Football highlight videos are labor of love for Sue Ryan
It's dinnertime on a Monday, but Sue Ryan still is seated at her desk at work.
The business and computer education teacher at Basehor-Linwood High School isn't supervising detention or conducting a late tutoring session. Instead, her eyes are scanning football film while her fingers dance across the keys of her Macintosh G4. Occasionally she grabs her mouse, whisks it across the screen and clicks.
Another cut. A tiny edit. One step closer to completing her final masterpiece.
Ryan has spent the past five years strolling the sideline of Lansing football games - at Lansing Middle School in 2001, and the past four years at Lansing High - with a camcorder in hand. She has every detail of every season on tape of her son, Logan, and his buddies growing up on the football field.
She has a stack of highlight videos - three on VHS tapes and one on DVD - that she has produced and given to the players and coaches after each of the seasons. This is her final one, and it's taking longer than usual.
"I nit-pick until somebody needs to take it away from me so I don't mess with it anymore," she said. "I was hoping to have it done by Christmas, but it's the last one so I don't want to push it."
Flashback: Fall 2000. Lansing Middle School's seventh-grade football team romps to an undefeated season. The perfect record is an glimpse of what is to come for Lansing football. Sue Ryan views the season from the stands.
"You could tell back then that these kids were special," Ryan said. "That was a special bunch of kids, and I thought, 'Somebody's got to record this.' That's how I started."
The next season she began filming every football game from the sideline. As eighth-graders, the Lions again went undefeated. This time, every moment was captured on video.
Fortunately for Ryan, her duties at Basehor-Linwood included running the student television station, so she had useful equipment at her disposal. At the time, her computer at work was an old PC equipped with a video-editing program called Discreet Edit.
When the season ended, Ryan loaded the highlights onto the computer and went to work. After about 80 hours, she came up with a 30-minute highlight video.
"I was still learning then," she laughed at the memory. "This is how I taught myself. I have used Lansing football to teach myself video editing."
When the first video was completed, Ryan held a viewing with the players.
"It was awesome," said John Edmonds, who played on every team Ryan chronicled in her videos. "In eighth grade, we felt like our class was the best of any class that ever came through Lansing because we were undefeated in football and basketball for two years, and we were really good in wrestling. It seemed like we ruled supreme in anything we would do."
Edmonds and his teammates knew they had a lot of talent on their team. Ryan recognized it, too, and issued a challenge at the end of the first video.
"When they were in eighth-grade, the last thing they saw (in the video) was: 'You're undefeated. Can you take it to the next level?'"
Answering Ryan's challenge, the class would find success in high school. True to her promise, Ryan would be there every step of the way, camera in hand. It was a deal made possible because the Basehor-Linwood administration agreed to exempt Ryan from her game-day duties at BLHS for the four years her son was in high school at LHS.
A COMPLEX PROCESS
Flashback: Fall 2002. Sue Ryan is hard at work on her second highlight video. The computer crashes.
Part of the problem working with technology is that sometimes technology fails. Ryan found that out the hard way while working on the video commemorating the freshman football team's 8-1 season. For some reason - perhaps a computer glitch or a power surge - her computer crashed. In an instant, all the work she had done was lost forever.
"You have to have extra space to store the video because it takes up so much memory," she said. "I've lost hours of video and had to redo it back on the old system."
In the years that followed, Basehor-Linwood upgraded its technology and gave Ryan a new video-friendly Macintosh G4 with dual hard drives for extra memory space. The school also provided her with Final Cut Pro HD 4.5, a video-editing program. In addition, Ryan purchased a new Panasonic digital camcorder to improve her video quality.
The extra memory space came in handy because Ryan suddenly found herself working with twice the amount of video. Not only was she filming junior varsity and varsity games, but she also obtained coach Bill Pekarek's scouting tapes so she could have clips from additional camera angles.
"If there's something that I see that I missed a lot of, coach Pekarek will give me the tapes from up above so I can blend them together, sideline and overhead angles, to get the entire play," she said.
In addition to technology and blending tapes, Ryan was granted an all-access pass from the football coaches. That access provided her with some of her favorite footage: The players doing their post-game locker room chant after victories.
