South Paulding Spartans Football
2018 Season

Spartan Scroll V.XIV


It’s been a couple years since I read a marvelous story about orphans, school, and football. The book is titled “Twelve Mighty Orphans” by Jim Dent. What an inspiring story of hard luck, making the best of a situation, answering a challenge, and being a competitor. Back in the 1930’s depression hard hit the mid-west families and many kids were left at homes such as the Masonic Boys Home in Fort Worth, Texas. In this true tale brought back to life by Jim Dent twelve boys none weighing in at over 160 pounds took on and beat the Texas power houses of the day. Traveling in the back of a flatbed truck covered with blankets these mighty mites road from Amarillo, Fort Worth, Waco, and Austin taking on the rich, well equipped teams such as Dallas Highland Park Scots, and the Amarillo Sandies. Winning more than their fair share during a time when all schools played in one classification.


As I took the “Twelve Mighty Orphans” off the shelf of my personal football library Sunday I noticed a book I had not read yet and had picked up off a bargain table some time back. “The Code” an accumulation of tales about teams, players, and the unwritten rules of football, known as The Code. In this 242 page manuscript various famous NFL ex-players of various degrees of notoriety explain The Code. I wanted to reacquaint myself with the heart and determination of the Mighty Mites instead I began to leaf through Ross Bernstein’s explanation of the unwritten, and unpublished rules the game was once ruled by. Conrad Dobler once considered the nastiest player in the league makes it clear he wasn’t going to allow anyone to hit or touch his quarterback, without paying the price on the next play. This idea of a code was not mentioned specifically in regards to the Mighty Mites, but was ever present in their determination and devotion to one another. I highly recommend Jim Dent’s “Twelve Mighty Orphans”.


The very idea of a code motivates me to recall days in the game when only the score mattered. When teams wore uniforms not costumes. When players accepted that playing was a privilege not a right, and fans cussed missed opportunities and foul-ups, not coaches. When all actions were accountable, and discipline was an action demonstrated not an act of punishment. Would it be so bad today if a code was lived and played by? We have several codes. The Military Code which emphasizes defending freedom at all costs. The Building Code with emphasis on safe construction practices. The Medical Code that requires the best medical efforts be offered to all. The Code of Ethics which asked that we be honest and fair regardless if anyone is watching.


These were never written down but all football players knew the code once lived. 1) Give your best effort every minute “No dogging it”. 2) Never fake an injury. Playing hurt was an honor. 3) Team membership meant giving up some personal identity. 4) Calling a teammate a brother meant you sweat together, bleed together, overcame together, and had the responsibility to hold your brother accountable. 5) Those that quit were shunned. 6) You answered for yourself, placing no blame elsewhere. Ross Bernstein was able to pull a few of these standards out of the pros. A) You’re not going to do something to embarrass the team. B) You are to respect your opponent and have integrity. C) Play hard always with aggression not aiming to hurt. D) You hit everyone as hard as you could giving no solace. To pull off meant you were soft. E) You knew a mistake on your part let the team down. It seems today there’s a code to dance after scoring. To clap in the face of a fallen opponent. To blame someone else and claim a cheap shot as a big hit. There are other codes to live by. Hopefully we all strive to follow the Ten Commandments. Hopefully we all obey the laws of the land, and of course as Jim Croce says: “Don’t spit into the wind or step on superman’s cape.”


Man! We have no one to blame but ourselves. As an assistant after being a head coach for a long time, myself and the head coach came into the office to find the youngest assistants curled up on the floor under their desks catching a pre-game nap, while we were out setting things up. We looked at each other and said we have no one to blame but ourselves. You see; the guys who broke us in as young coaches would have kicked our behind and HR would have backed them up. (I presently work with a great group of young guys who understand this principle and pull their weight and then some) The point here is that in our efforts to make things better we’ve done too much for our youth. Our expectations were relaxed because we didn’t like the way it was. Yet the way it was is what made us, us.


As we move forward from this season let’s remember we must honor those that passed this way before us. We don’t need leather helmets, or steel cleats. What we need is acceptance of personal codes. Guides so to speak which allow and encourage honesty, praise full effort, and that won’t laugh at another’s toe trip. The ancient forbearers of our name the Spartans were a tough crowd. Expectations of toughness, mental discipline, self-reliance, and accountability ruled. The code of acceptable actions centered on the Spartan Shield, for it protected the whole and not the selfish. We can develop these traits of worthiness into a code for modern Spartans who expect better of each other by expecting better of ourselves. Let the challenge go forth: live by the code or perish by the will of others.