NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Egalité, Fraternité and … Beer

Think tanks and activists have been warning about rising tensions between our society’s “haves” and “have-nots” — the aristocratic 1 percent, with their glossy grasp on privilege, versus all the rest of us. But when the local populace finally rose up in revolt in the week before Independence Day, who could have dreamed what would spur Fargo’s downtrodden to threaten revolution?

It’s all about beer … beer at Bison football games. And it’s a hot one.

The People stood up and roared, and the Fargo City Commission is joining them on the battlements. All for one? No! Cold ones for all … or heads will surely roll.

The stage was set for battle when John Q. Paulsen, president of the Fargo Dome Authority, revealed to his board that North Dakota State University’s President Dean Bresciani is leaning toward granting an apparently long-standing dream: permitting the sale of beer to the Dome’s box-suite elite while the Bison are trouncing challengers on the turf below.

College sports are among the very few events at which Dome-goers aren’t free to guzzle at will. Like the majority of colleges and universities, NDSU maintains a dry campus that extends to events at the FargoDome, operated by the city but located on NDSU’s acreage.

Forbidding alcohol is both long-standing tradition and a newly urgent concern. Studies have shown that excessive drinking is the most devastating threat to students’ collegiate success, from academic failure leading to dropping out to the very worst physical threats — drunken violence, rape and self-destructive behavior. On top of that, a good half (or more) of that population is under the legal drinking age.

A majority of Bison Nation somehow has managed to live with the beer ban just fine. For some of them, coping does involve a hybrid strategy of sneaking beverages right under the noses of the ticket-takers and tanking up to their hearts’ content in the parking lot. Tailgating may be beloved for its brats and Bison spirit, but it also provides the Brothers of the Brewski (and sisters, too) with a perfect opportunity to slake their thirst and top off their pregame party spirit prior to stumbling to their seats inside.

That the Dome is anything but dry on Game Day is universally understood. But little beknownst to the average Joe, unrest has struck the upper crust — not to mention the business-minded folk who’d like to squeeze every drop of profit out of those amber pulls.

Those who lease the lofty suites for $35,000 to $50,000 per year — Bison Nation’s own 1 percenters — are now honor-bound to abide by the same rules as the rest of game-goers. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily sentence them to hours — hours! — in a virtual beerless wasteland. Since the suite elite are welcome to store provisions in their private quarters between events, and since alcohol flows freely on the rest of those occasions, it might not be too much of a stretch to imagine there’s stock on hand.

And since neither Dome security nor campus cops police that neighborhood (as they do the rest of the facility), one might conclude that there’s little risk in drinking whenever they please, other than the damage to their tarnished honor. They’re already drinking up there. No question about it.

So while the suits in suites might also give a lukewarm welcome to officially blessed private access on Game Day, the contingent who are beating the drums to lift the ban are surely the sad faces on the outside … the FargoDome beer vendors and budget-balancers who just hate watching all those gold American Express and Visa Platinum cards languishing for the duration of every game.

Beer revenue — it’s the camel sticking its nose under this particular tent. Like many other income-seeking schools, ours has quietly debated changing the rules — but only for those in private suites, where the hypocrisy won’t be so obvious.

Beer in the boxes is undoubtedly a sound profit strategy … as long as it’s kept on the down-low. As for keeping the common man quiet in North Dakota, though — the No. 1 beer-loving, binge-drinking state in all America — the phrase “dumb as a stump” comes to mind.

And so, at last, a populist cause has finally ignited real passion! From Everyman on talk radio to city commissioners and Mayor Mahoney, the cry has gone up: Beer for all, or none at all!

But just hold your horses. Let’s back up for a minute. What, precisely, is wrong with “none at all”?

Does drinking freely at college games (“outside of the student section,” advocates piously add) really benefit anything other than the bottom line? True, the concepts of beer and football have been grafted together so tightly by high-ticket professional sports that suds have become their lifeblood. But is NDSU really so ready for football prime time that it entirely forgets why football and other sports exist in the first place — not for the roaring crowds in the Coliseum, but for the students?

The Dome is packed with families of all ages on Game Day, from parents with infants swaddled in green and yellow to thrilled youngsters and teens who’ll be modeling their own behavior on the cheering adults around them. The seats are also occupied by thousands of sensible men and women who, though they may enjoy a brew or two themselves, would just as soon not have the experience spoiled by rude, obnoxious drunks whose sodden antics are not nearly as hilarious or heroic as they imagine.

Let’s hope the status quo — already less than stone sober — prevails in the Dome, from the suite life to the “peasants” down below. As for fans who really, really need to refuel to endure the tedium of two hours of Bison football: How about a big-screen TV and a 12-pack?

One thought on “NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Egalité, Fraternité and … Beer”

  • Katherine July 4, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I’m in the cheering section for this column. Makes sense — is that too much to ask?


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