These cufflinks have a very special meaning to me. It should come as no surprise to anyone I am a huge history buff. I've loved history as long as I can remember because it allowed me to understand where we came from and I guess I just love a really good story. When I was a kid, I loved learning about Ancient Greek history. I ate up all the mythology, the city-states, and became a huge admirer of the Greek Phalanx. Back then, I idolized Athens. How could you not love the cradle of Western Civilization? The birthplace of Democracy and philosophy. I loved the famous victory at Marathon that was a huge upset. I admired Athenian naval power and how it was used. The rival, or Athens was of course, Sparta. I looked at Sparta with the perspective of not liking your favourite team's biggest rival, but knowing exactly why you should hate them. I mean I'm an Eagles fan. I hate the Steelers. It's just what you do. Sparta seemed really cruel. To have no interest in the arts and Lycurgan rule seemed excessively harsh.
As I've gotten older, I've come to realize individual expression without care of societal impacts can have detrimental results. The more I studied Sparta, the more I grew to appreciate what Sparta really was. I begrudgingly gave them credit for going down swinging at Thermopylae. The ass kicking at Platea was a decisive Spartan victory. The sparse lifestyle, the harsh conditions, the martial aspect of their society all seemed so extreme. Then, I started to understand through pivotal moments of my life that success often resulted because I just worked harder at it than I had before. We have a natural aversion to hard work. We're always seeking the more efficient method. The path of least resistance. The activity suiting our innate ability.
That is fine and dandy for people who have innate skills. What do people like myself do? I possess literally not one positive skill just naturally flowing from me. Anything you see representing any skill has been carved from a block of time. Thousands of little tiny chips to form what you see today. I started thinking, “Would an Athenian devote this much time to that endeavour?” Because a Spartan would have been taught this from the time he was born. I grew to not fear failure, but to embrace it. To fail as many times as I can. If I could juggle a soccer ball 1,000 times, let's try failing at 5,000, then 10,000. Always push the bar of failure to the next level. I consider myself one of the biggest failures around and I'm ok with that because as John Paul Jones famously said, "I have not yet begun to fight!"
The formation of the Spartans and all other Greeks was the phalanx. It was a tight, compact group of men who used their shields to protect the person on their left and used their right arm to thrust spears at the opposition. Phalanxes were hundreds of men wide and between 8 to 16 men deep. There is some slight deviation of unit composition and spear length with the Macedonian Phalanx that Alexander the Great used with great effect to destroy the Persian Empire. The phalanx relies on all the individuals, called hoplites, working in unison. The degree of synchronization is absolutely critical, and as Sparta practiced this more than any other city-state, this is why they were so successful in battle.
When I started the rugby teams here in Tyler, I automatically knew what our team would be centered around. It would be the Hoplite. It would promote and advocate team work. It would promise lots of hard work and repetition. It would force people new to rugby to understand that excellence is a virtue born from the grist mill of repetition. The helmet cufflink you see is a symbol to me of not being a leader. It is being part of a collective, celebrating a group win, and not just what we did individually. Some people will just see a cool looking cufflink and think I went to USC or MSU. I actually went to a better school. I went to a Spartan agoge in my mind and I am the person I am today because of that terrible and brutal experience.