Who's Watching?

Seven students adorned in helmets knee pads, stand on an ice rink with brooms in hand.
Seven students adorned in helmets knee pads, stand on an ice rink with brooms in hand.
A broomball game takes place during a spectacular sunset in front of Wadsworth Hall.
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"Broomball Bob," a sailor turned sports announcer from Waterville, Maine, never misses broomball, thanks to Michigan Tech webcams.

Eighty-year-old Robert (Bob) Woodbury from Winslow, Maine, is an unabashed, die-hard broomball fan; in fact, he wants broomballers to know that he appreciates their athleticism—something he can comment on with expertise, given his tenure in sports broadcasting. Bob says he watches almost daily. "It's unusual when I'm not. I'll sit here (in front of the computer) for as much as an hour or more." While broomball isn't the only Michigan Tech sport Woodbury follows (he thinks we have a "fine hockey team this year"), it is the only sport he watches by webcam.

After announcing some 6,000 games in 50 years of sports broadcasting—mostly basketball and football—the retired Maine Basketball Hall of Famer enjoys watching broomball to see "kids out there having fun." Though he can't remember when he started watching, he conservatively estimates it was "as soon as [the webcams] were put up," and he hasn't missed a game since.

Woodbury says he stumbled upon Michigan Tech's webcams while scouting for virtual views of Lake Superior and locations in and enroute to Duluth, Minnesota, where he and his wife Marion have traveled to from Maine more than 55 times in their 57-year marriage. Tech’s webcams afford him a brief escape to the Copper Country, 1,200 miles away.

A white man wearing glasses looks into the camera
Broomball Bob Woodbury

Woodbury fell in love with the UP after completing his first trip around Lake Superior by ship in 1959 as part of the Navy's Operation Inland Seas. At just 21 years old, four years into a six-year enlistment, Woodbury was a sailor on "one of 28 warships that went into the St. Laurence and the Great Lakes for the first time since the war of 1812 in celebration of the opening of the seaway—one of four ships to sail all five Great Lakes and one of two to go all the way to the end to Duluth Superior Harbor, where my wife picked up a sailor," he jokes.

Since then, he and his wife have made the pilgrimage to Duluth through the UP as often as they can, but when they can’t trek by car, they travel via computer cursor to Copper Harbor’s and Michigan Tech’s webcams. The ability to enjoy locations and events from afar is something he doesn’t take lightly; in his career as a sports broadcaster, Woodbury helped radio listeners who couldn’t attend in person to experience the excitement of sporting events. He considers his career a “privilege,” because he got to “tell people about what good kids we have,” he says.

“You pick up the newspaper or you watch television, or you listen to the radio and all you hear about are the bad … And that's one of the reasons, when I come across something like the broomball, these are kids out there having fun,” he says.

That’s exactly what Bob Woodbury wants broomballers to know. And also, that there is "somebody out there from god knows where, over there in that state up in the corner, that cared about what they were doing.” And that somebody is Bob.

So when you feel the urge to sit out because of cold temps or harsh conditions; or when you think there’s no point in lacing up your sneakers or fixing the duct tape on your broom, remember that 80-year-old Bob Woodbury is watching the webcam, rooting for you. You can’t hear him, but you can be sure he’s there, saying, “Go Huskies!”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

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