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A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR FORT ZACK
Frank Deford
December 19, 1977
Pro basketball superstar 'Double T' Townsend injures his hand on Santa Claus Night. Thereafter, in this fictional tale of a holiday miracle, he and his team are transformed
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December 19, 1977

A Christmas Gift For Fort Zack

Pro basketball superstar 'Double T' Townsend injures his hand on Santa Claus Night. Thereafter, in this fictional tale of a holiday miracle, he and his team are transformed

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"You say something to me, Doubs?" Bevo asked.

"No, man. There was a little boy in there. Friend of mine. So how're the X rays?"

"Negative. No break. Probably just a slight sprain. Doc says we'll give you something for it, bandage it up, and you can even play Cleveland on national TV."

"Merry Christmas," said Double T.

There was only one light on in the visitors' room the next evening when Double T arrived with an autographed basketball. Dickie, in his Rapid hat, was in his wheelchair, the IV by his side, reading the Rapids' yearbook. He was surrounded by glossy pictures of Rapid players, by Rapid pins and socks and pennants and all manner of Rapid souvenirs. "Doubs!" he cried when the door opened.

Double T bounced the ball through his legs, twirled it on his index finger and rolled it down his arm, Globetrotter style, before presenting it to Dickie. The boy turned the ball around, looking for the autograph. There it was: "To my good friend, Dickie. Taylor Townsend—Double T."

"Oh, thank you, Doubs," Dickie said, and he took out his pen and wrote in the date—December 23. He was glad that Double T turned away then, to get a couple of sodas, because there were tears in his eyes and he didn't want Double T to see him crying. He put the ball down, and with the arm that wasn't attached to the IV, rubbed at his eyes with the sleeve of his hospital gown.

Double T came back over and gave him a soda. "How's your hand?" Dickie asked.

The big man held it up. It was taped but it didn't seem to bother him. "I be able to play in Cleveland," he said. "And how you today, little Dickie dude? You gonna get outta here soon, so's you can come out to the Coliseum and see me play 'fore I leave Fort Zachary?"

"I hope so, Doubs," he said, but he bowed his head and coughed again.

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