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The 2009 Challenge has been the year of the friendly foes. For the first two weekends we all watched in rapt awe as husband and wife pair Charles and Leta Corwin turned into bitter enemies on the Chippens battlefield, putting their 40-year marriage on the brink of collapse.
Now, JT and Blizzard T. Husky (Nicholas Schultz), two unlikely gentlemen with a history of friendship that spans nearly their entire lives, have taken up residence atop the standings. It is a friendship that was forged during the weekdays in the halls, classrooms, and playgrounds of Kenwood Elementary and, on Sundays, in the classrooms, pews, and coffee hour lines of the United Methodist Church in Cadillac, Michigan.
Yet, despite their long friendship, they’re also no strangers to conflict. In one notorious incident at the age of 6 or 7, they were both involved in a “Kids Choir” performance at church that turned into an all-out brawl (pushing, kicking, a few punches thrown) on the sanctuary’s main stage in front of hundreds of prim and aghast Sunday morning worshipers. That brawl also included yours truly, Tim Corwin (2009 Chippens NCAA Challenge Champion), and Ben DeHaan (Donovan fears Pearl). While video evidence taken by JT’s proud father later showed that Tim Corwin was in fact one of the main aggressors in the melee (by virtue of his elevated position on the top step, he was able to ambush and topple unsuspecting and unbalanced children with ease), the early exposure to such violence has no doubt shaped JT’s and Schultz’s approach to this final game.
JT, a Michigan State alumnus, has his hopes riding on the Spartans Monday night. In an uncertain world where children can turn into maniacal combatants—in a house of God, no less—he has gone with the virtues of loyalty and consistency.
Husky, on the other hand, has sought to distance himself from the pain of repeated disappointment by betraying his home state team and pinning his championship hopes on the North Carolina Tar Heels.
JT and the Spartans are the clear underdogs, but maybe there is a little magic leftover for Monday’s finale. They’ll certainly need it against Husky and the Tar Heels. UNC is a good basketball team, sure, but what matters infinitely more is that Husky time after time proves to have a little Chippens magic, a little Pixie (burger*) dust of his own. As Tim Corwin wrote to me in a text message last night while UNC was romping, “Blizzard T. Husky is a prophet.” Prophet indeed; after all, it is partly because of Blizzard’s exploits at the dawn of the new millennium that Chippens even exists (Chippens was founded January 1, 2001). Husky is the prophet who foretold his own glorious arrival.
No matter what happens Monday night, Blizzard can do no worse than 2nd. JT, on the other hand, falls all the way to 4th if the Spartans lose. If they win, he’ll set All-Time records for most points in a single tournament and for biggest margin of victory.
Bone, another Cadillac native, has secured his spot in the top three. He will finish second with a UNC win and third with an MSU win.
Leta Corwin is the only other player still with a shot at a prize. She will finish 3rd if UNC wins and will move up to 2nd on the All-Time list for pick percentage. Her husband, Senor Wences, is also guaranteed a top-10 finish, and so is their daughter, Lisa Corwin. Leta and Lisa will both move up on the Lifetime Average Place list after this season.
The rest of us are battling for pride and momentum heading into next year.
*One of Schultz’s defining moments is when he ate nearly 30 Pixie Burgers in one sitting at the iconic restaurant in Mt. Pleasant, earning a place for his name on the wall.