'Thursday Night Huddle' tackles lack of NFL talk overseas
MILDENHALL, England — One of the sacrifices of overseas military service is a steady diet of NFL football.
When there’s not a government shutdown, games are broadcast on American Forces Network, yes, but the sport, while gaining some international fans, is still quintessentially American.
So opportunities for fans to listen to commentators dissect every fumble, pass and touchdown by local personalities are limited, even more so in England, where AFN does not have a radio station.
Three Air Force police officers and a dental technician decided to change that.
The “Thursday Night Huddle” is a two-hour, public radio show born from a shared love of sports, good talk and the need they perceived for NFL commentary in England.
The hosts — Tech Sgt. Joe Freiesleben, Senior Airman Tyler Adams, Senior Airman Brian Carmack and Tech Sgt. Ross List — have a simple format: Make tuning into the show like dropping into a conversation at a bar.
“The biggest premise that we really, truly wanted to stick with, and I think we’ve stuck with it since day one, is four dudes that enjoy football and it’s like bar talk,” Freiesleben said.
They discuss the worst and best moments from NFL games that week, pose hypothetical scenarios and even delve into fantasy football. During the show, they check social media for comments from listeners.
Each of the four brings a different approach to the show. List and Freiesleben have a tendency to dominate conversations. Carmack responded to a jab at his team, the Chicago Bears, by walking out of his radio booth for a moment. Adams is by far the quietest, but he leads the group when it comes to predicting the outcomes of NFL games.
“When you put three cops and a dental guy together, you never know what you’re going to get,” List said.
Carmack, the dental technician, called the group a “bad cavity search.”
The show came into being through a combination of networking and love of sports. Carmack, stationed at Lakenheath, had taken a free radio class at 105.3 Zack FM and wanted to start a sports show, but needed co-hosts.
“It’s better to have personalities to bounce things off of,” he said.
His eventual co-hosts were also looking to start a radio show and approached the station separately. Jeff Davis, who oversees the station, needed a sports show to continue marketing the station to an American audience.
“It’s a way for people on the base to get some interaction with the NFL,” Davis said.
The show, which airs at 7 p.m. Thursday on 105.3 FM, has only been running since Aug. 29. But it is gaining traction, already garnering local sponsorship. Two of the hosts secured press credentials to cover the Minnesota Vikings versus the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley Stadium in London Sept. 29.
The credentials gave them a chance to provide quick coverage. Their Facebook page contains several, mobile uploads from the day of the game, including comments from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. List said in a subsequent phone interview that Carmack and Freiesleben conducted multiple interviews, including one with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
They also plan to cover the Jacksonville Jaguars against the San Francisco 49ers game in London Oct. 27.
How much longer the group can stay together will depend on their day jobs in the Air Force. Carmack plans to leave the military to pursue a radio career in less than two years, and List said in a phone interview Freiesleben will leave in 2014.
Their boss, however, clearly wants the show to continue. Davis is impressed with their performance and wants to see the show turn into something that covers more than just football.
“These guys, when they get behind the mic, come alive.”