HELENA -- Taking in a sporting event anywhere in the Frontier Conference is a relatively simple thing for the average spectator; show up, park, get your ticket punched, find your seat and enjoy the game. But for those working behind the scenes, it's not that easy. Their job starts well before the game begins and ends well after the game is over.
Ben McFarland and Joe Mullener are two Carroll College students who are responsible for helping set up and tear down sporting events at Carroll College, a relatively simple task but one with many steps.
"We have all the bleachers to pull out, the benches to set up and then the score clock and film stuff for the game," said Mullener. "Just make sure there's no mess laying around, any spills, popcorn, and then when we do a full teardown, we put away all the bleachers, all the chairs, all the score stuff."
This year, it’s obviously a bit different. With COVID-19 protocols in place, there are no spectators to clean up after. That means less time spent setting up and cleaning up, but, instead of sweeping up trash, the two are fogging every inch of the facility in a sanitizing mist with what they term 'The Proton Pack', a homage to the weapons used by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis and Ernie Hudson in the 1984 film 'Ghostbusters'.
"The crowds kind of affect everything to where it's a little more cleanup-based, but also just not as many people are here, so it kind of changes the whole dynamic of like setting up," said McFarland.
"That's one of the big key things to the games, is not having fans here," said Mullener. "It makes it a lot easier for cleanup, but at the same time makes it, in a sense, awkward."
Although it may seem like Mulliner and McFarland miss the spectators, there’s one thing they don't miss about the mess they normally leave.
"Popcorn," exclaimed Mullener and McFarland in near unison.
"Popcorn is the worst. It multiplies, no joke. You touch one and three more just come out of nowhere," said McFarland. "It's the worst, I've stopped eating popcorn because of this job."
"Or the bleachers get staticky and then they don't like to get swept into the buckets, so then every time you move the bucket they shoot out like confetti," said Mullener.
With popcorn taking the top spot for the worst thing to clean up, the two also see some other interesting things to throw away.
"There has been diapers," said Mullener.
"There's been toys from the kids' games. Like, there's been a little Batman that somehow just keeps showing up. I don't really know where it comes from," said McFarland.
McFarland and Mullener have been in this job for at least three years each and, despite everything, they still find every bit of their job interesting.
"I think the most interesting part is that, instead of being a spectator or someone who kind of is a part of the team, a part of this job is understanding the mechanism that goes on behind setting up, how things are done, how things are put away, because I feel like that's not a concept that a lot of people think about," said Mullener.
"You really get to see Carroll from a different light, I would say, from behind the scenes," said McFarland. "There's just a bunch of things that you never normally would expect to have to do."