And if he couldn't relieve his tensions?
"Somebody would get hurt." He shrugs at the logical simplicity of what he has said. "It's not just me," he continues. "I was in a riot at Chino that started because there weren't enough weights to go around. There was a waiting line, and tension built up over waiting to get to the weight pile so you could lose that tension by lifting weights. It was a paradoxical situation. What every prison needs is more equipment, like they have at El Reno. That's what McIntosh did. That place has tons of weight. I mean, literally, you measure it in tons."
McIntosh stands gazing proudly out at the 10-acre athletic complex in the vast El Reno yard. This is the largest and probably best-organized prison rec facility in the country. Nearly a thousand inmates engage in everything from basketball to soccer, with scarcely a guard visible. This is where Longnecker frolicked, and inmates still remember him fondly. Red Dog pushes his pony tail aside and reflects on his biker buddy: "I don't think he would have stayed here longer just to play—but he'd have thought about it."
McIntosh strides into the immaculate El Reno gym and points out the glass backboards, the snap-back rims, the bleachers and the electric scoreboard. "Beautiful, isn't it?" he says. He's the king here, and, given his size, that role suits him well.
Intramural teams are playing hoops, one after the other in an unbroken stream of competition. There are guys with bizarre hairdos and earrings and hideous tattoos, but there are no rough fouls and no one argues with the referees, who are also inmates. "They know if they fight they get locked up," says McIntosh. "On the street the rules change. But in here they like it if you lay down the rules." He shrugs and smiles. "It's a funny little web."
It is, indeed. Following the rules equals freedom in a place that exists only to deprive you of your freedom. A contradiction to rival anything from Orwell's Brave New World, but at the moment, deep inside the basement rec area of the state prison in Stillwater, it's difficult to ponder such things while a man with pumped-up arms is staring at you hard enough to give you the chills. As it turns out, the man is in prison for executing three people in a drug deal, binding them with wire and then shooting each in the head. And he feels no remorse.
"You assault a guard, you get a year in solitary," says guard Jim Foster, who watches the man walk away slowly, perhaps to the weight room. Like all guards at maximum security prisons, Foster is unarmed. "Solitary's a strong deterent. But it would be safer, I suppose, if a guy like that didn't build himself up."
Three Stillwater guards talk at the control station. Near them is a broken Fussball table. It has been out of action since inmates ripped out the rods that move the little soccer players and made swords out of them. The guards mention a convict who got out last year, a guy who had killed somebody and then, they say, eaten his heart. "He killed his parole officer after that and they found the victim's fingers in his pocket," says one of the guards. "Part of a cult."
Even with sports, you think, you could not do time. You know that now.
The guards talk about the prison's "varsity" basketball team, which played a free-world team in a league game last night in the upstairs gym. One of the inmate players is pretty good and has told people he wants to try out for the new NBA Minnesota Timberwolves when he's freed. Foster shakes his head. "He'll be back," he says. "A lot of these guys like it here. It's as easy as being on the streets, probably easier. The authorities ring a bell, tell you what to do. Eat a meal, play basketball."