The Right Kind of Heroes

Coach Bob Shannon and the East St. Louis Flyers

By Kevin Horrigan
(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Hardcover, 9780945575702, 332pp.)

Publication Date: September 1992

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East St. Louis, Illinois, is arguably the most dangerous and desolate city in America, perhaps our starkest example of urban collapse. With the nation's highest murder rate, it's a city in which half of the 41,000 residents are unemployed and 75 percent receive public assistance. In a city where most young men wind up on the streets, in jail, or dead, the high school football coach has sent dozens of his players on to college on football scholarships. He has done it with hard work and absolute dedication to virtues that went out of style in East St. Louis decades ago. He's done it by refusing to desert boys who need his attention and discipline. "If I don't care about them, who will?" he asks. This is the story of Coach Bob Shannon and the East St. Louis Flyers. It is a true story about a coach who won't give up and a team that has beaten all the odds. Author Kevin Horrigan, former sports editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, tells this story by focusing on two heartstopping seasons - 1990, when the Flyers lost the state championship, and 1991, when they won it back. He tells it from up close. We are there on the bench with the boys and their coach for every game. We follow them into the pitiful excuse for a locker room to hear the coach's credo firsthand: "Get it done". No water for the sinks, the toilets, the urinals? Try upstairs. No toilet paper? Bring your own. No money for new uniforms? Wear the old ones until they are rags. Get it done. Just get the job done. Coach Shannon has gotten the job done right for twenty-three years. In his fifteen seasons as East St. Louis High's head coach, the Flyers have won 152 of 173 games and the state championship six times. The Sporting Newshas named Shannon the High School Coach of the Year five times. This is the story of the kind of battle being waged at the core of many American cities - the power of human pride pitted against the power of poverty. In East St. Louis, pride is winning, inch by inch, with a coach and his team carrying the flag.
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