Monday, March 07, 2005 | On Friday, Oct. 8, 1954, the Abilene High School Eagles beat the Borger Bulldogs, 34-7, at Fair Park Stadium in Abilene, Texas.
I was there. I was in the sixth grade.
The Eagles did not lose another football game until I was in the ninth grade, in December 1957. In the interim, Abilene High won 49 straight football games and three straight state championships in the large-city classification.
Team of the Century
Last year, the 50th anniversary of that first victory, I researched, wrote and published a book, “Warbirds – How They Played the Game,” to commemorate the streak. There is a copy in the San Diego City Library. The project began as nothing more than a journalist’s assignment to re-create history, restore long-forgotten details of that team and its achievements for a city that remembered maybe five or six highlights of the streak.
But before I was halfway through, I realized the heart of the book was not about football at all. It was about values and principles.
Coach Chuck Moser
That philosophy, organized into rules and policies, set into motion the Eagles’ ultimate success before the first football was ever snapped at Chuck Moser’s first spring practice in March 1953. The system was unabashedly virtuous and a literal manifestation of the sportswriter Grantland Rice’s famous declaration made during a more virtuous age: “When the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, he marks – not that you won or lost – but how you played the game.”
Before the book was completed, “How They Played the Game” had become the subtitle, and it describes precisely the content of the book. It tells how the coach gave his team its best chance to win – the best that any coach can do – with a system based not only on rules of football, but rules of living. And the coach lived the system. He knew he had to, but he did it because he wanted to. There is a difference. Very quickly, he was not only the high school football coach, he was a Sunday School teacher, and a civic leader, and president of the local Kiwanis Club.
The True History
Moser’s teaching re-emerged in a time in which winning without principle has become the saddest form of defeat. His story, and the proof of his story in his Eagle teams, is not only for Texans wishing to recall some football glory days. The story comes to a national audience that in 2005 not only knows, but fears, what has been lost to the greedsters, and feels a strong yearning for what might be regained if principle is recovered, and the value of values is practiced once more. It is a history that should be repeatable in America, and in San Diego. We could sure use a winning streak. All we need is a leader.
Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972.