Laase: Making a home in the UP

11/8/2018 | Column | By Eden Laase

W hen I came to Houghton a year ago I had a plan. That’s the thing about me. I’ve always had a plan, and generally, I stick to it. When I was 10 I decided the plan was to become a sports journalist, then as I got older the plan was to write about college sports. I attended Gonzaga University where I took all the necessary steps to land my first job — writing for the school newspaper, working nights at the local paper and multiple internships — before applying and getting a job at the Daily Mining Gazette covering Michigan Tech hockey. I decided I would work in Houghton for a year or two before moving on and branching into what I really wanted to be covering — college basketball. About a month in my plan was derailed.

Eden Laase

I was chatting with Brad Besonen after an Ewen-Trout Creek basketball game.

We were making small talk and he asked me about my background. After listing off how I got to the UP, Besonen looked at me with disbelief. I’d just finished an internship at Sports Illustrated and spent my senior year in college covering Gonzaga’s men’s basketball team in the Final Four.

“And now you’re covering high school basketball in Ewen?” he asked shaking his head.

“Yes,” I replied. “And you know what? I love it.”

It rolled off my tongue with ease, and I realized as I said the words, I meant them.

Over time I realized I didn’t want to stick to my plan anymore.

“Why?” is an easy question for people to settle upon. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t make sense. But it’s also an easy question for me to answer.

To me, there is no greater honor or joy as a journalist than serving a community you love. And that’s what I get to do in the UP. I care about the high school athletes, the coaches, the fans and the community. I admire the way people in the UP value high school athletics and the way they support these young athletes.

I’ve lived in a lot of different places. I grew up in Colorado, went to school in Washington and interned in New York City. And I’ve liked all of those places, but nothing seemed to fit as well as the UP fits me right now.

I was a high school athlete in Colorado. A decent basketball player on a good team. My senior year, we won our conference for the first time in over 20 years, went to the Sweet 16 of Colorado’s 5A tournament (a huge feat for a Western slope school competing against Denver powerhouses). It was by all accounts a remarkable season, and yet, no one seemed to care. There was no buzz within the school or the community, so my senior year came and went without making much impact on people.

That’s what I thought high school sports were.

Then I came to the UP.

Here the high school athletes get the atmosphere I craved years ago. They get the love and support they deserve from fans, because, what, in the sports world is purer than high school athletics? It has become the last level of sports where many kids play purely as an extracurricular activity — because they love their friends on the team, they love the sport and they love representing their school.

For years the UP has cultivated a rich environment for high school athletes, but it is missing one piece: premier coverage.

The people of the Upper Peninsula deserve great high school sports coverage, and that is what we intend to give them with Upbeat.

When the idea came to Bryce and I, we wanted to break down sports journalism and rebuild it the way we thought it should be. We wanted to create an entity that provided unique sports coverage. The kind that can’t be obtained anywhere else: Not anywhere online and not in newspapers.

Upbeat is designed to be a hub for local high school sports across the UP. Starting this season with basketball and growing from there, we will provide in depth-game coverage, columns, analysis, podcasts, photos and feature stories all in one place. We will address the stats, results and events while also exploring the human element behind the sports themselves. And we will do this for the whole region.

The UP hasn’t had anything like this before, but it’s long overdue.

As a Yooper transplant, it became instantly apparent to me that this place deserves something special. It is so hard to explain to outsiders the passion and care everyone puts into high school sports. It’s a unique throwback to another time, in the best way. The old-fashioned love that is pumped into UP high school athletics deserves a modern approach to sports coverage.

I can’t wait to put my heart and soul into covering this community, and I hope you join us on this new and exciting journey.

Eden Laase

Eden is a co-founder of Upbeat. She has covered pro sports as a Sports Illustrated intern and chronicled Gonzaga’s Final Four run. Recently, she covered Michigan Tech hockey for the Daily Mining Gazette. Eden graduated from Gonzaga with a degree in journalism.