Last fall, Bob Shannon took street-tough ghetto kids from Fast St. Louis High School to their sixth state football...


THE RIGHT KIND OF HEROES: Coach Bob Shannon and the East St. Louis Flyers

Last fall, Bob Shannon took street-tough ghetto kids from Fast St. Louis High School to their sixth state football championship in his 16 years as head coach. Here, Horrigan, a former editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, tells this remarkable story. A desolate inner city of chemical plants, abandoned businesses, and shopping centers, and marked by the highest per-capita homicide rate in the country, East St. Louis is the kind of place where the high-school coach uses weed killer to mark the lines on the football field, the coaches are volunteers, and the equipment doesn't get repaired because there's no money. On more than one occasion, Shannon has excused a kid from practice because the player's older brother was shot to death. Mired in the often dirty politics of the city, and very unpopular with the ""power brokers,"" Shannon's ""get it done,"" hard-nosed approach to the kids and to the school administration makes plenty of enemies, but seems to work. Going into the 1990 season, he said, ""We're going to be good, but I like to be machinelike....These guys are all too laid back."" New quarterback Deondre Singleton teamed up with his good friend Homer Bush for a game-breaking passing combination, while running-back Chris Moore, when not in trouble with Shannon or the school authorities, would set state rushing records during the next two seasons. The 1990 season ended with a bitter semifinal elimination at home. The following year, however, saw it all come together (despite an ominous loss at the dedication of the school's new stadium) as Shannon growled, cajoled, and jury-rigged his way to another state championship. Told with a light touch but little flair for drama, Horrigan's balanced report neatly avoids the inspirational cheerleading of so many other success stories.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992


Page Count: 324

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992