Last Saturday, in Part One of this three-part interview with Texans staffer Kathryn Iribarren, we took a look at what brought her to the point where she was working for the Texans. She shared some of the perks, but in this installment, Kathryn opens up about the (harsh?) realities of working for an NFL team.
"The biggest thing that I noticed right away was that sports is not all glamorous," Kathryn paused before continuing – as if reliving the moment when she came to this realization. "The amount of work that must be done to put on a game of 60 minutes is incredible. Also, the majority of the sweat is put in to things fans never even think about, like tickets, in-game entertainment, parking, concessions and stadium maintenance. Some employees arrive around 4:00-5:00am on game day, probably 4-5 hours before players even get to the stadium. I will never be able to attend another sporting event or concert without thinking about everything that went in to what is going on around me."
When I think about a putting on an NFL game, I consider the field maintenance, concessions, maybe the folks who clean out the stands, event staff etc, but it’s never occurred to me that people would have to be there eight hours prior to game time. So, this got me wondering what a day in the life looked like for Kathryn.
"If we have a Sunday game, I arrive about 4 hours before kickoff for a noon game and get on the phones," she replied.
"We answer any calls and questions fans may have until 10:00 am, when I head out into the stadium. I am stationed on the 100 level and supervise the Guest Service booths (we have two on each level). Our main duty on game day is to assist fans who have regular seats that need to change them out for accessible seats. We hold back a set number of ADA tickets for these requests and we typically go through our allotment. We are also there to help out with any ticket-related issues that may arise. This includes anything from duplicate tickets to broken seats."
"You never know what you are going to be asked or confronted with. Every game is different and you have to constantly think on your feet. The worst part of games is when we run out of our accessible allotment and have to go around the stadium and see if we can find individuals who don’t need accessible seats who are willing to move to another location. I am done around the middle of the third quarter, when I head back down to the ticket office. Once there, I finish up anything that needs immediate attention, sometimes go visit my friends in my seats and then head out to beat the traffic. If it is a close game, I will usually stay in the office and watch the game on TV (which always makes me laugh because it is mere feet away from the field)."
Well, as a Texans diehard, that would rule out that job for me. Ha. However, it does often lead to some really memorable moments for her.
"I’ll never forget when we beat the Cincinnati Bengals at home during the playoffs in 2012," she said.
You know, the same kind of look I used to get when I dreamed I was catching that game-winning touchdown after diving from the dresser.
"I was down on the field towards the end of the game and the crowd was so loud, everyone was waving their towels in the air, J.J. Watt had just intercepted a pass for a touchdown and the song "All I Do is Win" was playing on the loudspeakers. Such a great moment!"
That really was one of the most pivotal moments in Texans history. I’ll never forget where I was when it happened. Sadly, I wasn’t down on the field…
The job also comes with loads of other fringe benefits the local cubical farm or blue-collar employer just can’t match.
"All my friends think the best perk is the tickets and parking I get to every home game! Since I work every game, I don’t have the opportunity to use them."
The disappointment in her voice as she said this was ever so brief, almost unnoticeable. She recovered quickly as her zeal for the job re-energized her words.
"Also, my parents and brother already have season tickets, so most of my friends get to enjoy a game every year."
Free tickets you can’t use? Well, you know her friends love that. I’m guessing Kathryn gets really popular on Saturday nights before a home game. But there are other benefits she does enjoy without having to give them away...
Come back tomorrow for the third and final part of this peek behind the curtain of life as a Houston Texans staffer.