PLAYER OF EVERY YEAR
First a little basketball history...I'm old and old school. My hero Clair Bee was a legendary basketball and baseball coach at Long Island University. He set a record for winning percentage and invented such things as the 1-3-1 zone and the 3 second rule. He wrote technical books on coaching. He is remembered as an inspiring author by people such as Bobby Knight...a legendary coach in his own right. The real life National Coach of the Year Award is named for Bee. The Player Of The Year Award was named for the fictional hero of Bee's sports novels, Chip Hilton. As youngsters craving athletic careers, we devoured each book as it was released. Bee wrote about this young fictional athlete named Chip Hilton as he traveled from high school to college and into contact with professional teams. His 24 novels trace Hilton's career in either football, basketball or baseball. Each book (I still own all 24) has the hero solving some serious community or team problem. He was devoted to the single mom who raised him after his great athlete father died while saving the life of a careless worker. Chip and his circle of athlete friends are almost too good to be true. The only thing Chip lacks in the stories is a girl friend. Clair Bee tackled issues such as greed, hate and racism but he was writing in an age where sex was almost a taboo subject. In real life when some of his Long Island University athletes disgraced him in a betting/point shaving scandal (that also involved players from the University of Kentucky) Bee resigned to never coach again. He continued writing—disappointed but not bitter. His sports novels appear to be a view of life as he wished it could be.
In the novel "Hoop Crazy" Bee's hero Chip Hilton leads his team as they travel to a bitter rival through a blizzard. When snow finally blocks the train tracks, the team is stranded but uses its overcoats to bundle up children and later they carry them through the blizzard miles to the town. Arriving to their hotel exhausted and frozen just before game time they find the other team's evil coach insists the game be played without delay. The exhausted team rallies around Hilton and is winning by one point as mere seconds were left. An opposing players launches a wild throw that looks destined to go over the backboard. As the wild heave sails it suddenly springs a leak and the escaping air zig zags the ball around like a balloon. It comes to rest on the rim where an opposing player tips the fully deflated ball off the rim and into the net as the horn sounds. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are seen sneaking away with the deflated ball. Well, Belichick and Brady weren't there but the irate fans are so offended by their coach's unsportsmanlike conduct he eventually gets fired.
Good continues to conquer evil wherever Chip goes. The closest he comes to profanity is a “gosh” or “golly.” When he returns home from the blizzard game he finds an evil man attempting to run a con by stealing secret pottery/clay formulas created by Chip's father and now worked on in the Hilton basement lab by the talented Chip. Chip confronts the man and when he attacks Chip the hero eventually helps subdue the crook. By the way, Chip can also box superbly having been taught by his late father. The target of the man's con was the wealthy owner of the local pottery where Chip's father had worked as an engineer and chemist. The wealthy businessman tries to give Chip a reward but he refuses it. Chip was determined to pay his own way through life and worked his way through high school and refused an athletic scholarship to the university—choosing to work, study and be a star athlete without help. Chip was an excellent student, an excellent amateur chemist, a skilled boxer, a football quarterback, receiver, punter, place kicker and runner. He also played defense. In basketball he was 6-2 and could handle every position. He had serious hops. Chip could jump holding a ball in each hand and dunk each on the same jump. In one book he won a fictional national shooting contest while he helped to unite a dysfunctional family. In baseball he was a gifted athlete who could throw with either hand and throw a great fastball and knuckle ball. He was an excellent hitter who hit for average and power but also was a great base runner and fielder.
Chip would often take time on his way to a game to stop and heal a leper or two and hear confessions. He was always a team leader who often had to straighten out a fuzzy thinking, envious or disruptive teammate. His "good" teammates included great "fellows" with names like Speed, Biggie, Soapy, Fireball, Taps, Big Stud, Beer Guzzler and Reefer. No, wait, I'm sorry. I made up some of this last paragraph—Valley Falls didn't have a leprosy problem and those last 3 guys are from my circle of friends, not Chip’s.
In a final and still unpublished (and shamelessly fabricated by me) volume, I have Chip working in the summer for the CIA in a secret underground facility in his home town. The lab is disguised as the Valley Falls Pottery Museum. While dismantling a captured nuclear device, Chip trusts his best friend Soapy to help him. Not realizing Soapy is color blind, Chip tells him to clip the blue wire but not the green. Valley Falls is wiped off the map. Or maybe not. Disney brought Davy Crockett back from death at the Alamo to fight river pirates and win over Mike Fink. And of course Dallas brought Bobby Ewing back from a fatal event. I choose to have Chip discovering hockey, soccer and roller derby.