New network aims to shed light on alternative sports

by Jennifer Dill / Beacon Correspondent • February 19, 2014

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Benjamin Hillman and Connor Smith created a new network for underreported athletics.
Courtesy of Connor Smith.
Benjamin Hillman and Connor Smith created a new network for underreported athletics.
Courtesy of Connor Smith.

Here at Emerson, students are known to stop at nothing to get their ideas out into the community, and sophomores Connor Smith and Benjamin Hillman are no exception. Over the course of the past few weeks, Smith, a marketing communication major, and Hillman, a visual and media arts major, have launched the Alternative Sports Network, a weekly YouTube broadcast in which the two inform their viewers of the happenings in the world of underreported athletics.

The duo said they started the Alternative Sports Network in hopes of bringing awareness to sports that fall outside of the coverage spectrum of traditional sports shows. They don’t want to follow the tradition of covering basketball or football. Instead, they want to cover the areas of nationally unrecognized sports, namely quidditch, they said.

“Our goal is to gradually cover as many sports as we can and help individuals receive notoriety for working hard in their athletic conquests,” Hillman said.

Hillman and Smith came up with the Alternative Sports Network after the two met at Emerson’s Kasteel Well program, they said. Now their idea is finally coming to fruition after four months of careful planning.

“We bonded over a love for similar interests, including sports and online video,” said Hillman. “It’s not clear who suggested it first, but we both decided we wanted to make a muggle quidditch sports network because we knew how big of a following the sport has and we knew people would get a kick out of national exposure.”

The two boys have even both tried quidditch at Emerson.

“I tried it for the first time last fall and whatever doubts I had about it being easy or not competitive were erased,” said Hillman, who is a member of Emerson’s varsity volleyball team. “Quidditch is no joke and it has real potential to be a spectator sport.”

Smith on the other hand is on one of Emerson’s own quidditch house teams.

“I am a member of Emerson’s house league, and I play for the South End Sloth Bears,” Smith said. “I love the sport and I want people to know how great it is.”

The network airs its weekly show on its YouTube channel, Alternative Sports Network, every Wednesday at 5 p.m. The duo’s first video aired Feb. 12., opening on a shot of Hillman and Smith sitting news reporter-style behind a desk,  followed by the two students introducing the topics they would be discussing. Leading off with the recent Diamond Cup, a quidditch tournament that features teams from all over the southwest, the video takes viewers through a brief overview of events and scores, and eventually leads into an interview with quidditch player and Emerson alumnus Dan Hanson of the California team The Lost Boys. Hanson’s interview covered topics from how The Lost Boys came to be to how he has seen quidditch expanding into the public eye.

Next, the video dives into an interview between Hillman and the network’s quidditch correspondent, Ryan Smythe. This segment discusses the Beantown Brawl, a quidditch tournament that took place in Boston between three different teams from both Boston and Canada.

The video then closes on a thank you from Smith and the promise of a new video.

As for their future videos, the duo said they are looking to expand their network beyond Emerson and beyond the realms of quidditch.

“I, personally, would love to cover ultimate Frisbee at some point, as it was played a lot at my high school,” Hillman said. “We’d love to get exposure at Emerson. We’re just using it as a launching point, but we don’t want to be exclusive to Emerson.”

Hillman and Smith said they are currently working on expanding their network through exposure on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as their weekly YouTube videos. But they haven’t stopped there. They also use Reddit, a link sharing and discussion site where users often post and share ideas and projects, as a more expansive forum in hopes of gaining a larger audience and spreading the network into the eyes of the general public.

“We would love to see it go as far as possible,” Hillman said. “We are not quite sure where or when that is but we are very excited to find out.”