Sports event

Has an eye on the complete preservation of high school sporting event recordings come too late?

It was worth trying.

For nearly 25 years, my collection of memorabilia from my Harvey days in the mid to late 90s had sat in plastic bins.

One of those keepsakes was a VHS collection of play-by-play for Red Raiders football and basketball games as a high school student through my college years for the old access station to Harvey Education, WHHS.

The tapes hadn’t been touched in decades, and given that the technology is now obsolete, there was no reason to believe the recordings would still work. After a class reunion and reconnecting with friends and classmates on Facebook, however, in an effort to preserve and digitize our history, it was time to give it a try. So I pulled out my latest VCR, along with the tapes, and set up my phone to record MP4s from the TV for editing and uploading to Facebook as a museum of sorts.

Surprisingly, most tapes still worked, with decent enough tracking to pick up.

When it comes to full-length recordings of high school sporting events, from the era of the VCR through the advent of more practical means, chances are that any preservation will be scattered at best.

As in my case, it could be in your personal collection – on VCR tapes, DVD-Rs or digitized. Or any effort to preserve it back then has been lost in time and gone.

The progress made amid the pandemic to provide greater preservation of video for events, with streaming becoming increasingly popular and widespread, as well as streams being recorded for on-demand viewing, has been a positive step. It was one of the best recent developments in pivoting.

However, has an eye on preserving the full history of events through video recording and/or digitization come too late?

And with the advent of key highlights captured in snippets for Twitter and other social media – in recent years in more HD quality and hopefully preserved “permanently” – does it matter?

We know from the Ohio High School Athletic Association that state events are backed up. As previously reported, OHSAA has a library of state actions, some dating back to the early 1950s. In 2015, for example, writing a story about Gilmour legend Eric Penick and winning a single track and field team title in 1971 with an individual hat-trick, I found out OHSAA had the movie. The governing body sent me a copy on CD, from which, with permission, I compiled Penick’s races.

With that in mind, it’s more about regular season, district and region action.

Whether or not there is a fairly comprehensive library of your school’s athletic action over the past 25 years depends.

Perhaps there was an educational access channel, as in our case in Harvey, or a regional cable entity. Maybe there were team or school videographers. Maybe there was a master tape or, going back further, a reel of film somewhere – or someone recording the event at home when it first aired.

Over time, however, this would become risky.

Did the tape or film survive? For the VHS, was the master finally recorded? When new school buildings came into play or education access stations and cable broadcasters became more obsolete, was it a priority to move physical materials and keep them?

If the recordings survived, was there an eye for digitization, transfer from VHS or film to day format?

If someone hasn’t thought of it, with a few format changes along the way, then this story has been trashed and decays into a landfill.

A similar concept applies to what appeared on social media in the 2010s.

It seems like an eternity now, but back then it was a big deal when we got state-of-the-art FlipCams in our work. It allowed us to easily record, edit and download MP4 videos, unlike using camcorders and editing software like we did a few years ago.

Then the FlipCam concept also became obsolete. Then the download hosts were taken offline for good. Then came the efficiency of uploading videos to Twitter. Then came the fact that the raw MP4s from FlipCams, certainly compared to today’s Ultra HD video, were of poor quality. Even if the MP4s were saved on an external hard drive or somewhere else, it didn’t matter because the video wasn’t that great.

Technology and what is considered practical and efficient will inevitably pivot, perhaps in ways we can’t even imagine. Just like having your own community channel. Or MediaOne, SportsChannel or Continental CableVision – do you remember them? Or VHS. Or DVD-Rs. Or save to your phone. Or broadcast an event on your laptop. Or access it on demand with a subscription.

Also, given the attention span these days, many people are indifferent to any content that isn’t in a condensed format anyway.

The thing is, because of the way the history of high school sports is captured, the issues of event recovery will persist, but in a different way.

It feels like even though the technology has advanced, we’ve really missed the mark in terms of properly preserving history.

It’s not that, like any generation, you’re going to want to watch a Week 4 football game or an October volleyball game from your freshman high school season many times in 20 years. But you should have the option to watch it again if you want.

Luckily, today’s student-athletes should have that capability…provided the video-on-demand stays on a server somewhere forever.

But what about the 25 years that preceded it?

It shouldn’t come down to a VHS tape labeled “1998 Harvey-Riverside boys basketball” sitting in a box, as it did for me.

It should come down to remembering that preserving those memories, not just now, but for any technological pivot that follows, is also important – especially before it’s too late for it to matter at all.