Monday, April 17, 2006

The Adventures of Stat Girl

I hired a new per diem person to help with my Arena Football play-by-play gig. I think she’ll keep the job. Here’s the good news: she’s accepting payment in services instead of cash. I’ll allow you to use your own imagination on services rendered in exchange for spotter-statistician duties.
It became obvious from the outset that “Stat Girl” wasn’t clear on the position she was accepting, but took the opportunity on faith. I explained that her job would be really simple. Watch the game. When somebody caught the ball or made a tackle, she should just point to his number on this simple yet effective grid I prepared. Following the play, she should write down whether it was a run, a pass or a kick and keep track of the number of plays and the result of each possession. This is straightforward stuff. I had great confidence in stat Girl. I happen to know she has an advanced degree and she comes across as highly intelligent.
One of the first perks of the job was wardrobe. She got an official team tee shirt. It’s all black with the team’s logo in silver and white. I almost lost her though, because of a comment I made. Stat Girl is in her forties, and she steadfastly refuses to artificially color her hair. So, looking at her shirt, I said, “Hey, your hair matches the team colors.” She almost resigned on the spot. However, the promise of services to be rendered overcame a moment of inappropriate humor. Still, a Stat Girl of her stature felt somewhat conspicuous in a football team’s tee shirt. When she arrived at the arena, resplendent in 100% cotton, she discovered that she was something of a sartorial conformist. Pretty much everyone else who was “working the game” was wearing some version of silver and black. I said, “You feel a lot better now that you see everyone is dressed like you, don’t you?” She turned a little red and said “Yes.” Keep in mind; I was wearing a black-with-silver-trim coach’s shirt, so I fit right in, too.
I have to hand it to Stat Girl; she jumped right into the process. Like a media veteran, one of her first inquiries was about the pre-game meal. We found quickly that the media room was catered, and so we were ready. Proudly wearing her team colors now, she took her place beside me in the press box and helped with the set-up of the radio gear. I asked for her assessment of the visiting team’s colors, gave her a headset and did a microphone check. The game producer at the radio station like what he heard and asked for a phone number. Stat Girl let the request pass without comment. That’s so like her.
The pace of the game and commensurately that of the broadcast caught her little off-guard. Arena football moves quickly. But, as I anticipated, she was up to the challenge. There was a little unpleasantness between a couple of other media members about seating arrangements. Stat Girl just sat back and watched wide-eyed as these guys wallowed in little pools of testosterone. She let the incident pass without comment. That’s so like her. Ultimately, she proved more valuable as a spotter than a statistician, but that part will come around.
After almost four hours of live radio describing a game which featured 90 points scored, a drop-kick, a kicker attempting two passes, an ejection and a season-ending injury, Stat Girl was legitimately tired. I think watching the play-by-play man suffer through his team’s 20-point loss had a little to do with it, but nonetheless she came away with a new appreciation for the preparation and execution of a football broadcast. She will watch and-or listen to games with a new perspective now.
Plus, she promised to come back for the rest of the season. You have to like that, especially since the pay scale is quite favorable. She’s certainly not doing it for the clothes. When I closed the post-game show, I thanked the listeners, the studio producer, and of course, “Claire Rebouche, our stat girl and spotter here at the arena.” At that moment, the guy back at the station retracted his request for a phone number. Stat Girl helped me pack up the equipment, and we left, eager with anticipation for the next opportunity to work together.
The good news is, she was so tired by the time the game was over she requested no services. Although, I suspect she’s running a tab.

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