Choosing all-star teams or players of the year is an imperfect, inexact science.
First there’s the opinion gap: Big Papi or A-Rod? Brady or Manning?
Then there are matters of computation or compilation.
Aaron Chambers set a Skowhegan High record with 1,846 rushing yards in 2004, and was poised for a big senior season that would elevate him further among the state’s running back hierarchy.
Even in preseason, he was being touted for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, symbolic of the state’s best senior player, including in a Sept. 2 column in this space.
Three months later, Chambers is one of three finalists for this year’s Fitzy, but he has come to it in a roundabout way.
After a solid start to the season, he went down with an ankle injury on his third carry of the Indians’ Week 4 game. Chambers missed the rest of that contest as well as the next three games before returning for Skowhegan’s regular-season finale. He went on to help the Indians reach the Eastern A final – rushing for more than 100 yards in each of his final three games.
Playing in slightly more than six of his team’s 10 games, Chambers finished with 767 rushing yards, not the typical numbers of a Fitzpatrick Trophy candidate.
What followed was a matter of compilation. Any of the state’s football coaches may nominate a candidate for the Fitzy, and semifinalists are chosen from that pool by a selection committee. A ballot then is sent out to coaches and media, along with brief biographies of all the semifinalists compiled by selection committee chairman Jack Dawson of Portland.
But Chambers’ bio included the more impressive rushing stats from his junior season, not those from his senior year. Both years’ stats were included in the information submitted on Chambers’ behalf, but Dawson said he took the junior-year stats from a letter of recommendation and mistakenly included them in the biography.
How much the junior-year stats influenced voters isn’t known. But many voters don’t get to see all of the semifinalists play and rely on the biographies to help make their choices, so it’s likely the bios had at least some impact.
The discrepancy wasn’t known until after the top three vote-getters were announced as finalists last week, because when finalists for the Portland-based award were first made public in southern Maine, Chambers’ selection was referenced by his junior-year stats. At that point there was little that could be done to change the situation, such as perhaps adding the fourth-highest vote-getter to the slate of finalists.
Is Chambers one of the top three senior players in the state? Probably, based on his play last year and when healthy this fall. Academic standing also comes into play with this award, and Chambers was named to the 2005 Pine Tree Conference All-Academic team.
But what percentage of a team’s games should someone have to play to be considered for player of the year honors?
There is precedent backing Chambers’ bid, albeit in a different sport. Erika Stupinski of Mount Ararat of Topsham was Maine’s 2004 Miss Basketball despite playing in only six games of her team’s 18-game senior season due to injury.
One-third of a season didn’t seem like nearly enough, but Chambers’ case is a closer call, because he did appear in two-thirds of his team’s games and played a key role in its postseason run – though he wasn’t named to the All-PTC football team.
Yes, it’s an imperfect, inexact science.
Ernie Clark may be reached at 990-8045, 1-800-310-8600 or firstname.lastname@example.org