St. Nick's Outlaws
By Jim Colombo
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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo
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...