October 28, 2021

HS football on TV thanks to Baxter’s efforts Fox determines WCKD’s NFL game

Eric Baxter loves football. It’s a hereditary thing.

The love for the game runs in the family. The president of PAGEmployment played football and was a captain for the Bucksport Golden Bucks, his father William was also a Bucks captain in the 1940s, and nephew Mark Baxter was a John Bapst Crusaders captain.

For the last three years, Baxter has been following the fortunes of the Bangor High team, going to most of the home games and rooting on the Rams.

Last year, like every other Rams fan, Baxter got caught up in the excitement as the Rams went unbeaten and won their first state championship in 20 years. But as exciting as the ride was, it ended with a slight feeling of disappointment.

“I got down there and I’m sitting in the stands looking around, and it dawned on me that there were no TV stations down there broadcasting the game,” said the 39-year-old Baxter. “Here it was the biggest game in the state that day and I just thought it was ridiculous nobody was doing the game in the Bangor area.”

A local cable access television crew from Portland did tape the game and aired it on a delayed broadcast in the Portland market for a few weeks afterward, but Baxter said the play-calling was so “one-sided, you would have thought Portland had won the game.”

A couple weeks later, Baxter found out about an independently produced tape shot by Steve Howe, tracked Howe down, and got a copy. He was impressed, both with the quality and the fact Howe had done it all with one camera.

“I brought it with me to the Bangor football banquet and everyone was real impressed. We even showed it on local cable access TV,” said Baxter.

In the meantime, Baxter found himself thinking more and more about putting his money where his mouth was and taping local games in the Bangor area this fall.

“Through all this, I really got a taste for doing it and trying to fill a need in this area,” he said.

So he did. Ten months, almost $10,000 of Baxter’s own money and countless meetings later, his idea is a reality as he and partner Maurice Brown, who has filmed and aired many basketball and volleyball games in the Downeast area for Woodland/Baileyville Public Access-TV the last 16 years, have teamed up to film four area football games already this season with five more planned.

“For the last month, I’ve literally abandoned my job to get this done, but it’s all worth it because the kids are having so much fun seeing these games and seeing themselves on TV,” said Baxter, who is the director/producer of the broadcasts featuring Bangor and Brewer football games.

The games are filmed Friday nights and usually aired Sunday nights on Bangor TV station WCKD. This week’s game (Maine Central Institute at Orono) will be aired Monday night at 10 p.m. due to the Major League Baseball playoff game broadcast schedule.

Rather than opt to put the games on Bangor’s cable access channel, Baxter went with WCKD, citing the support and interest he got from station officials. He also credited school officials at Bangor and Brewer for helping out.

“I actually started out to just do Bangor games, but once I looked at the schedule, I realized we could do some Brewer games too, and the Brewer people were really helpful to us,” Baxter said.

Business support has also been solid as Bangor Tire, Quality Jewelers, Northeastern Log Homes, Carpet One, Angelo’s Pizzeria and Carefree Window and Siding have stepped up to buy commercials, which cost $50 per game for three to five spots a game.

Despite his experience, this is a first for Brown, who has not done football broadcasts before this fall. The entire broadcast is done with one Panasonic DV digital camera.

“All the equipment is digital, which makes it easier,” said Brown, the owner of St. Croix Video Productions who took this opportunity to move his business to the Bangor area. “The hard part is learning as I go and trying not to get faked out while following the ball.”

The rest of the crew includes announcers Tim Kenney of Brewer and Woodland high school junior Chris James.

Baxter said that even though the broadcasts won’t result in a financial bonanza, the response he has received from the local community has been gratifying.

“I’m not close to breaking even and I don’t know if I ever will, but this isn’t something I went into trying to make money,” he said. “The main thing is the kids really love it.”

Giant omission by Fox

New York Giants fans weren’t happy when they switched on their TV sets Sunday in hopes of seeing their team play Arizona.

Rather than show the Giants’ 4 p.m. game, local Fox football carrier WCKD-TV in Bangor aired the Chicago-Buffalo game at 1 p.m. instead.

Before anyone starts picketing the Bangor station, however, WCKD officials would like fans to know that the fault lies with the Fox Network.

According to WCKD assistant programming manager Nita Michaud, WCKD has a preset order of preference which Fox is aware of.

WCKD’s first choice for games is any involving New England and second choice is the Giants. After that, Buffalo is third and Washington fourth.

Network’s typically accomodate their affiliates’ requests, but aren’t obligated to. In this case, according to Michaud, Fox opted to deliver WCKD’s third choice over its second.

Andrew Neff can be reached at 990-8205, 1-800-310-8600, or ANeff@bangordailynews.net

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