My mom told me to never meet strangers on the Internet.
But here’s what happened when I did.
Alec McAree, ‘25, and I grew up 300 miles away from each other, but we’ve known each other for eight years.
Back in 2015, I spent most of my time playing Roblox, a website with game development software that allows users to create their own games within the platform.
This is how I met Alec, as we both enjoyed playing hockey games on the site. We became friends and discovered our shared desire to eventually broadcast virtual sporting events on the platform together.
Two years after meeting, in 2017, we logged onto Skype and turned on our laptop microphones as we broadcasted a virtual soccer game together.
It barely had any viewers, the recording is non-existent and everything we said is forever lost to time. And since our voices were both in the pubescent transition phase, it was unlistenable even for us.
But we kept in touch. Broadcasting virtual games was an activity I used as a formative step toward my dream of becoming a sports broadcast reporter. Even when I did solo broadcasts, Alec was always there.
Just a few years later, I told a group of internet friends, including Alec, that I was attending Lehigh — just minutes after receiving my acceptance letter. He soon confirmed that he’d be attending Lehigh, too. He sent me a picture of his admission packet, but I didn’t believe him.
The night I arrived at Lehigh, I sought to meet Alec. In the crowded dining hall, I sat with Alec, and we picked up our friendship right where it left off on the computer screen.
One year into Lehigh, we were in a dark room meeting with the head coach of the Lehigh ice hockey team, pitching the idea of broadcasting the games.
What I found in that experience was that Alec is an incredibly confident broadcaster, someone who could do it professionally if he wanted. Someone willing to carry a tripod and microphones through the rain when we didn’t have cars from the riverside to our dorm on the hill.
Now, Alec has been a co-commentator and statistician for three seasons for Lehigh Ice Hockey. And our first broadcasts of men’s basketball games will happen throughout the winter.
Alec and I arrive a half-hour early to every game, checking over name pronunciations before standing behind a tripod, that props an iPhone camera. Once we give the thumbs up to each other in the rink, we go live to an audience — This season it has surpassed 3,000 unique viewers across nine games.
More often than not, family members of Lehigh and visiting teams will approach us after every game. They share their stories about how their relatives on the teams live hundreds of miles away and they never get to watch them play in person. They tell us how much they appreciate what we do.
Alec and I overcame a lot of technical challenges with broadcasting the games. The Steel Ice Center has no WiFi or electrical outlets in the stands. Sometimes I think when the parents come up to us, if we weren’t broadcasting these games, who would?
Despite having done broadcasts with many aspiring professionals, time has aged Alec into someone who knows my commentary so well that he knows when to give input.
The time we spend together broadcasting games makes me think about what it means to have people who support your goals. It inspires me to try to be one of those people in my other friends’ lives too.
I have developed a reputation over the past year for unnecessarily bragging about my friends and their accomplishments, no matter how insignificant those accomplishments might seem to other people. Having someone stand by me pushes me to be an advocate in a larger number of people’s lives.
As a college student, it takes a lot of sacrifice — and a love for hockey — to take time out of your weekends to walk down to the river and spend hours on camera.
We’ll soon trade out the virtual arena for a real one. We’ll be fed free pizza (courtesy of Lehigh Athletics,) have professional broadcasting headsets on and packets of well-thought-out notes in front of us. Very little changes though.
The chemistry with the person you’ve been calling games with for many years is one of the most rewarding parts of being a broadcaster. I can’t wait to experience it yet again beside Alec and the court at Stabler Arena later this winter.
Be an advocate for those you care about. See what others want to achieve and be willing to take time out of your day to make it happen. That is a sentiment that, with every day that passes, I try harder to live by.