If you're looking for love, and I'm talking real love: ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can't-live-without-each-other love, than look no further than the stands of your local D-League game. You see that guy sitting way up top by himself? The one who spends more time scribbling notes down on his clipboard than actually watching what's going on in the game? That's a man who's in a relationship with an enigmatic lover... a man who's compulsive devotion goes far beyond anything you've ever experienced. To do what he does, that is, to be a D-League scout, your love for basketball must break all boundaries and enter the realm of obsession.
Being a D-League scout isn't easy. In fact it's got to be the toughest job in professional sports considering the pay is minimal, or for that matter non-existent. It's all about staying on the grind. Pushing forward when things are bleak. Staying positive when it seems all hope is lost. There are times when there seems to be no reward for their tireless effort. Struggling to find a purpose for all of their hard work. Life is funny that way-the complexity of our daily hustle takes its toll, the details of one-day bleed into the next. And sometimes they just gotta ask, why? "Why bother?"
Well their answer is always the same... "Because I love it... because every game I scout, every player I evaluate, every play I chart puts me one step closer to impressing that general manager or head coach into giving me a shot at as full time assistant" says Austin Toros scout John Jungers. There's so much parity in the D-League, the margin for error so small that the slightest bit of information can make the difference between victory and defeat... or the difference between a coach keeping his job or getting the boot. D-League scouts are invaluable, their information on an opposing team's strategies, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses are priceless to building a successful franchise... which makes you wonder why most of them don't get paid a penny to do it.
For scout's like John Jungers, a former stand-out captain at Texas A&M and head coach at Western Nebraska Community College, being passionate about the X and O's of the game helps them as they pay their dues and work up the ranks of the pro scout and coaching profession. Every night another city, another game. Waking up not knowing where they are, alone and far away from their family and loved ones. Most of the players don't even realize how those scouting reports end up on their locker room chairs. All of the work of the wandering scout, this unsung hero hustling his way from game to game, trying to prove his worth just as much as those players do every night they go out and play.
So next time you're at a D-League game and have a few minutes, take the time to walk up to that unshaven, sleep deprived guy at the top of the stands and ask him to tell you a story about love. It might just be good enough to make you realize that money and fame hasn't taken over every part of professional basketball... at least not yet.