WITH HELP OF THE FOOTBALL COACH—Forgive me, I’m getting personal here. I’m following up on one of those experiences we all share and that being a random thought or memory entering our consciousness from out of the blue. I guess this is the 50th anniversary of a memory I’ve stored all these years and not once remembering it until recently. Maybe it was triggered by a commercial for the upcoming Super Bowl, whom knows?
Here it goes: The St. Augustine High School varsity football team in the fall of 1954 wasn’t so hot. But because my first cousin Joey Diegan was on the team and was the starting right tackle, my parents and my aunt and uncle went to every game that season (Joey’s senior year). I was 9 years old and all I can remember was it being cold; I couldn’t see the game because of the big people in front of me and all I heard was Uncle Steve cussing at the coach. I remember the high school football program listed Joey’s weight as 195 lbs. That was big for then, but he was always lean. The pictures in his yearbook showed him being very buff.
Yes, in my nine-year-old world heroes didn’t come any bigger than Cousin Joey.
While normally Uncle Steve Diegan had a very keen sense of humor, there was something about the poor play of the team that brought out fits of cussing. Decades later, I can still remember Uncle Steve yelling “%%$^^&^&%^% you couldn’t coach yourself out of a paper bag.” I heard a lot and when I started to use some of the words he was yelling at the coach I got in trouble back home. So to this day I blame the football coach at St. Augustine for all the cussing I learned. Of course, Uncle Steve helped. Uncle Steve knew a lot about paper bags because he worked for Safeway grocery chain his entire career.
Saints football team’s worse game that season was against Hoover High School. Saints lost 66-0; they were annihilated and Uncle Steve murdered the language. My father, however, thought it was high hilarity to encourage Uncle Steve to keep yelling at the coach. Aunt Eleanor and my mom pretended they were not with the men. And, me being an only child (like Joey) I was stuck for the ride. The game remains one of the worst in the school’s 90+ year history.
Fortunately, the depth of the loss to Hoover has never been repeated. Today, Saints is one of the powerhouse football teams in town. It is one of the best school’s in San Diego. For the past decade, Saints has sent 100% of the senior classes on to colleges.
And, last time I looked cussing wasn’t on the curriculum.
Also, before I forget Happy Birthday, Joey. R.I.P.
Saints 1954 Varsity Football Team
Coach: John Finan
0 St. Anthony in Long Beach 6
6 Coronado 0
0 Chula Vista 32
13 Grossmont 40
0 Hoover 66
7 Helix 40
13 La Jolla 7
Record 2 wins 5 losses.