Nancy Otto is one of those people, and has been for almost four decades.
Parents and fans are distracted by all the puzzle pieces that put together a game night atmosphere. Even coaches and players turn their heads to talk amongst themselves during the 32 minutes of action.
Otto sees it all.
For as long as she can remember, Friday nights have revolved around basketball.
The 73-year-old has had the opportunity to relish in the game day experience from the best seat in the house: the scorer s table.
Otto is in her 39th season of keeping the scorebook for Edison High School, a task she started when she was a student herself. Unlike many involved in prep sports, it wasn’t a passion that evolved from playing the game as a kid.
Otto was a music enthusiast during her time at Berlin Heights, which later became Edison High in 1968, actively singing in her church choir, and playing the accordion for the Erie County band.
“My mother was the one that was in to sports. I just loved taking stats when I was in high school,” Otto said. “I was sitting in the stands and I was taking stats just for myself. One of the basketball players, he asked me if I would keep his stats, so I did. He gave them to the coach Carroll Sanders and he asked me if I would like to be Edison’s scorekeeper. I was happy to do it.”
Statisticians and bookkeepers are responsible for recording every detail, from substitutions to points to fouls and everything in between.
For as much as Otto may downplay it, her role, in conjunction with the other individuals at the scorer's table, is an integral one that has impacted many around northern Ohio.
“Having a high caliber person like Nancy, it brings so much to our program and sets a great example for the kids,” Edison athletic director Cory Smith said. “It brings a lot to our coaches as well as opposing coaches and other school’s staff. When you are visiting another school and sending a representative like her that has such great character — she is just a class act and for her to represent Edison says a lot of the school and our program.
“It’s a job that requires internal motivation, considering the non-existent material reward.
“It is a paid position, but she doesn’t get rich doing it, I will tell you that,” Smith said.
Otto”s incentive: The friendships she made along the way.
“I keep thinking I am going to resign next year because it will be 40 years, but when you get right down to it, it ll be hard to do,” she said. “It’s just hard because I have so many friends from the different schools and the different referees. They treat me so good. I have friends from every walk of life. Some were farmers, some worked at the hospital. They are from every facet of life. So when I tell them I am going to quit they tell me, No you are not, you are going to quit when we say you can.
The faces have changed along the way, but Otto said all have been overly supportive of her role.
“Mark Frankboner looks after me for the boys. So many of them do,” she said. “Brenda Friend, Becky Parcher, Tracey Moyer, Mike Moyer and Jim Colwell have all taken such good care of me. Also working for Mike Hershey, Chris Ceccolli, and (current boys coach) Shayne Fischer has been wonderful. It is just great and how they have taken care of me ... I’ll always remember how they took care of me.”
After graduating in 1957, Otto married her husband, Ned. She returned to the high school sports scene to run the book in 1978 for the boys’ team coached by Hershey.
Friend, who has built a consistent winner at Western Reserve, asked Otto to pick up the girls book in 1988.
“I had three kids and my husband and I still went to the games. But when I had the fourth one, I didn’t go for a few years,” Otto said. “I stopped because we had a greenhouse that I was working at, but my kids, Kris, John Julie and Kara, have always encouraged me to do basketball games and I got back in it.
Known for bringing candy to the referees each game, and being a constant source of optimism, Otto has garnered much respect over the years. But it s clear she was popular from the beginning.
“When I first started out in 1978, the referees would bring me candy kisses and put it on my desk when I was keeping score,” Otto said. “The scorekeepers saw what was going on and Lloyd Sword, he was a scorekeeper at Huron, he started bringing me candy, and the different referees just kept bringing me candy.
“So then Lloyd got me a great big candy kiss and a necklace and anything that had to do with candy kisses. It went on and on. Well then the longer I was doing it, the more I started bringing candy for everybody else. Now I bring candy kisses for the referees. It went a full circle.
While there ve been some gaps along the way, next season will mark Otto’s 40th year that she has done the book. She still can’t decide if it’s time to call it quits.
“Two years ago our boys won the SBC and last year our girls won 18 games,” Otto said. “I knew I was going to keep going until we won one, and we finally did. But my daughter said to me just the other day, ‘Mom what are you going to do with your time if you retire? You’ll be so bored.’”
The game has changed dramatically in the four decades Otto has been a part of high school basketball in Ohio. One of the extremes Otto has seen is when the 3-point line was introduced in 1986-87 at the high school level.
“That changed the game altogether,” Otto said. “I loved it. It added to the game and it changed the game, it really did.
Otto also got to experience girls basketball at that state level.
“In 1992 I was elected by the OHSAA because Brenda (Friend) sent my name in and I did the state games,” she said. “I had to take some tests, but I was elected to do the girls’ games at Columbus and I’ll tell ya, that was such a thrill. That is the biggest thrill I think, I really do.”