FRISCO, Texas -- A man dressed in vintage disco clothing peers out over Toyota Stadium on a crisp, windy Saturday through a pair of rather large Aviator sunglasses. Before him lays a sea of green and gold, mixed with a hint of red at the 2015 FCS championship.
“Let’s go Bi-son!” He cheers along with the rest of the crowd behind him. “Let’s go Bi-son!”
The name in his wallet says Todd Wahl; but for the few hours, the 40-year-old police officer from Fargo, North Dakota, isn’t Todd Wahl. For the day, he is Disco Inferno.
“I don’t know why it started,” he says. “We just started dressing crazy for a game it kind of took off from there.”
The yellow-green polyester suit is the first thing you see when Disco emerges from the score of NDSU fans. Next, it’s the giant Bison fur hat with horns sticking out the sides. But the ensemble doesn’t end there. There's the “blinged-out” disco shirt beneath the suit jacket, the green and gold beads around his neck, the three championship rings around his fingers. Even platform shoes to raise the disco-theme all the way up. All the little nuances scream superfan.
“In all, I’d say I have a few dozen different outfits,” he says. “I basically only wear vintage 1970s attire.”
The first edition of Disco Inferno happened on accident. After finding an old disco shirt in an abandoned barn on a friend’s farm in Fargo, Disco completed the look with vintage gold pants, adding the Bison hat for good measure. He wore it on the drive down to Frisco, Texas, for the Bison’s second FCS championship game in 2012, and along the way picked up a following of admirers that stick with him today.
“Nice suit!” One fellow Bison fans yells to Disco during a timeout. “Can we take a picture with you?”
“There he is!” Another says, high-fiving Disco. “Glad to see you made it!”
“Wouldn’t have missed it,” he responds.
Just like the Bison, Disco’s been here before. He bought a three-year ticket deal after NDSU’s second title and bought his plane tickets for this year’s championship before the season even began.
“I figured we’d be back,” he says. “Wasn’t sure as the season went along but I would have come either way.”
So why do they call him Disco Inferno? Well, that’s a two-part story.
“Basically, it all started because it’s a disco suit and I wore it to Frisco and we were talking about ‘the disco in Frisco,’ ” he says. “And then the next year we went to K-State and it was like 110 degrees and I was telling people about the 'disco inferno' because I was like dying of heat exhaustion. So that’s where the Disco Inferno kind of started and it kind of stuck.”
And where did his insatiable fandom originate? That goes back even further.
Before he was Disco Inferno, a young Todd Wahl traversed the campus of North Dakota State as just another ordinary student. He went to classes, hung out with friends and went to Bison games. But during his senior year in 1992, he and another friend dared each other to try out for the Bison mascot, Thundar.
“There was an ad in the student newspaper, so I just decided to try out and I got it,” he says. “It was a fun year. It was pretty enjoyable. A lot of work and really hot under that suit but it was fun.”
Back then, the Bison weren’t the FCS powerhouse they are today. Back then, NDSU was still in Division II, and really only played regional rivals like Minnesota State-Mankato, South Dakota or North Dakota. The Bison still play a lot of those teams today, but now NDSU plays bigger schools like Kansas State, Iowa State, Iowa and eventually Oregon in 2020.
“We’ve been pretty successful against some pretty big schools,” he says. “I can’t wait to play Oregon.”
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Disco doesn’t travel to every away game (unless it’s in Frisco). But when he does, he likes to meet with the opposing teams fans and get a glimpse into their lives. Evoking a similar ideology behind the “Humans of …” series on social media, Disco takes pictures and writes up a little story about them on his Facebook fan page.
“I’m the unofficial hospitality mascot for the Bison,” he says. “I like to meet new people and write stories about them, usually with a little humor.”
Disco always predicts a Bison win, no matter the opponent. And Saturday was no different.
"I think it's going to be 35-10, Bison," he states, confidently.
And when all was said and done, Disco wasn't far off. North Dakota State grabbed its fifth straight title in a 37-10 win over Jacksonville State.
"I was close, huh! I know my stuff!"
And as green and gold confetti rained down from the sky while Disco and the rest of Bison nation stormed the field to congratulate the team, a season full of road trips, pictures and high-fives ended the same way it had for the last five years: with a championship in Frisco.