By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
Numbers are to sports as votes are to politics. For those keeping track of sports statistics, the mission mixes passion with precision.
And for Dave Einspahr, being a stat man means being an expert in the scoring of three different sports.
Since 1987, Einspahr has been the crew chief for Colorado football. He works with CU sports information director Dave Plati, himself a stat man who is known for his copious and complete numbers regarding Buffs football. Einspahr also is the stat crew chief for the Denver Nuggets (NBA), Denver Broncos (NFL) and the official scorer for the Colorado Rockies (Major-League Baseball).
"Basically, he has to memorize four different rule books," Plati said of Einspahr's versatility.
For example, the NFL and the NCAA has different rules for recording intentional grounding penalties and blocked punt returns. In college football, yardage lost in sacks goes against a team's rushing totals while in the NFL that lost yardage is subtracted from passing totals.
"When I first started, I had to stop and think sometimes to make sure I was recording under a college sack with college scoring rules," he said. "It also might be more confusing if the games were in the same stadium, but that's not the case."
Einspahr has been on the Denver Broncos' stat crew since 1984. That's how he met Plati, who moonlights with the Broncos and also is the backup official scorer for the Rockies.
But Einspahr got his start as an official statistician thanks to his day job. He worked for the United States Postal Service for nearly 30 years. One of his co-workers was in charge of the Broncos' stat crew. A conversation about Einspahr's days keeping stats in high school led him to working for the NFL crew and, over the years, advancing to the No. 1 numbers guy.
The Broncos job led him to becoming involved with the Nuggets which also led to becoming the Rockies' official scorer.
"I guess it's kind of a numbers fraternity," said Einspahr, who just works home games.
Einspahr was the official scorer when Hideki Nomo of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitched a no-hitter at Coors Field in 1996. "Thankfully, no controversial decisions to make," he said.
That's the main difference between keeping stats during football games and scoring baseball games.
"In football, it's pretty cut and dried, you're just calculating the yardage on plays," he said. "In baseball, you're under a lot more scrutiny."
Depending on the schedules of the four teams he works with, Einspahr might have a stretch where he works eight games in nine days but there are also times when he'll have a weekend off.
During Colorado home games, Einspahr works with about half a dozen others on the stat crew. Einspahr logs each play with his own system that he has developed and refined over the years. It involves using eight different colored pens.
"I think my system is quite a bit different from others," he said. "By using one color for a rush, another color for a pass, it makes it easier when you need to go back and check something."
With more teams going with no-huddle, spread-the-field passing games, the pace of the game is not only faster on the field, it's more hectic in the press box for the statisticians.
"Games that have a lot of scoring or a lot of turnovers, those are the ones that get pretty hectic for us," Einspahr said. "Games where there are a lot of three-and-outs are easier. So I guess games where the fans are enjoying themselves the most are the games where we're working the hardest."