You don't have to think like Norman Lear to figure out that basketball success at Washington-Lee High School is all in the family.
This is one program whose record and roster testify to it.
The Generals are 13-7, 9-5 in the Great Falls District. The reason? Walter and Crawford Palmer. Walter Palmer is Washington-Lee's 6-foot-11 senior center. Walter's younger brother, Crawford, is a 6-9 sophomore power forward.
With Walter averaging about 15 points per game, Crawford hitting for about 13, and both averaging more than eight rebounds per game, W-L is in a nice position heading into the district tournament.
The Generals have already beaten South Lakes and Langley, something they had failed to do in the five years that Dale Bethel has been coach. The 12 wins are the most for the Arlington school since 1980.
But before that, you have to go back to the middle 1960s to find Washington-Lee teams that were consistently successful.
Back then, they were led by another set of brothers, Ed and John Hummer.
Ed Hummer graduated from Washington-Lee in 1963, after helping the Generals win the state championship in 1962 and again in 1963.
John Hummer, who would go on to play seven seasons in the National Basketball Association (three with Buffalo, a short time with Chicago, and the remainder with Seattle), led the Generals to a state championship back in 1966 when he was a senior.
The Hummer brothers still return to Arlington to visit their mother, but neither can remember the last time he has been to the high school.
Word of the Generals' success, however, has reached Ed.
"So I've heard," he said over the phone from New York, where he is a partner in a venture capital firm.
Word hadn't reached San Francisco, where John has a similar job, investing in high-risk technology companies in Silicon Valley.
"Amazing," John said. "I assumed demographics had made Washington-Lee noncompetitive. North Arlington doesn't have the population to draw from anymore."
As coincidence would have it, the sets of brothers have another link.
Ed and John Hummer played basketball in the Ivy League, at Princeton. Walter Palmer will attend an Ivy League school -- Dartmouth, which accepted him under its early decision plan.
In two years, there also may be Ivy creeping into Crawford Palmer's future. With Walter at Dartmouth and a father, a grandfather, an uncle, a grandfather's brother and two cousins all having done Dartmouth time in Hanover, N.H., the basketball coach might have an inside recruiting track.
As for the Hummers, Ed, who is 6-6, played with Bill Bradley on the Princeton team that reached the Final Four in 1965. John Hummer, who is 6-9, played for the Princeton team that won 18 straight games -- the longest winning streak in the nation during the 1968-69 season -- before losing to St. John's in the NCAA East regionals.
Both Hummers were interested to hear of Walter Palmer's decision to play in the Ivy League.
"When I was at Washington-Lee, the Ivies were about as expensive as other schools," Ed Hummer said. "They were all about $3,000 a year. At that time the Ivy League could still get some decent players. We had a lot of guys who could afford to go and turned down scholarships at other schools.
"They could still get players who would go to Duke or North Carolina. Now it's much less likely. But I'm pleased to hear he considered the Ivy League. A 6-11 guy could really do some damage there."
John Hummer was also pleased to hear of Walter's decision, but he says things have changed since he played in the Ivy League.
"Among other things," John Hummer said. "That was big-time basketball. Both my team and my brother's team could play with any team in the country. When I went to Princeton, I didn't view it as forsaking big-time basketball."
Both Hummers also remember their days at Washington-Lee.
"At one time, W-L and George Washington (of Alexandria) were the powerhouses," Ed said. "We won the state football championship in 1962 and 1963. In basketball, we packed the gym constantly. I think we lost one game when I was a junior. We were something like 47-1 for two years."
Of his senior high school season, John said: "As I recall, we lost two games very early. We may have been 1-2, but we ended up something like 23-2.
"For the bigger games against Wakefield, George Washington and Edison, the place was jammed by 6 or 6:30 for an 8 o'clock game.
"First of all, it was more thanks to the coach and the student body. We took basketball very seriously. We had a coach (Morris Levin) who demanded that."
All the seriousness and hard work paid off. As seniors both Hummers were named the outstanding basketball player in Virginia.
In July 1967, after Ed Hummer had graduated from Princeton, The Washington Post ran a column describing how he was "torn between law school and trying out for the Boston Celtics." Ken Denlinger wrote: "There are no visions of instant grandeur to cloud his decision about whether to postpone studies at Georgetown law school for pro basketball."
