Football brings together the community

By Ray Miller
Reader Contributor

“If all you do as a coach is to teach the boys to play football, you’ll be a miserable failure.” Coach Cotton Barlow

It’s a chilly October night in 1962. In Wisconsin Sandpoint High and U of I alumnus Jerry Kramer is preparing with his Green Bay Packers teammates for a coming game. In Sandpoint, Idaho Norm Bauer, owner of KSPT Radio is “high above Memorial Field” getting ready to broadcast the game between Sandpoint Bulldogs and arch rival Coeur d’ Alene.

The stands on both sides are overflowing. Former players who are now local businessmen, employers, community leaders and service club members are exchanging stories. At the south end of the field there is a small, white wooden shed that is for equipment storage. On game night it serves as the home team’s locker-room. There legendary coach Cotton Barlow is inspiring his team for the night’s game. In the days before State Championship playoff, the success of the season was measured by how we competed against the Vikings. This season Sandpoint will go 7 and 2 which included beating Cd’A 39-7, a game that will be talked about for years. It was a successful season.

As I’m sitting here writing this on my 70th birthday I am reflecting back over the years I have been involved in Sandpoint Football. I now work with the children and grandchildren of former players, many that have gone on to rewarding and enriched careers.

We have sent our graduates to Harvard, Brown, MIT, Stanford, West Point, Annapolis and Air Force Academy to name a few. Many chose to follow a path into teaching and coaching, influencing hundreds of other young men with the values they learned here.

While football may be a silly game it provides a venue to turn boys into young men who go on to become productive and honorable members of society and most importantly, good parents. They develop traits such as teamwork, putting the team above yourself because winning takes eleven people working together as one. Competition not only with others but with oneself, did I do better today than I did yesterday?

The four years pass by so quickly that they are gone before anyone notices. Most will never snap up a chinstrap again. However the memories will last forever and many will find ways to stay involved. Financial assistance, volunteerism, helping with game, anything to remain a part of this program. This is what makes Sandpoint a special town, a football town. When a game is on the town turns out to watch and cheer the boys whose turn it is to carry on the tradition. Few other places provide long-time locals a chance to get together, visit and reminisce of days gone by.

Besides, what more beautiful spot could you find to spend a Friday night?

Ray Miller is an Assistant Football Coach for Sandpoint High School and was a former Mayor of Sandpoint.

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