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Readers Reflect: Touchdown Pass

February 16, 2010

“Readers Reflect,” is a weekly post by a guest blogger reflecting on a formative book, character, or reading experience that has been particularly meaningful in their life as a reader. To submit your own “Readers Reflect” essay, please contact us at courtskids@gmail.com

The vision is still so vivid, almost as if it were engraved for a lifetime in one of those old sepia toned photos. I was a small boy, moving slowly through the tiny public library in the Dallas suburb of Seagoville. Not really sure what I was looking for, my eyes came across the magnetic title, “Touchdown Pass”. I pulled it out, scanned it briefly and checked it out. And I was hooked. So many young people had their favorites, something that touched their souls just a bit. Hardy Boys. Nancy Drew. Countless others. But, from the day I could walk and talk, I have been pursuing a deep love affair with sports. When I found “Touchdown Pass”, I developed a lasting love affair with reading.

“Touchdown Pass” was the first in the Chip Hilton series, sort of a Hardy Boys for the sports junkie/child. The books were written by Clair Bee, a hall of fame basketball coach and “Touchdown Pass” was the first of 24 children’s sports novels. Chip Hilton was the star and each book was devoted to another season, another sport. The first book introduced Hilton (who always espoused sportsmanship and fair play) as a sophomore in high school.

The second book, “Championship Ball” took Hilton through his sophomore season of basketball. Book three was “Strike Three”, taking Hilton through, you guessed it, his sophomore season of baseball. The series followed Hilton all the way through high school and then through his career at State University.

I will never forget waiting to get each new book, bugging my mother to get me to the library and then to the book store so I could actually buy them. These days, when I talk to students, I encourage them to find something they enjoy reading, to find their own Chip Hilton series, telling them it will help them understand and appreciate the mandatory reading they must do in school.

I learned later that basketball coach Bob Knight and former baseball manager Mike Hargrove were Chip Hilton fans, too. Of course, the reading evolves over the years. By high school, I would come in late from a football or basketball game  (still too wound up to sleep) and curl up in bed with “Wuthering Heights” or even “War and Peace.” In college, I became enamored with Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Later, Larry McMurtry slipped into the mix. And, of course, there are constantly new authors forging their way into my soul.

We all hope that others can slow down, slip inside a book and find the joy that comes with a good read. It must, of course, begin at an early age. And, for me, it all began with that magical moment in that little library when I discovered Chip Hilton and “Touchdown Pass.”

Bill Knight is a sportswriter for the El Paso Times and a local author in Courtney’s hometown of El Paso, TX. Recently Bill published “Into the Eyes of Life” as a close friend and supporter of Court’s Kids, we encourage you to check him out.

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