By Chad Wingert
THUMB AREA — High school sports fans in the Thumb love their area schools. But, a local sports nut has developed a new way to follow Thumb area sports with the use of cutting-edge technology.
No, it’s not a newspaper or a radio station. It’s www.thumbtailgater.com, a Web site dedicated to Thumb area sports, started by Deckerville’s Eddie Fury.
Fury, a DJ at WLEW in Bad Axe, ran with the idea of streaming games on the Internet after his football pre-game show experiences at WLEW.
“After my first year of football and finally into the basketball playoffs, Rick Glaza had brought up the idea of having local sports writer Paul Adams of the Huron Daily Tribune to come in and help me spice up the pre-game shows for the basketball playoffs. We hit it off right away,” Fury said.
“The next week, Chris Ogryski of the Huron County Press was brought in and thus the ‘Thumb Tailgaters’ pre-game show was born. We had so much fun with the pregame shows that it became a staple from 2006 up to late 2008 and also, we became good friends. The name ‘Thumb Tailgaters pre-game show’ began in the fall sports season of 2006.”
But as time went on, Fury was searching for something more. He wanted another way to give Thumb area sporting fans the coverage they craved.
“After my first stint with WLEW is when Paul and Chris brought up that the time was right for me to think about starting my own blog and Internet sports network,” Fury said. “The idea swirled more and more in my head. It was a major risk in many ways.”
So, after some more play-by-play work at WLEW, Fury decided it was time to give the Web a try in the summer of 2009. And, with some help from Glaza, Adams and Ogryski, Thumb Tailgater Sports was officially born on Aug. 20, 2009.
It was then that Fury put his DJ experience and 15 years of radio broadcasting experience to work. After a few test runs of broadcasting football scrimmages and one regular season game. Fury was ready to hit the airwaves and open his broadcasts to everyone on the World Wide Web.
“I did a test run at a scrimmage at Deckerville High School. Then I had an opportunity to do a real game at North Huron where they had a Thursday game hosting Cardinal Mooney. I had some guys I had worked with listen, because I was allowed only five listeners for the test run. But, the results were astounding, as was the sound quality. They all gave it a seal of approval,” Fury said.
“There were a few kinks that had to be worked out with our streaming hosts over the year. But by the middle of football season, everything was eventually worked out and I was confident enough to go out and start get some advertisers on the air.”
Fury’s first broadcast to the public took place on Friday, Aug. 28th when Deckerville took on Sterling Heights Parkway Christian in a regular season football matchup. Ever since, Fury says the feedback has been outstanding and that he has had listeners tune in from all over the country and even across the world.
“The response, since week one, has been great. Football is by far the most popular sport we have done with hundreds of live listeners throughout the season. And, late in the season, we almost cracked 1,000 listeners for one game,” Fury said.
“We have had listeners from across the nation and around the world. We have had several military soldiers somewhere in Iraq listening. And that means a lot to me, being a former U.S. Marine. Another listener was somewhere on a Navy ship, I suspect off the coast of Africa.
“Most of the listeners are from the Michigan area and many more are former residents of the Thumb area,” Fury went on to say. “Mostly parents, relatives and grandparents listening – just basic fanatics of Thumb area sports. Also, during the playoffs we have gotten many e-mails from the opposing team’s fans thanking us for the coverage.”
Since TTS’s kickoff during football season, demand has shot through the roof. And what started off as a high school football broadcast station quickly decided to take on basketball and now even the spring sports season.
“At first, we were just going to do football, but that changed by the semifinals of the football season. The fans were wanting more from us,” Fury said. “So we continued on, starting with girls basketball. I still can’t we made it through that long, grueling basketball season!”
And with the high demand, Fury decided to take on staff members Adam Filkins, Mark Dimon and Mike Smith, three others that share Fury’s passion for Thumb area sports.
“Adam is great with computers and he has a passion for sports. His soundboard skills, along with his computer, Web site and Internet experience became a huge asset for us,” Fury said. “And when football playoffs came around, we realized we needed another set of eyes on our crew. That is when Mark Dimon was asked to join the crew. Mike Smith joined on during Ubly’s semi-final football game and has been helping out ever since.”
Now, Fury and his crew are excited about the upcoming spring sports season as well as being the only broadcasters of Thumb area baseball and softball games. TTS is also hoping to provide streaming video of games online.
“We are very excited about our live baseball and softball coverage. This time with both video and audio,” Fury said. “And, one of the best things about TTS is that after our live Web casts, the games are archived so they can be listened to again. We have almost doubled our listeners with return visits.
“It’s just crazy to think that I thought we would not last past week five of football season. And here were are now, knocking on the door of spring sports after we made it through the entire basketball season,” he added.
Since the takeoff of TTS, one thing remains the same. The goal of Thumb Tailgater Sports is to give people a piece of home. If they live in the area, out-of-state or across the world, Fury says sharing the bond is the focus of TTS.
“I have gotten many handshakes and hugs from Thumb area coaches, telling me thanks and showing their appreciation for doing games on the Internet. It was just pure joy for them to have relatives living out of state hear the games,” Fury said. “That, right there, is what we are all about.”
TTS has advertisers that believe in the support of Thumb area sports, but they are looking for more. If you would like to advertise with Thumb Tailgater Sports, please call (810) 476-4680 or e-mail TTS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along with the Web site, www.thumbtailgater.com, and the blog at thumbtailgater.blogspot.com, be sure to check out the TTS Facebook page.
Chad’s full interview with Thumb Tailgater Sports leader, Eddie Fury, can be found at www.tuscolatoday.com.
By Chad Wingert