a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

My Dad, the Statistician

< by Amy Frye >

My dad’s first job was counting fouls for the Chicago Bulls, back before the electronic scoreboard was a thing.

He got the job because of his dad, my Papa Phil. The facts: My grandfather was an attorney, and his client list spanned almost every Chicago sport, including the team for which he was also one of the original owners — the Chicago Bulls.

“To get paid to sit in the best seat in the house was pretty cool,” my dad tells me.

It was the ‘60s; my dad was in the eighth grade. His official title was fancy — statistician. Three statisticians tracked the points, the rebounds, the assists, and the free throws. My dad was the youngest of the three. Bob Rosenberg, my dad’s boss at the time, is known today as Chicago’s official scorekeeper; he’s scored more than 5,500 professional sporting events in Chicago.

But, my dad reminds me, “It wasn’t pro basketball the way you know it,” telling me they used to give away seats to attract spectators. He remembers keeping newspaper clippings of the games — at one, a mere 791 spectators watched the Bulls beat the Seattle SuperSonics.

Every game, he was armed with two sets of foul paddles: one for the number of fouls a player had, the second for the number of fouls the team had. My dad hoisted these paddles up in the air for the spectators, the referees, the coaches, and the players.

One such player was Hall of Famer Rick Barry, who played for the Golden State Warriors. “I fouled him out, I did,” my dad admits. “It was my mistake.

“I erroneously had the wrong number of personal fouls for the star player of the team, and the coach came running — storming might be the right word to use — at me to make sure I was right.” That coach was Al Attles, a former NBA player and the second African-American coach to win an NBA title.

“After that, I paid a little more attention because I didn’t want anyone to get in my face like that.”

As a high school junior, my dad was in his front-row seat to watch legends like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, and Bill Russell take to the court when the Chicago Bulls hosted the NBA All-Star game.

And after five years in his first job, my dad moved to Arizona for college, giving up his post.

It was a neat experience, one only a handful of people can say of their first job. (I would know. I was a grocery store cashier.) My dad can impressively recount his experiences in detail: how cold his feet would get on the court, which rested on top of the ice of the old Chicago Stadium; how he donned a snazzy sport coat to every game; how he made $5 an hour. He recalled one memory I found extra special: Ellie, his stepmother, and Papa Phil — the ones responsible for the experience of a lifetime, one my dad so fondly remembers today — watched my dad count the fouls at every one of the 41 home games, from the stands that the franchise tried so hard to fill.

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