Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Deuce" The documentary

Midway through "Deuce", a documentary covering the life and times of statistician and Western Pennsylvania sports figure Lawrence "Deuce" Skurcenski, one of the many persons interviewed said the word unique is the most misused word in the English language.

Unique is a one-of-a-kind happening, which aptly describes Deuce. Strange, quirky, energetic, charismatic and affable also fit the man who has kept stats for more than five decades for no one in particular.

Pittsburgh natives Mark and Joe Graziano spent parts of the past two years chronicling Deuce as he bounces from Woodland Hills football games to sparsely populated high school basketball games to meetings with coaches to the barbershop in his hometown of Braddock. Some of the footage is hilarious, particularly interviews with Deuce's father and mother.

Yes, Duece, after 51 years of keeping stats at WPIAL, City League and PIAA events, still lives at home. And, in an odd twist, his bedroom - with a twin bed - is filled with old stats from games Deuce has attended.

Basically, Deuce knows everyone who is someone in local sports and the documentary reflects as much. From Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon to West Virginia men's coach Bob Huggins to newspaper reporters to local coaches, all played a part in the documentary of a man who always remembers your name the first time he hears it.

On my way to the movie, I got to thinking or reminiscing about a couple of my early experiences with Deuce, experiences any sports reporter in Western Pennsylvania has probably endured at some point.

In the fall of 1998, I worked for the Beaver County Times and was at Three Rivers Stadium to cover the WPIAL Class A championship between Monaca and Rochester as well as the Class AAA game between Moon and Blackhawk.

My seat was beside Deuce - for all four games!

After the Class A game, it was time to write during the Class AA final between Wash High and Shady Side Academy. Deuce, known to talk out loud at all times, failed to recognize my situation. If he asked me, "Who had that carry? Was it Ruggerio or Alexander?" one time, he asked me 110 times.

A funnier story happened the following year, my first at the Observer-Reporter.

During halftime of the Class AA championship between Waynesburg and Wash High, I ended up heading to the restroom right behind Deuce. During the first two quarters, Waynesburg's Lanfer Simpson played like an indestructible force and the Raiders were well on the way to the championship. Well, speaking in a public restroom is something I'm not fond of, but Deuce kept looking over. I knew he was dying to tell me something.

"What's on your mind Deuce?"

"Awwww. Lanfer Simpson," Deuce said, in full character.

Deuce then dropped into a two-point stance, put both hands in the air, shook them and let out a loud, "Oooooohhhoooooohhhhooooohhhhh."

That's Deuce. That's the man whose passion is local sports. The man who can rattle of the Cal U men's starting five from 1994 or the top 10 rushers in Woodland Hills history without blinking or thinking.

The documentary did an excellent job of catching that side of Deuce - a man with the same girlfriend for more than 30 years without asking her to marry him - and often did a funny job telling it. The end clip of Deuce and Duquesne University football coach Jerry Schmitt is excellent.

There were a few questions I wanted answered. Why does Deuce still live at home? Why does he keep all those old stats? How does he get to all these camps on a limited budget?

Maybe those will be answered in the sequel: Deuce 2 Statistical Bugaloo.


Doug Street said...

It was my first game since returning to the McKeesport Daily News in December, 2000. It was a girls game right after school at Woodland Hills High School.
I sat there not knowing anyone in the sparsely populated gym since I had been out of town for two years. I sat behind one of the benches and nearby was a man who talked nearly non-stop for 32 minutes of this "smokin' fray." Once he saw that I wrote for a newspaper, he, Deuce, proceeded to spit out names, statsm sayings, etc. for the next hour and a half.
Within the first ten minutes I got my first Deuceism after two missed foul shots by one of the girls – "She needs a masonry license because she's throwing up bricks."
Once Deuce knows you he never forgets you. And if you know someone he knows, which is just about everybody, that person is "my man."
Say what you will about the guy, but there will never, ever be another like him.

mike_kovak said...

Yeah, I agree. I also think Deuce can only happen in Western Pennsylvania.