I’m sure that most of my readers are aware that I keep statistics for the Upson-Lee Knights football team, as I have mentioned it in this space a number of times. As the 2015 high school football season approaches, I have begun to make preparations for my 42nd year as a stat keeper.
In 1974 Coach Ronnie Lowe at Upson High School gave me the opportunity to start this adventure. Actually Coach Jack Smith was the one behind me getting started as he was the coach on the staff who was most interested in having accurate statistics. I was a member of the coaching staff, but my “game night” contributions were minimal, so I decided that I could be the biggest help by keeping stats. And so it began!
In 1976 I moved to R.E. Lee, where I became the stat keeper and worked with the Rebel records until the last Lee team in 1991. It was there that I worked closely with Burns Pruett, who was not involved in game night stats, but was very interested in compiling historical records of past Lee teams and players. Burns was really my mentor as he allowed me, and trusted me, to work with records and assist in compiling the annual Lee football jamboree program. He was also my former high school baseball coach, but he saw me as a fellow teacher and coach, and not a former student.
From Lee I went on to Upson-Lee in 1992 and started the football stat program for the Knights. This year will be my 24th year working with UL coaches and players. All of that totals 42 years, I think!
I guess that two questions may arise here. One is, why are stats important? The other is, why do you do this? I’ll try to answer both.
I will agree that not everyone cares about stats, but I do feel that most fans have an interest in knowing how many yards a runner gained, or how many passes a quarterback completed, or how many tackles a linebacker made. These are just a small part of what the stats will tell you. The score of the game is the first and most important stat but, beyond that, most folks want to know the inner parts of the game.
Everybody wants to know a player’s or team’s stats. The coaches, the media, the college recruiters, the parents, and just the regular fan is interested in “the stats.”
If a game story was written in the newspaper and the writer simply said that a certain player played “a great game” without giving any stats, the readers would feel cheated in the report. The stats make the story complete. And if they are important, then someone has to keep them, compile them, and publish them. I have taken on that job!
I have enjoyed keeping the stats for these many years; however, I must admit that I don’t enjoy it as much as I once did. I’m 67 years old now and attending 10 games a year, and hopefully more, is more of a challenge that it once was. I do have two travel buddies, Jim Pruett and Mickey Thrasher, who make the out-of-town journeys more enjoyable and interesting.
I keep my stats the old fashioned way with no computer program. I use the method, with a few adjustments, taught to me by Charles Gordy back in the 1970s. With it I can go back and determine what happened on every play of the game. The method has served me well over all of these years.
Stat keeping goes far beyond simply recording the action in the press box at the game. I come home and total all of the numbers for both teams which includes team and individual totals. I then enter them into computer charts that I have developed to keep up with the weekly and yearly totals. I then fax copies to the local newspapers and radio station WTGA. This includes stats from the week’s game as well as the season up to that date. The entire package totals about 8-9 sheets per week.
Then on Sunday afternoon I take a copy of the stat package to the Upson-Lee athletic offices and give a copy to the UL coaches. Along the way I keep up with school records and attach these notes to the stats. This notifies everyone if someone has broken a school record or is approaching one.
So you see, it is more than simply sitting in the press box and making a few comments on the radio. It is a time consuming job! And no, there is no monetary compensation. I do it to make a contribution to the football program. I feel that I do.
I wish that someone would show a sincere interest in learning the process so that I could consider retiring. I want to leave the stat program in good hands, but no one has ever given me any indication that they were interested. Maybe someone will appear soon.
So, stats are important and I still enjoy the process. One stat that I have no control over is game attendance. You can help there! Plan to attend every UL game this season and be a part of the season stats!
Jim Fowler is a sports columnist and retired teacher and coach who worked in the local school system for many years. He is a founding board member of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame and is also the statistician for the Upson Lee football team, and has written a book about the history of football at R. E. Lee High School.