A Collaboration Between LexMedia, LHS and LHS Parents Allows Fans to Watch Basketball Games Live During Covid

By Devin Shaw

Julie Manoogian of LexMedia filming an LHS basketball game.

In the past year, COVID-19 has taken a lot from us. Even the little things that we may have taken for granted like being in the stands for a game are gone. In some ways, it’s losing these small pleasures that hurt the most. But, COVID has also created an opportunity for inventiveness and collaboration to retain those little things we miss most. Recently, the decision was made to restrict spectators at Lexington High School sports due to safety concerns. That meant friends and family would miss all the games they loved to watch in-person, and it really stung fans—especially parents.

Lexington’s Athletic Director Naomi Martin immediately reached out to Florence Del Santo, Executive Director of LexMedia, and began a dialogue.
“Unfortunately, we’re in this situation as yet another by-product of COVID,” Martin said. “Our number one goal has always been to try and allow the kids to play and retain some semblance of normalcy in their lives. When the decision was made that we were going to play, but no fans would be allowed, the response from all of us was, ‘well, how can we allow families to still feel like they’re going to be there?’ That’s where LexMedia came in—they were my first call.”

Del Santo said, “Naomi contacted me to inform me that there would not be spectators allowed at the basketball games this year, and we wanted to find a way where we could provide an opportunity for the community to watch the games live. We talked about it, and I was aware of a technology that allows streaming live from locations with internet or cellular service. We looked into it further and found the solution. Then we went ahead and bought the equipment! The next step was figuring out how to use it. It’s just another example of adapting to the new-normal. We were faced with a problem and we solved it.”

Del Santo consulted with her employees to make sure they were comfortable going to the games. They were enthusiastic about trying something new and bringing the games to the community. Everyone immediately learned how to use the equipment and the first game was broadcast live on YouTube. Thousands of people watched it.

Dan Strollo has a son who plays basketball and had been in contact with both Martin and Del Santo throughout the process. After watching the first game, he noticed that it was somewhat difficult to follow and said, “I need to figure out what I can do to help with this.” Dan reached out to another parent, Lex Tzannes, and asked him if he wanted to contribute.

Strollo told me, “Lex knows basketball, and I know how to talk your ear off so the two of us decided it was a match made in heaven.” The play-by-play team of Strollo and Tzannes was born! “I think we have made it more enjoyable, or at least that’s what I’ve been told! We make some jokes, create fake sponsors with our favorite local businesses. We are just trying to have fun and watch our kids play. I give all kinds of credit to LexMedia. When you think about it—the responsibility they have taken on—and being able to pull this off in the short time constraints is huge! They’re being asked to do stuff I’m sure they’ve never been asked to do before, and they’re excited to be there.”

In some communities, parents have taken issue with not being allowed to watch the games in person.Martin said, “I can honestly say one of the things that I’m most proud of is the fact that Lexington parents have never complained. I haven’t fielded one complaint about them not being able to watch their kids in person. I think that’s so indicative of our parents—they understand that this isn’t a typical year, they understand the risks involved. I am grateful to work in a place like Lexington, where our perspective and values are in the right place.”

Martin continued, “I feel like when you can’t be there, having it on your TV or your computer at home, especially in the winter months, is just a really cool thing. I hear from parents how much they appreciate it. I think what we’ve learned in 2020, and now into 2021, is that we are only as strong as each other. And I think this has just been an awesome response as a community partner—the school had a need and LexMedia was there to fill that need.”

For Del Santo, the next step is getting the games to stream live on LexMedia’s TV channels and website, in addition to YouTube. But for now she is grateful that everything has worked out. She said, “I really want to thank the athletic department for working with us to make this happen. They’ve been really supportive and appreciative of anything we could do. It has been one of the most collaborative projects we have done with the school in a long time—and it has been fun!”

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