when we met between halves of the basketball game, I snapped a selfie of us and posted it on Twitter with his story. It went mini-viral with retweets and likes. Collins became one of the best stories of the day.

By that time, Collins had already had a burger and some beers at the Bison Turf and was sporting a snappy NDSU pullover. He'd posed for a picture with Thundar the mascot because of course he had.

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He referred to the Bison as "we" when I asked what he thought of the first half. Smooth, this guy.

There were plans to go to a brewery and have some more fun Saturday night.

He had no idea.

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Collins Moe of Charleston, S.C., drops the ceremonial puck at the Fargo Force game Saturday night at Scheels Arena.
Fargo Force photo

The Fargo Force junior hockey team saw my Twitter post. The team contacted Collins and had him drop the ceremonial puck at its game against Sioux City. There was Collins standing on the blue carpet on the ice at Scheels Arena, holding the puck high for all to see before dropping it and then shaking hands with the players.

I didn't get a chance to ask if he'd ever been to a hockey game. Not sure there's a hockey team in South Carolina, although Collins travels throughout the South in his job in retail development.

Collins appeared on a Twin Cities radio show Sunday afternoon to recall his exploits in Fargo.

Not bad for a guy who says our city was literally not on his radar before his South Carolina buddies planned his exile.

"Never heard of it," he said. "And I never watched the movie once I knew I was coming here. I didn't want to watch it because I knew there was some type of murder involved. I didn't watch it. I'd never heard of it. Had no inclination about how big the city was.

"I am more than impressed. I would hope that if anyone comes to visit Charleston, South Carolina, we're as nice as everyone has been here."

At last check, plans were in the works to get Collins and his fantasy football pals to Fargo for a Bison football game this fall. It would include tailgating, of course. And probably more food, beverages and handshakes with a "nice to meet ya" than they could possibly imagine.

"It's been a blast. I can tell you, it's not a punishment. It's been fun," Collins said. "If I lose again next year, I am going to push for them to make me come out here again. It's been so fun. Everyone is so nice and welcoming. Over the top nice. It's been a great time."

From shamed fantasy football loser to the King of Fargo.

Collins flew home Sunday morning, so he'll have accomplished this feat in less than 36 hours.

Take a bow, neighbors. This is a story that only happens here. How Fargo of us.

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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