I usually like to write blog posts that uplift and inspire, but today, I’m going to get personal.
One of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had was the four seasons I spent as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers’ game night stat crew. This was back when the Clippers were, well, you know, the Clippers. A successful season back then (1995-99) was if the team finished in the neighborhood of .500—usually on the losing side of that fence.
This part-time gig offered some pretty nice perks, such as cool swag, a court-side seat at the scorers’ table and a free pre-game meal that put me in a position to break bread with a variety of celebrities and high-profile folks. Pro Basketball Hall of Famer—and then-Clippers general manager—Elgin Baylor and well-known L.A. broadcasters Jim Hill and Ed Arnold were a few of them.
I even got somewhat acquainted with basketball legend Bill Walton, who was doing color commentating for the local TV channel’s Clippers coverage at the time. We became so acquainted, that he’d give me the “what’s up” head nod whenever he’d see me.
Walton regularly borrowed my pen right before going on the air to scribble something on his notepad. Sometimes he’d return my pen, often he wouldn’t. Now that I recall it, I think he still owes me a package worth of pens.
My main responsibility as a member of the Clippers’ stat crew was to update the matrix board. The matrix board is the part of the scoreboard that lists which players are on the floor for each team, and how many points, rebounds, and fouls those players have. Sounds easy, right? In theory, but it actually got pretty confusing sometimes.
Do I list the players in box score order (forward, forward, center, guard, guard), or in the order that they entered the game? I tried several ways, always trying to keep some portion of the spectators happy. At the time, I thought people really cared, but now, as an outsider looking in, I doubt anyone ever noticed. No matter, the Clippers paid me $35 a game to do a specific job, so I was going to do it to the best of my availability.
I only worked about 10 of the Clippers’ 41 home games per season during the four seasons I was with the organization. Only a handful of the stat crewmembers got to work each home game, and it was a privilege you earned by putting in some time. As it turned out, you had to put in more than just four seasons to earn that privilege.
At the time, the Clippers called the ancient Sports Arena in south central Los Angeles home, but played about 10 games per season at the then-Arrowhead Pond (now Honda Center) in nearby Anaheim.
Those 10 games in Anaheim each season were the games I got to work. Sure, it was a bit of a commute (20 miles from my home), but the facilities were much nicer than the rundown Sports Arena. I’ve always loved Orange County, so I didn’t mind the drive and loved working the games there.
Coulda, shoulda, woulda
Orange County embraced the Clippers, no matter how bad they were. I remember one season, when the team was not very good, the Orange County fans packed the Pond anyway—and it was against Sacramento, which was equally bad! The crowd was especially loud and supportive that particular night. Judging by the crowd noise and reactions, you’d have thought the Clippers were fighting for a playoff spot.
I always thought the Clippers would eventually move to Orange County. It would’ve given them a chance to get out from under the shadow of the much-more-successful Los Angeles Lakers. The fans proved they would have supported the team no matter how bad the team was. Then-owner Donald Sterling had other plans. He moved in to the brand new Staples Center to share an arena with the Lakers instead of putting some distance between his team and theirs!
Staples Center signaled the end of my tenure with the Clippers. With the announcement of the new arena came word that only half of the Clippers stat crew would be kept—and I was on the low end of the totem pole. Oh well, it was a great ride while it lasted.
To this day, my sons have fond memories of when their dad worked for the Clippers. I often got tickets to the games I didn’t work and took them to the Sports Arena for some quality dad-son time. My boss also provided cool swag for my sons and for me to hand out when I presented at their school’s Career Day. It was a great way to market to the younger crowd.
As I look back on “the Clippers years,” I’m glad to have had the opportunity. Not only did I personally benefit from the experiences I had, but my sons also had experiences that provided them with memories that they can share with their children.
Life’s full of experiences like this; experiences that give us memories that we’ll hold on to for a lifetime. If we’re not careful, those experiences will pass us by and we won’t grasp their true value. So, embrace the seemingly ordinary or mundane—especially when you’re sharing them with your family.