The American sporting public will be focused on Philadelphia tomorrow night for the NFC Championship Game where the hometown Eagles look for their first Super Bowl trip since 2004 taking on a Minnesota team trying to end a forty-one year Super Bowl drought.
The city of Brotherly Love has transformed over the last two years since Carson Wentz was drafted with the number two overall pick, so much so that you customarily see NDSU Bison jerseys and shirts all over Lincoln Financial Field. I have been to Philadelphia three times since Wentz was drafted and even some know now our call letters, “Hey WDAY, welcome back to Philly!” I heard when I was on the sidelines last October for the Vikings-Eagles game.
What’s interesting about this fascination with Fargo and North Dakota with the city of Philadelphia, is because it’s not the first time it’s happened. Think back to 2006 when Fargo’s Chris Coste made his major league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies. Coste’s story has been well told, after years of toiling in the minor leagues, including with the F-M RedHawks, Coste broke through in 2006, then hit seven home runs in 65 games. Coste quickly became a fan favorite, thrilling the Philly fans every time he got a hit or made a play behind the plate.
Coste finally earned a roster spot out of spring training in 2008 and was on the field for the final out of the 2008 regular season when the Phillies clinched the division title on the final day of the season. He was in the starting lineup in Game 1 of the World Series as the designated hitter. I was in Philly for that World Series and the fans couldn’t have had more praise or love for the Fargo kid. “We love that guy, he’s one of us!” was the common refrain from the crazed Philly fans. Coste was soaking it all in, but one fan told me, “if he gets an at-bat in this World Series at home, he’ll get a standing ovation.” Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but Coste did get his World Series ring and for that part he’s ingrained in Philly sports history forever.
Wentz has blown up the Fargo and North Dakota recognition to another stratosphere, that’s what happens when you’re an NFL quarterback. But he wasn’t the first. And for the nation’s sixth largest city to have a love affair with the 113th most populous city (according to TV size) it’s astonishing to me. A win Sunday by the Eagles and Fargo and North Dakota will get a larger spotlight on it even if one of its favorite sons is on the sidelines.