Growing up in Ann Arbor, Wiseman listened to Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell religiously. “It was the soundtrack of summer,” he says.
“I’d always idolized people who did play-by-play,” explains Wiseman, forty-seven, who’s also a lifelong Red Wings hockey and Michigan football fan. He dreamed of being a radio announcer but knew those jobs were scarce. After getting a telecommunications degree from EMU and settling into a career at Thomson Reuters, he enjoyed his own version of play-by-play, he says, “mumbling along” to sports coverage with his TV volume on low.
Then, in 2016, with livestreaming gaining popularity, he took a chance and emailed local high schools to ask if they’d be interested in free sports coverage. Pioneer High athletic director Eve Claar said yes.
Wiseman’s first broadcast was an audio play-by-play of a Pioneer men’s hockey game that he streamed via an internet link. “Turns out, I wasn’t too bad at it … it made me feel kind of cool for a couple hours,” he says.
With the help of his all-volunteer family staff–including his wife, father, sister, and brother-in-law–their audio coverage quickly grew and they launched a dedicated website, arborbroadcasting.com. In following seasons, they added Pioneer men’s lacrosse, women’s hockey, football, women’s and men’s basketball, and EMU men’s lacrosse. They also livecast U-M women’s club hockey–in February, he and his wife, Chris, road-tripped to State College for a game.
When Covid hit and spectators weren’t allowed at AAPS games, Claar asked if Wiseman could add video. “That’s when our sports exploded,” he says. “We ramped up and added everything we could,” including Pioneer men’s soccer, field hockey, volleyball, baseball, softball, and more. Wiseman and his family–with occasional help from parents and high school students–were working every night, sometimes splitting into two broadcast teams to cover two games.
They’ve since slowed down and use a spreadsheet to coordinate games, prioritizing away games that parents may miss. Donations cover about 50 percent of expenses and the couple pays the rest out of pocket.
During the pandemic, Arbor Broadcasting’s been “a little sliver of light during dark and lonely times” for those who couldn’t be present at games, emails Pioneer English teacher Jeff Kass. Kass’s son Julius plays hockey and baseball for Pioneer, and Jeff helps Wiseman with play-by-play for several sports. “You can’t help but get caught up in the Wiseman passion for athletics in its purest form … all for free. All out of pure love.”
On a recent Saturday evening, Wiseman is atop the “crow’s nest”–the press box at Veterans Memorial Ice Arena–with his dad, James, who operates the video camera. They’re preparing to broadcast the Pioneer High women’s hockey team’s game with Walled Lake.
Prior to the puck drop, Chris–who handles PR and “whatever’s needed”–climbs the steep metal ladder onto the platform to review player names with Mark. She’s just talked to the Walled Lake coach to ensure correct pronunciation. (“I always act like a mom from the opposing team’s watching” the broadcast, Chris explains.)
With his headset on, Wiseman leans over the railing, commenting rapid-fire on the action as the puck is “shot,” “fired,” “poked,” “chipped,” “knocked,” “held,” “chased,” “whipped,” “levered,” “deflected,” and “ricocheted.” His tone is always friendly. “We never criticize officials, coaches, or players,” he says. “This is high school sports. Everyone is doing the best they can.”
Wiseman says he’s in the flow “when I feel like I’m able to paint a picture of the action … I’ve got every player’s name on the tip of my tongue. It’s an amazing feeling.” A few years back he tweeted out a game to Ken Kal, the Red Wings play-by-play announcer, and Kal responded. “He said, ‘Hey, you sound pretty good, but try to work on recognizing players’ names,'” says Wiseman. Now he uses a flash-card program on his phone to memorize the names of both teams before a game. He also keeps player and team stats updated and handy to share with listeners.
Mark and Chris, who met at work and were married eight years ago, don’t have kids of their own. Chris says right now “this is the biggest impact we can have in our community–I feel like we were able to make a huge difference, especially with Covid.” A former basketball player who grew up watching all sports, she says, “I love a good game.” Mark’s dad, the cameraman, is a retired controls engineer who produced hockey games for WCBN as a U-M student in the 1960s and says his son is “a thousand percent better at this than I was.”
Grandparents around the country are some of Arbor Broadcasting’s biggest fans. “On the gloomy days I’ll look at the cards and emails” from them, says Wiseman. His “pie-in-the-sky” dream is to do play-by-play for Michigan football, but he’s not expecting a phone call from U-M anytime soon.
Back atop the crow’s nest there’s just seven seconds left in the hockey game and Pioneer is losing when two Walled Lake spectators are ejected for yelling at the ref about a penalty. Wiseman sees a teachable moment.
“Please be kind to the officials,” he tells his internet audience, “and to all those who do this for the love of the game.”