Raymond Weathers has watched Sperry Pirates football games in locations all over the world.
He remembers that time in Hong Kong when he was so excited hotel management phoned his room and asked him to hold down the noise.
“I guess I got a little carried away,” he said with a chuckle.
The Sperry High graduate, owner of an electrical services company with his brothers, travels the globe building temporary internet systems for the various trade shows he attends.
Weathers has also watched games from London, England, and Barcelona, Spain. And again Friday, he’ll be looking in from Barcelona when the 2A defending champion Pirates host Caney Valley for homecoming. Meanwhile, his sister will watch from Oregon.
Such worldwide access is all thanks to the 21st-century miracle of live streaming. An Arkansas website named Mascot Media advertises its free downloadable app as “changing high school sports,” and it isn’t an idle boast.
Through Mascot Media and other streaming platforms, schools are now able to send their sporting events anywhere there is a cellphone or an iPad to receive them.
Many schools see it as a powerful tool for reconnecting with grads scattered all over the map. And for staying engaged with the folks at home.
When Broken Arrow plays a road football game, school board president Steve Allen frequently hosts watch parties in a friend’s home. Mark McCarley has three large television screens he’s able to connect to the internet and pipe in Tigers’ ArrowVision gamecasts.
“Ten or 15 years ago, I never would have thought we’d be doing anything like this,” Allen said.
Charlie Hannema, the former KOTV sports anchor, is in his third year as the Tigers’ play-by-play announcer and the district’s director of public relations.
“When you’re playing two hours from home, not everybody wants to make the trip,” Hannema said. “But they’re still Tigers fans and they want to know what’s going on. I really believe (live streaming has) connected our community a little more.”
Union, Sperry and Muskogee are among several area schools that use the Mascot Media platform. BA prefers BoxCast live streaming out of Cleveland, Ohio, for its “higher compression” and “better picture quality,” Hannema said.
Tigers’ gamecasts are popular, and not just because Hannema and color analyst Steve Spavital, the former Tigers head coach, are an entertaining and informative pair.
It probably has to do with being 6A Division I’s defending state champ and playing other high-profile programs. BA’s live stream of the No. 1-vs.-No. 2 showdown with Owasso on Sept. 13 drew 11,000 views. Last year’s BA-Jenks game, another No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup, drew a record 20,000 views.
A view is defined as any time a person logs in to watch online.
Bill Huddleston, Muskogee’s play-by-play announcer for most of the last 35 years, said live streaming has greatly expanded the Roughers’ reach.
“Your radio broadcast is only as strong as the signal. If we’re playing in Sand Springs, a person at the game won’t be able to hear it, but the same fan can watch the live stream,” Huddleston said. “If you have a computer, you can watch it in San Antonio or New York City.”
Huddleston tells of the Mississippi woman who, a few years ago, was able to follow her grandson’s senior season of Roughers football via live streaming.
Union uses multiple cameras and seven students to make things run smoothly. That’s the second bit of good news about live streaming high school sporting events: the educational opportunities it provides.
Andy Erwin, Union’s director of video production, has been with the district and training students for 17 years.
When he arrived in 2003, Erwin was put in charge of producing Redskins games for display on the new Jumbotron video screen in Union Tuttle Stadium. Later, that work naturally grew into the live streaming that began about four years ago.
From the start, he said, Union administrators wanted to use students to run the equipment and not freelance professionals.
Lynette Moreno is in her second season with Erwin’s U-View crew. From the production “closet” on the second floor of the UMAC, she watches a monitor, controls the clock and updates the live scoreboard embedded in the gamecast.
Keeping up with the pace of the game was challenging at first, she said, but she’s getting better with practice. The best part is she’s learning something she might use later if she chooses a career in video production.
“It means a lot to me. It’s like working hands-on,” she said. “You get the same experience you would in real life.”
Joining Erwin and Moreno in the production closet are Zach Xu, a National Merit semifinalist and Erwin’s technical assistant; and Abbey Paulson, who runs the replay monitor.
Zane McMinn, Josh Stelljes, Dom Silves and Katelynn Dorante run the crew’s three cameras. One camera is mounted on the roof of the UMAC, another is operated from the press box and a third is hand held from the sideline.
KRMG 740’s radio broadcast with Rick Couri and Tom Stockton is synced in to provide the audio.
Streaming technology is such that a school can spend as much or as little as it wants on production, depending on the desired effect. Sperry’s Ron Ducharme only needs his iPad, a tripod to set it on and a Wi-Fi connection to Mascot Media.
Ducharme, whose sons wrestled and played football at Sperry, started streaming last year when the Pirates’ athletic director, Randy Shaw, got the idea after watching other schools do it.
“It’s crazy how fast it’s grown,” Ducharme said. “And how disappointed the fans get when we have a little glitch and they have to miss something. I’m having a ball.”
Ducharme’s games drew 9,889 views last season, with a high of 1,640 for the Pirates’ 16-14 win at Kingston.
Stevie Fernandez, president of GameDay Films, is enamored with the technology.
“I’m from a time when we had to have a $300,000 production truck in the parking lot to do what we’re doing now,” he said.
Today, Fernandez’s company produces Cascia Hall games and three per week from the Tulsa Public Schools. The total cost for four games is a little less than $1,000 per week.