Angela Boyd and Tiffany Ridle know firsthand the reality of hard knocks when it comes to football players, so when they decided to start livestreaming the Juneau Huskies’ road games this year their delivery came naturally.
“We need a bigger line, you know, to make that space,” Boyd said as the women’s smartphone showed her son, Jayden Johnson, a junior receiver and backfield player, struggling to run up the middle in last Saturday’s game at Anchorage’s Service High School. “I’m no professional — that’s just our mom opinions.”
Ridle — whose son, Krew, is a 5-foot-7-inch, 115-pound freshmen receiver — agreed with a bit of a resigned sigh.
“But, I mean, we can’t breed size other than the weight room,” she said.
The two mothers of players on this year’s team have no previous webcasting experience — let alone sports broadcasting — but their bare-bones, phone-and-tripod setup has enabled parents in Juneau — along with a scattering of random other people — to watch the Huskies’ varsity and junior varsity play teams in Anchorage the past two weekends. The women are again scheduled to be on the road in Washington state this Friday as Juneau takes on Auburn High School at 7 p.m.
Beyond just letting people in Juneau see the games, the livestreams on Facebook are allowing Boyd and Ridle to interact live with viewers who have questions about things ranging from the score to the status of injured players to inquiries about off-color remarks that “leak” into the audio from someone within range of the microphone.
During the past week in particular the women’s casual chatter took on a ManningCast vibe — a literal in-the-family running commentary that, while offering heightened insight into the nuances of the game, frequently strayed in the irreverent about matters on and off the field.
“He has a disproportionately high voice for the size of his body,” Ridle observed at one point about a large — and largely vocal — opposing player.
A break at halftime where the women got to explore a bit of the stadium decor offered more fodder for their followers.
“They have these photos hanging on the fences of their players, their seniors,” Boyd observed. “So there’s a player there and I was like ‘no way there’s a dude this buff, because he’s like daddy buff right?’ I was like ‘this is Photoshopped.’ And we confirmed by looking at the person, that is definitely not his muscles.”
“And he’s a good six inches shorter than the rest,” Ridle said, piling on.
”That is what we call catfishing,” Boyd concluded.
The two women don’t try to pretend they’re anything less than full-throated supporters of the Huskies, their sons and the other players they know. But they’re also quick to acknowledge talent on the opposing teams and point out when Juneau is struggling — with a context that goes beyond merely observing the game plan isn’t working.
When Primo Nauer, a senior lineman, went down with an arm injury in the second quarter, Ridle noted it was a big loss for an offensive line already depleted this season due to a large number of seniors on last year’s title-game team that graduated.
“This is not the line of last year, let’s just say that,” she said. “Remember our seniors last year played together for six years.”
They also show a general knowledge of the game common to hardcore fans and competent announcers. Service didn’t punt a single time during Saturday’s game regardless of their situations on fourth down, for instance, but they got an outcome nearly as good on one fourth-and-long by throwing an up-for-grabs pass that was intercepted downfield by a Juneau player.
“We should have just batted it down because then we’d be 20 yards further up the field,” Ridle said.
“You know his instincts kicked in,” Boyd offered by way of color commentary. “You can’t control what you’re taught.”
Ridle and Boyd, in an interview Monday, said they didn’t set out at the beginning of the season to webcast Huskies games. They started doing so while being among the few parents paying their own way to watch their sons play on the road — and in Ridle’s case a chance to be with her husband who is one of the coaches.
“We were going up for the games just to support our kids and families, and the parents at home want to watch their kids of course,” Ridle said. “And so we just started livestreaming.”
Boyd has seen the high and low points of the Huskies in recent years, as her son Jamal Johnson (Jayden’s older brother) was among the star players for last year’s team that came within a touchdown of the state title. Jayden Johnson was on last year’s varsity team and has been the offensive star so far this year for the Huskies, but the team is off to a 0-4 start, including losses by lopsided scores the past two weeks.
“What I try and remind him is the group that he was a part of last year was really special,” Boyd said. “So that’s really special, and something that Jamal and myself have just relayed to him as ‘you’re a leader now, whether you want that role or not, that’s what you are.’ And he just tries to keep a positive attitude, and he realizes the obstacles and the disadvantages.”
Other people, such as those affiliated with the junior varsity team, have livestreamed Huskies games in past years, Boyd said. This year that wasn’t possible and, while the two women also record video on a second phone the team uses for “film room” review, the team isn’t officially affiliated with the women’s Facebook livestreams even though they are shown on the Juneau Huskies official Facebook page.
But the connections between the women, head coach Rich Sjoroos and the rest of the people involved with the team are unmistakable.
“Fun fact: the coach has coached for 30 years, we found out today, and has never had a losing season,” Ridle said.
While this might end up being Sjoroos’ first losing season, he said after Saturday’s game he remains encouraged by the potential of what’s a relatively young team. Boyd and Ridle, as Saturday’s one-sided game came down to its final minutes, agreed with the coach about that as well.
“We can get there. We just need everyone at 100%,” Ridle said.
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 957-2306.