LAURINBURG — While at the grocery store or during various errands around town, Gary Shapiro is often approached by people who make a point to ask if he plans to be at Pate Stadium on Friday night.
Shapiro’s record speaks for himself. The longest-serving member of the stadium’s technical crew has only missed one game in the past 21 years.
He is part of the crew that helps keep the games running behind the scenes — and that’s the way he likes it. If no one knows his name, it means he’s doing a good job.
Shapiro runs the clock at the referees’ signals, and posts the points the Scots score on the field in bright neon letters. He is part of a three-man crew, along with Bill Floyd and Richard Massey, that keeps the games for one of the most elite programs in North Carolina running smoothly from their seats in the narrow press box atop the stadium.
All three agree that a good game night is one where everything is routine, nothing crazy happens and no undue attention is paid to the scoreboard. Shapiro said the key to keeping the game running smoothly is to follow the signals from the head official on the field.
“I will do whatever you tell me no matter how wrong I think it is,” are Shapiro’s last words to the officials before games.
Floyd, a Laurinburg native, sits on his right and is responsible for starting, stopping and resetting the 25-second play clock after every play. He began the volunteer job five years ago, after Shapiro grabbed him from the stands to help fill in for the missing play clock operator.
Massey is on Shapiro’s right, and usually standing in front of an open window. He might be the most recognizable of the trio — if you’re good with voices. Massey is the play-by-play announcer for Pate Stadium. His is the voice that booms out of the speakers around the stadium after every play or penalty, and the one that announces the winner of the popular 50-50 raffle every Friday night. Massey, who attended St. Andrew’s University with Shapiro, has been doing the announcing for eight years, but worked a few years in the press box before that.
He said he first got started in the press box after Scott Miller, who was doing the play-by-play at that time, needed a spotter. Eventually Massey took over that role and has held it ever since.
“He’s the best announcer in the conference,” Shapiro said of Massey, who can also be heard announcing basketball games at St. Andrews University.
All three said they have no plans to stop spending their Friday evenings together any time soon.
“I enjoy doing it because you feel like you’re part of the game even though you’re away from it,” Shapiro said.
This is the first season when Shaprio, a former Scotland High School history and economics teacher and coach at Carver Middle School, has been running the clock where there is not a player on Scotland’s team that he coached or taught . He left the high school in 2007 and now teaches at Marlboro Academy.
The crew has seen the program go through its shares of highs and lows, as the Scots went from a team that struggled to win games to one of the best in the state.
Massey said his favorite memory is of the Richmond game in 2011, which Scotland won 41-7 en route to its first-ever state championship. Floyd agreed, saying that the crowd intensity during that game was the best he’s seen.
Another standout was from last year’s season-opener against Seventy-First when the press box was struck by lightning during a weather delay.
This year’s opener against South View saw a similar delay, but fortunately not another strike.
“I do it for the fellowship and camaraderie,” Massey said, adding that the group has developed a good chemistry after so many years of working together. They’re usually able to anticipate what the others are going to do and make the game run seamlessly.
And as for that game he missed? It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
Shapiro had tickets to see the Michael Jordan’s Bulls take on Allen Iverson’s 76ers in a preseason game at The University of North Carolina.