What do I do? I'm a professional data wrangler.

My mom’s co-worker scores some free tickets to an NBA game on New Year’s day, so our whole family went.

As my dad and I sat in the family room waiting for my mom and sister, a hockey game came on TV.  It was the “Winter Classic” – an arena had been set up in the football stadium in Pittsburgh so a few thousand extra fans could watch the Penguins be out-skated by the Capitals.

A few hours later, as I sat in my squeaky chair to watch some guys bounce a ball up and down a court, I was struck by the absurdity of pro sports.

Here before me were a few dozen men, each being paid a few million dollars per year.  To toss an orange ball around in front of spectators.  Same with those guys I saw earlier smacking a black piece of rubber with sticks.

They’re good at what they do.  Arguably, they’re among the best at what they do – which is why they play in the NBA or NHL.  And they’re getting paid millions to do it.

Me?  I have some moderate talents in a few areas.  I’m pretty good at crafts and cooking – though I don’t get paid for those.  At my work, I’m a whiz at pulling together complicated schedules to get a number of executives in the same place at the same time.  Oh, and kludging together impressive data, reports, and graphics using Microsoft Office and MS Paint.

I imagined myself in the middle of a packed stadium, brow furrowed as I dig through a complicated-yet-nearly-organized mess of Excel worksheets to find a missing hundred grand from a $12 million budget – as I did earlier that New Year’s day.

The crowds would be cheering and groaning as I deftly adjusted – or misadjusted – formulas with the casual but learned flick of the mouse.

Bright, computerized displays around the perimeter would encourage the fans to chant “Key-board short-cuts!” *clap, clap, clap clap clap*

A few would wear jerseys with my name emblazoned on the back, and the most devoted will have full body paint – in red and lime of course (my favorite colors).

Hundreds of people would have jobs due to me – selling over-priced jerseys and tubs of stale popcorn, filming the action to be projected on the JumboTron, coaching and managing my career, and dancing in spandex during my snack breaks.

Some would chatter in stands about how they’ve followed me from the early days and knew my strategies.  “Oh, see?  She’s setting up an extra sheet for manually checking the 400 accounts.  That’s her M-O.  It would be tedious for most, but- Wow!  Nice!  She’s sorting by sub-account numbers and departments to find the discrepancies on the summary sheet!  Brilliant!”

And at the end, I’d give an interview for the local news station from the locker room – “It was tough, you know?  You spend hours setting up the master sheet and never know what’ll happen when you ask folks to fill in the numbers.  But, you know, I just kept my head and slow and steadfast progress pulled me through.  I think we’ll be ready to face the board of directors.” – and pull my Hummer out of my assigned parking space to head home to my multi-million dollar loft.

The difference between my performance and those athletes is that at the end I’ve created something usable that will impact the lives of thousands of our customers.  They’ve entertained a crowd – for $50 a head plus $10 for parking.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy sports – probably more than your average female – and I was cheering as loud as everyone else when we had a particularly impressive assist.

Maybe the reason everyday people aren’t acknowledged for their talents and abilities is simply because we don’t have an arena to perform in.

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