And Ed Hummer said at the time: "I never expected to be drafted. If I made the Celtics, I would be playing very little for two or three years because they are probably closer on the floor than any other NBA team. If I went to their tryout in September and was cut, I would miss a year of law school. I'll have to talk it over with the Georgetown people . . . "
Ed Hummer chose to go to law school. And once he had his law degree -- he coached high school basketball at O'Connell High School in Arlington for three years.
He practiced law for 11 years on Wall Street. After that, he worked for a few years at a firm in midtown New York. "I got out when the guys were cominng for me with the white jacket," he joked.
He's not crazy. He left law practice to earn a master's in business administration from Stanford. Sen. Bradley wasn't the only one on the team to parlay basketball success into a successful life career.
With younger, taller brother John Hummer, the issue was not whether he would play pro ball, but how good he would be.
"I would have been a good player," he said modestly. He was. In December 1970, The Post interviewed Buffalo Braves Coach Dolph Schayes.
Said Schayes of his first-round draft choice, "John already is one of the top four defensive forwards in the league." Schayes put Hummer in a class with Gus Johnson of Baltimore, Dave DeBusschere of New York and Jerry Sloan of Chicago.
During his career, however, Hummer underwent seven operations, six on an Achilles' and one on an ankle tendon.
After the NBA, John earned an MBA, also from Stanford, and began a career in business.
"I have not been back," John Hummer says of W-L. "The times I go back to visit my mother, I've been tempted to go back. Now you say there's a good team. Maybe I'll go."
The Generals could use the added support. Even for their biggest games, Washington-Lee fills only the lower half of its two-tiered gym. But that's an improvement over the really lean years between the Hummers and the Palmers.
The Washington-Lee trophy case may be the greatest testimony to that. It is crowded but very dusty.
"I hate to say it, but most of them are from my vintage," Ed Hummer admits. To find a recent basketball trophy, you have to look. You have to look among the crew silver and the track trophies for the ones with the little man reaching up with a little ball in his hand.
There are a few Christmas tournament trophies, but you're supposed to win your own Christmas tournament.
Trophies aren't given anymore for district championships. But the Palmers have given W-L a chance at a Great Falls championship banner.
Part of the reason for the brothers' success has been their concentration.
For a while they weren't giving interviews. The Palmers weren't making like Steve Carlton or Eddie Murray, they simply were more concerned with winning basketball games than having feature stories written about them. They know what a distraction the media can be and they weren't about to pose as the tall men in the center ring.
"We get enough attention as it is," Walter said. "When you're this tall you don't need to be put in the paper for people."
When pro athletes play dumb it's usually because they are. When a high school athlete shies away, it's usually an indication there's something more to him.
The Palmers are mature and sensitive and responsible.
They politely declined interviews early in the season because they said that if your aim is winning basketball games, publicity can't help you and is an even bet to inspire your opponents.
Moreover, there is an added burden when you stand almost 7 feet at 17 or 6 feet 9 at 15. The burden is potential. Walter and Crawford Palmer surely know they have it. Newspaper stories just reinforce it.
"The pressure's always there when you're this tall," Walter said. "The pressure was on last year when I had to prove myself."
Regardless, he seems to be enjoying his senior season.
Part of the reason for that, and a benefit the Hummers never experienced in high school, is that the Palmers are teammates.
"We've been looking forward to this year for a long time," Walter said. "I knew Crawf was coming up."
Watching the brothers play gives the lie to many a psychologist's ideas on sibling rivalry.
"It's great playing together," Walter said. "When I'm down, he'll score 20. It makes it 10 times easier." Crawford wonders, "What am I going to do next year?"
A recent victory against South Lakes illustrated how well the Palmers complement each other. Walter was hot, Crawford was not. Walter scored 31 points, Crawford had eight points and eight assists.
That's the type of effort W-L will need to get out of the Great Falls District tournament and into the regional tournament. The district seems to have at least three other teams capable of winning the tournament -- South Lakes, Langley and Herndon.
But the Generals have an advantage -- they have the Palmer brothers and the home court and the Hummers just might be there, too.