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St. Nick's Outlaws

By Jim Colombo


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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo



Chapter 23



Mr. Kepen was the varsity football coach.  Jim was signing up for the team when


Coach Kepen approached him.  “I’m signing up for fullback, said Jim


Maybe you should play junior varsity football, because Garcia looks like he’ll be the


starting varsity fullback.  I think you would rather play JV than sit and watch from the


varsity bench.” said Coach Kepen.


 Jim respected Coach Kepen and took his advice.


Mr. Casaza was the new junior varsity football Coach. The first day of practice he


made the team run laps around the track until they dropped. He wanted to see who was


in shape. The linemen dropped first, then the linebackers, and then the defensive and


running backs. Some of the players threw up and others had leg cramps. Coach


Casaza was not impressed with the players, and the team felt the same about him.


There was a gardener's shack at the far end of he field.  It had four walls with no


windows, a light switch as you entered, and one door. Coach Casaza, or Coach Kiss


Ass as the players called him, explained that if he felt that one of the players wasn’t


performing to his expectations, he would invite the player to the shack. The player went to 


the shack, turned off the light,  left the door open,  then hid somewhere, and waited.  Kiss


Ass would come in, close the door, and if he found the player before the player found the


door, he would kick the players ass. If the player found the door before Casaza found the


player, he would be truly disappointed. Kiss Ass would approach the player, smile, and


say, "Next time." After one time in the shack, the player was very motivated to never get on


Casaza's shit list again.  The brothers and lay teachers knew how to use fear and


prodded the students like white rats running through a maze. Jim learned motivation by


hate rather fear. Jim hated Kiss Ass.


After three weeks 12 guys quit the team. A typical team had forty-five players. If


there were injuries, then the active roster would be further reduced. When St. Nick's


played their third game, they had twenty-six players in uniform. St. Nick's lost their first four


games and team spirit was drained. Mr. Casaza started inviting players often to the shack.


Someone hung a sign in the locker room saying, "The flogging will not stop until the morale


improves." Casaza thought that was funny. It was becoming apparent that Casaza did not


like Blacks or Mexicans. Russell was tall, strong, black, and the team's best offensive


lineman. Casaza always gave Russell a bad time. Russell was cool and didn’t give Casaza


the satisfaction of losing his temper. Russell missed a block during practice and Casaza


criticized him. Offensive linemen don’t like criticism or tackling. They prefer blocking, and


anonymity. Casaza called for the nutcracker drill.


It was a drill that all offensive linemen hated and defensive players enjoyed. A


running back would stand five yard in front of the player who had to tackle him. Jim was


the fullback and had to line up against Russell, who had to tackle Jim. The object of the


drill was punishment, like two rams bashing heads. The running back had a five-yard head


start, while the tackler had to wait and react to the runner. They butt heads and pounded


each other for ten minutes. Half of the time Jim knocked Russell down, and Russell tackled


Jim the other half. Casaza was not satisfied. Then he told Russell to hit the turf and give


him fifty push-ups. Russell complied. Casaza criticized Russell for being lazy, and doing


fifty half-assed push-ups. Casaza demanded fifty more. Russell said no. Casaza looked


shocked and said, "What did you say?"


Russell said, "NO!" louder.  He had reached his point of no return. 


Casaza pointed at the shack and Russell ran to the shack. When Russell opened


the door to he shack, he turned and yelled, "Ca'mon, Kiss Ass!" Casaza took his time


going to the shack. The rest of the team stood at mid field. The players heard the


crashing and moaning while the two fought. Twenty minutes later Russell walked out.


Simultaneously, the players yelled, "All right!," and ran to Russell.  Someone gave him a


towel to wipe the blood off his face. The players followed Russell and walked to the locker


room. Russell showered and dressed. He removed all of his equipment and uniform, and


packed them into a canvas bag. Russell told the team that he quit. No one cared to see if


Casaza was dead or dying in the shack.


The next day word spread fast that Casaza had resigned.  Kiss Ass had an


accident and broke his jaw. Brother Justin called the junior varsity team to meet in his


office that morning at 8:00AM.  First he asked Russell if he was hurt, and Russell said that


he was okay. Then he apologize for Casaza’s behavior.  The team spent an hour telling


Brother Justin about Casaza and the shack.  Brother Justin once again apologized. He told


the team that Brother Anthony from St. Gregory's in San Diego was coming to replace Mr.


Casaza. Brother Anthony would teach history and would coach the junior varsity football


team. He was arriving tonight and a normal schedule would start tomorrow.


That afternoon Russell's father came to school and demanded that his son be


transferred to Riordan or St. Ignatius. His demand was met and the following week


Russell transferred to Riordan.  Russell's father had hired a black law professor from


Hastings Law University.  Billy was an exuberant man about five foot six, and dressed very


stylishly.   He was running for the state assemblyman in a predominate black district and


could use the publicity.  Brother Justin sat with Billy and Mr. Russell, and listened to their


concerns. They were reminded that when parents signed the release form at the beginning


of each year, they gave full custody to the faculty. Billy explained that Casaza went beyond


reasonable conduct. Brother Justin agreed. The Christian Brothers offered to pay for


Russell's high school and college expense, all the way to graduate school. The Christian


Brothers also agreed to build a community center with a basketball court in Hunter Point


that would be named after Billy. Everyone got what they wanted. Brother Justin's efforts


reduced a serious problem to a favorable accommodation.


Brother Anthony was a former quarterback at St. Mary's College in Moraga. St


Gregory's was a football power in San Diego. The team lost a good friend and offensive


lineman with Russell, but got rid of Casaza. Now the junior varsity football team had a


good coach with Brother Tony. The players had their dignity back and it was fun playing


football again. Brother Tony helped the players with technique and let them have fun


playing football. St Nick's won two of the four remaining games and finished 2-6. Most of


the players had played soph/frosh football and lost six games over two years. Winning two


games was a very humbling feeling to the team. Mercifully, the season ended. What began


in September with great expectations ended with a whimper.  Initially, the students were


told that Russell transferred to Riordan, but he actually went to Saint Ignatius. He


graduated from St. Ignatius and went to the University of San Francisco for seven years.


He became a lawyer and got a job with Billy in Sacramento as an associate. The Christian


Brothers had to write checks to the rival Jesuits at USF for seven years. Billy did okay in


Sacramento. Seven years later Russell started a law practice in Sacramento with three


very intelligent Black lawyers. Their corporate clients included banks, insurance


companies, and fellow assemblymen and senators who occasionally fell out of grace.


Mr. Casaza had a difficult time finding a teaching job after his release from St.


Nick's. He eventually found a job teaching Mexican farm children high school history in the


rural farmland of California. He quit after a year and faded into oblivion.




More next week...