"One night after a game, they were in the locker room talking and they weren't letting a bunch of the (other students) in, and one of the boys asked, 'Well, can Mrs. Ryan come in?'" she recalled. "Coach Pekarek said, 'Oh yeah. She's family.'"
Flashback: Fall 2004. Sue Ryan's telephone rings. It's late in the evening. A former Basehor-Linwood student is on the line from Park College. The student has a Final Cut Pro video project due the next day and is in a jam. After an hour-long conversation, the student completes the project.
Blending motherhood and teaching is something in which Ryan takes pride. Perhaps her best example of blending the two together is her football videos. She films games to fulfill her duties as "football mom" and then uses those videos to teach her students at Basehor-Linwood how to edit video.
"I use it as an example (in the classroom) because there's just not that much out there yet," she said. "The textbooks are pretty lame right now, so what I learn to teach them I have to teach myself first."
Ryan said she made a conscious effort not to show too many Lansing highlights to her Basehor students because the schools are rivals, but she said her students understood and appreciated that the tapes were good learning tools.
"I'm learning and then being able to pass it along to my students," she said. "I'd do it again any number of times."
Flashback: Nov. 5, 2005. Lansing falls to eventual state champion Holton, 36-7, in the regional championship game. The loss ends the most successful season in LHS history and marks the final game for Sue Ryan on the sideline.
Four days earlier, tears flowed down Ryan's cheeks as she saw Lansing hold on for a 24-21 victory over Perry-Lecompton in the bidistrict championship game. This time, after a season-ending - and in some cases career-ending - loss, she shared the same shocked expression as most of the Lions.
The season was finished. Seniors had played their final game. Ryan had filmed her final Lansing football game.
"I think I was just as stunned as they were," she said. "I felt so bad for the guys. It wasn't just seniors that were crying. There were juniors and sophomores and every kid that poured their heart into it. And there they were, experiencing a loss. For some of them it was the last loss. There are no more games to play. Not very many of the parents will ever see that : that moment.
"It's hard to see those tough boys that grew up over those years crying at the end of it. It was hard to see that."
Ryan had tried to prepare herself in advance for the final game. She knew football would end sometime, whether against Holton, in another playoff game or after a state championship. Still, the reality hit hard.
It stung to see the players' somber faces and tear-soaked eyes. Pekarek and each of the assistant coaches addressed the team after the game, but the words didn't bring much solace. For Lansing's seniors and for Ryan and her camcorder, a dominating five-year run had ended.
"You witness so closely where these boys came from and what they did, and to see that time when it was over was really hard," she said.
Flashback: Dec. 12, 2005. Sue Ryan is seated at her computer. She's working late. The video isn't finished yet, but she's making progress.
With a somber look on her face, Ryan admits it: She's in full-fledged football withdrawal. The season only has been over for about six weeks, but she misses it. She misses the players, the crowd, the crunch of pads slamming together.
"You know, I don't think I could watch a Lansing football game from the bleachers now. It would drive me crazy," she said. "Once you've watched it down there (on the sideline), you don't want to sit in the stands. Not anymore."
But reality has set in. She knows her days of filming football at LHS are over. Fortunately for her, she has the memories stored away on hours of video and a series of highlight reels. The last of the videos is almost finished.
This last highlight film is taking the longest - almost 120 hours for a 45-minute video - but Ryan said it's worth the time. She said it's important that the players and her son have a special way to remember their senior year of football.
"Ten years down the road, they're going to really realize how special they were and how special this time was," she said. "And I believe it will change the way they do everything the rest of their lives. I really do."
The players are looking forward to seeing the final masterpiece that will commemorate their 9-2 season, the most successful season in school history.
"If it's anything like her last videos, I'm sure it'll be good," Edmonds said. "It was really nice that she did that for us. She never missed a game."
The players, coaches and parents may love the videos and see them as a gift from Ryan, but she said they're actually a gift to herself to remember her son growing up.
"The guys all think that I'm doing something for them, but I'm fooling them because it's been for me," she said. "It's been a lot of fun. I'm going to miss it."