In his two years as an SI letters correspondent, David Fischer has not only answered some 2,000 pieces of mail from our readers, but he has also had energy aplenty for a demanding sideline.
Using a good memory and 100-words-per-minute typing skills, Fischer moonlights for TenniSTAT, a five-year-old company that provides official statistics for dozens of major tennis tournaments, including Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, which begins this week. His job is to note how every point of a match is won. Was it an unforced error? To the backhand or the forehand? Was the ball long, wide or in the net? "I keep track of more than 20 different categories, each of which can be broken down further," says Fischer. TenniSTAT makes excerpts from the data and serves them up to the press.
Fischer's extra vocation is exacting. Swiveling his head back and forth for 10 hours a day usually leaves him with a crick in his neck. And the job cuts into his sightseeing time. "I like to look at Fergie and Di too," he says somewhat ruefully of his frantic fortnight at Wimbledon. At the U.S. Open, Fischer will be punching the data into a computer, which was not the case at quaint Wimbledon, where, he says, "we had to circle figures on paper and input them afterward." Left with lamentably little time to play tourist this summer, Fischer took a different bus each day to The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club in order to see as much of London as possible.
Fischer crunched his first serious sports numbers in 1982, when he spent a summer helping the statistician for the NBC Game of the Week. Once, during a Yankee Old-Timers' Game, Vin Scully sent him to the dugout for the lineups. Fischer was gone for two hours. "I saw Roger Maris take batting practice. I saw Moose Skowron, Mickey Mantle—all the greats my father talked about."
Fischer grew up in Tenafly, N.J. His father, Robert, is a psychiatrist who practices out of an office at home. David's interest in sports was so intense that, he says, "I'm sure there were times when my father wanted to counsel me." Fischer, a good athlete with a good athlete's build—"until I discovered rye bread"—attended Ithaca College. He was sports editor of The Ithacan as a junior and editor-in-chief as a senior, before graduating in '84.
In 1985 he applied for a job helping to answer general reader mail—especially letters with sports-related questions—for our letters department. Fischer impressed his interviewer with his sports acumen—and with his somewhat subjective definition of trivia: "What I know is knowledge," he asserted. "What I don't know is trivia." He got the job.