Derouin: Welcome to Upbeat

11/6/2018 | Column | By Bryce Derouin

J ust eight years ago, the landscape for following high school sports in the UP was quite different. Eight years doesn’t seem like a lot, but you must remember this was during the time of flip phones with T9 texting, so seeing scores in real-time and reading articles the same night were unheard of luxuries. Therefore, we worked with what we had.

I had a system and routine to stay up to date the best I could during my senior year at Bark River-Harris. After a game, there were multiple steps you could take to find out how your rivals fared that night. The first step was to see if the radio station was at your game. If so, then you were golden and could dismiss the other steps. But if the station wasn’t, you would loudly ask the locker room or any parents outside in the gym if they had heard any results. Still no luck? After home games, you would go to your car and flip the radio on, and if you didn’t hear any scores, you could take a shower and hope you heard the nightly scoreboard on the radio while you cleaned yourself. On the road, it was more of the same, just sit and wait until you could hear the sports update across the airwaves. Sometimes, you’d miss the radio sports spots entirely and be forced to wait until the 11:30 p.m. local TV sports segment.

Bryce Derouin

Radio and TV were cool, but nothing was as exciting as seeing a reporter from the local newspaper at your event. I would regularly scan every part of the gym during pregame warmups to see if our game would be covered. The next day, we would continually hit refresh on the newspaper’s website until our article showed up, just so we could read it a few hours before the daily paper came to our school. But of course, that wasn’t enough for us. Between classes, it wasn’t uncommon to take a stroll past the high school office to see if the paper had come in yet, or take a “bathroom break” to make that same walk — just to see the newspaper with an article we had already read online.

Pretty crazy, hey?

From the outside, it probably looks that way, but for anyone who has played or been around sports in the UP, they understand the passion that exists for its preps. I’ve heard stories of farmers in different school districts betting money on games with each other. Student section cheering wars are regular occurrences. And your rival competitors from other schools would always come up in daily conversation with your friends, while always referring to them by their last name.

I grew up in this type of eccentric sports world, lived it, then came back to cover it. And while following the UP sports scene has seen progress with the emergence of smartphones and tablets, it’s still lacking in one main area: an online presence.

That’s what Upbeat is for.

No, I’m not talking about a bare-bones blog. I’m talking about a professionally-designed website that brings you basketball coverage across the UP. Do you want to be able to read in-depth coverage about the St. Ignace dynasty while still being able to get updated on the Iron Mountain boys in one place? You can now do that, thanks to our dedicated team of writers that’s committed to making Upbeat the premier destination for UP basketball.

We want to deliver features, analysis pieces, columns, a weekly podcast and other special stories beyond your typical game coverage — which there will be plenty of. Our goal is to explore stories such as why the Chassell girls are so effective at full-court pressing; or detail how Jared Lawson is attempting to build Houghton into a steady basketball power when half of the boys grow up with a hockey stick in their hands; and just how green the light is for Jake Polfus’ shooters down in Carney.

This project wouldn’t be possible without the accomplished and experienced staff I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter during my journalism career. Eden Laase is the best writer I have seen in all of my years in the UP. She’s won national awards for her feature writing, and she interned at Sports Illustrated after covering the Final Four run of the Gonzaga men’s basketball team. Together at the Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton, we covered more events than any other paper in the UP, willingly worked 20-30 hours a week for free — since OT was never accounted for — to deliver the best sports section possible.

The same work ethic can be said for Keith Shelton during my time with him at the Escanaba Daily Press. He also worked for free every week during the fall and winter seasons, committing himself to be there at every event while also managing a family at home. I was fortunate to work alongside someone that dedicated early on in my career.

Jason Sutherland is a Michigan Tech student with a solid writing background. With his sports background and creativity, his early samples showed promise. He’s spent the fall covering high school football, honing his journalism skills before the launch of Upbeat. We’ve already seen solid stories from him so far, and he’s only going to get better.

Yes, there’s a paywall for our website. A monthly fee of $5.99 will give you access to all of our content without the hindrance of ads. This means no flashing banners to interrupt your story, no auto-play videos when you click on a link and no surveys for you to take before you can read the first few sentences. Upbeat will be a clean reading experience, and subscribers will allow us to cover events all across the UP, in addition to any state tourney runs.

The traditional media model is clearly not working at a time when ads can no longer sustain a newspaper like they used to. People are getting news on their phones, tablets or computers, and no longer waiting the next day for the paper. It’s the reason why newspapers like the New York Times and Boston Globe have gone to subscription-based models.

If you’re hesitant to try us, that’s OK. We’re releasing our preseason content for free so you know what you will be subscribing to. The need for a subscription will kick in on the opening night of the boys basketball season: Nov. 27.

The staff at Upbeat believes in this project. It’s a collection of people who have experienced and chronicled the emotional joys of winning and despair of defeat — right here in the UP. We understand the emotionally-fueled rivalries, and what it means to have a Friday night home game. And we understand that UP sports coverage has been missing something — until now.

Bryce Derouin

Bryce is a co-founder of Upbeat. He earned his journalism degree from Grand Valley State and served as the sports editor for three years at the Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton after working one year as a sports reporter at the Daily Press in Escanaba.