FARGO — The temperature was 39 degrees and the rain falling at Tharaldson Park on the North Dakota State campus early Monday afternoon was starting to pick up in intensity. Yet, there was Dale Beling walking into the stadium and taking a seat.
It was uncertain if the South Dakota State at North Dakota State softball game was going to start on time, but Dale didn’t care. He was the only fan on the premises.
He was willing to wait, without an umbrella and his green spring NDSU coat starting to get wet. At 87 years old, his patience was impressive. Asked if he was going to stick it out, he said he wasn’t sure.
“I’m debating,” he said. “I have a dentist appointment at 2 and I might as well sit in that chair. It would be more pleasant than out here. I never thought I’d say that.”
NDSU head coach Darren Mueller approached an umpires meeting at home plate. He gave Dale a smile and a wave, which isn’t surprising since Mueller is in his 25th year coaching at NDSU, the last 18 as the head coach. Dale said he’s been a fan of the softball program since it started.
For the record, the program played its first season in 1976. There were years like 1985 and 1990 when the team batting average barely topped .200. The turnaround began in the mid-1990s and by 2000, the Bison won a Division II national title.
The Division I years have been just as successful. NDSU is working on a string of nine NCAA tournament appearances in the last 10 years. This year's version was working on a 20-game win streak when Dale walked into the stadium.
He has seen it all.
“Just the support; the loyalty,” Mueller said later. “He’s always been out there in days like today. Yesterday wasn’t even that nice, and he’s been here during the windy days. I can’t think of a game he’s ever missed unless he’s been out of town.”
Not only was it raining on Monday, it was windy, too. Is it possible to talk about a wind chill factor in the middle of April? Can some weather god please give us a break?
It’s one thing to be a Bison football fan. The game is played inside and the program is one of the all-time best in NCAA history.
Dale knows it inside and out. He’s maybe missed a handful of home games in the last 61 years. He’s a fixture at volleyball and basketball games, too.
“One thing with Dale that impresses me is his perseverance,” said Jeff Schwartz, who will celebrate his 30th year with the NDSU sports information department this summer. “When those around him shy away from such conditions like this … he’s a fixture. He braved the 2000 regional when it was sleeting sideways. And he’s out here today. He doesn’t act his age and that’s a good thing.”
Over the years, Dale was one of these behind-the-scenes guys that got the Bison train rolling. He was on the ground floor of Team Makers booster club in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was the Team Maker secretary/treasurer for 37 years.
He was inducted into the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. A graduate of North Central College in Naperville, Ill., he and his wife Diane were awarded honorary NDSU degrees in 2007 before she passed away.
“I go to the alumni events and my name badge says I graduated in 2007,” Dale said, with an extended laugh. “Then people give me that look; it took a long time for you to get your degree.”
No, Dale, you earned your NDSU degree no matter how long it took. After watching you take a seat Monday when everybody else said the heck with it, I’d give you an honorary doctorate in fan psychology studies.
Plus, a veteran of the Armed Forces’ Joint Task Force 7 that worked on hydrogen bombs in 1954, you’re one tough son of a gun.