By Cecil Conley
Jeff Kranz has been cheating on his wife for years and does not try to be sly about it. Even his sixth-grade students at Crystal Middle School in Suisun City are hip to his extracurricular activities.
Kranz abandons his wife whenever there’s a San Francisco 49ers home game. The veteran math teacher puts his skill with numbers to good use as a statistician for the National Football League team.
His wife, Laura Rodriguez, understands. She realized long ago that statistics are a Kranz family trade, and Sundays in the fall are for football.
Both Kranz and his wife, who teaches fifth grade at Laurel Creek Elementary in Fairfield, are members of the Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association.
Like father, like sons
His father, the late Richard Kranz, was a sportswriter who moonlighted as a statistician with the Oakland Raiders. He compiled statistics at several Super Bowls, often bringing his children. Kranz attended five Super Bowl matches.
Kranz’s brother David followed in his father’s footsteps and recruited Kranz to be a number cruncher for the 49ers. David lives in Sacramento, so he drives and stops in Vacaville to get his brother. The Sunday commute will be farther next season, now that the 49ers have left Candlestick Park and moved to Santa Clara.
The two will be on the road shortly after sunrise, and Kranz hopes to get home “by halftime of the night game.” That means Rodriguez has the day to herself, and she “makes the most of it,” he says.
Kranz, who also attended Giants games at the stadium before the baseball team moved to AT&T Park in 2000, has many fond memories of his days at Candlestick Park and is sad the stadium is being sacked.
“I can’t believe they’re going to tear down a perfectly good stadium. It has its shortcomings, but I’m going to miss Candlestick,” Kranz laments. “It’s hard to imagine they’re going to blow that place up.”
What Kranz will not miss are the meager accommodations the statistics crew had to endure at Candlestick. He sat on a wooden stool with his head brushing against the ceiling of the press box. Climate control was an issue with the season kicking off in the warmth of summer and ending in the winter chill.
“We would go from sweating to freezing,” jokes the 26-year teaching veteran. “By the end of some games, my feet were bricks of ice.”
Practical use of math
Kranz is no stranger to cold weather. He was raised in Chicago as a Bears fan. His football allegiance has been divided since being hired by the 49ers in 1996, two years after their fifth Super Bowl victory.
In those days, Kranz taught at Dan O. Root Elementary in Suisun City and would bring items from 49ers games such as souvenir programs and calendars to his students. The children had an NFL connection. They also learned the practical use of math when Kranz explained the statistics he compiles during a 49ers game.
The tools of Kranz’s trade are a simple pencil and sheets of paper. He is the “low-tech guy” of the 49ers statistics crew, compiling a hard copy just in case of a computer crash or power outage. Kranz is responsible for checking statistics entered into the computers to ensure their accuracy. “I double, triple and quadruple check,” he said. “If there is a mistake, I get to be the bearer of bad news.”
Kranz handles offensive statistics such as first downs, third-down conversions and time of possession. He asks his students questions like: If Frank Gore gains 74 yards on 11 rushing attempts, what is the average per attempt? He shows them how math is a part of the sport they watch on television.
Now at the middle school, Kranz still teaches math, but misses the outside time he had with students.
“I got to know the kids. I would go out with them at recess to pitch kickball or shoot baskets. Now the kids come and go. You don’t know them as well,” he says and smiles. “It’s harder to be cool.”
A freelance journalist, Cecil Conley is the office manager for the Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association.
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