We should have been elated at this premature Christmas gift. The problem, of course, was that we were 80 yards from a score, hadn't moved the ball 80 yards against the Spartans in four years and didn't have anyone with enough stamina to pedal a bicycle that far. We did what the pros do in hopeless situations: We called timeout. Instead of devising strategy, as the pros would, we staggered to the sideline and sprawled out like a bunch of army recruits after a 20-mile hike.
I lay flat on my back, with my eyes closed, and contemplated the propensity for folly that had landed me in captivity 1,200 miles from home, my body covered with lacerations from participating in a game that was meant to be played on grass, and faced with the burdensome task of crossing a sidewalk 80 yards away. My reverie was broken by a conspiratorial whisper.
"Andy, I've got an idea."
I opened my eyes to the delicate features of Todd, a tall, frail member of our team. By prison standards he was considered somewhat flaky because of his flawless diction and his unwillingness to pepper his conversation with obscenities. The name Todd fortified his preppy, privileged-youth image. I never quite understood Todd's dedication to football. He was awkward, unathletic and obviously had no background in sports. But he never missed a practice or an opportunity to play football.
"A sleeper," he said. "Let me try it. I promise I'll catch it."
A couple of times during the year we had attempted that sandlot favorite. Each time, though, the opposition had spotted our man furtively standing just inside the sideline. But we had always used a regular, one of our best receivers. The Spartans would never suspect Todd. The whistle blew to resume play.
"O.K., Todd," I said. "We'll try it."
Before returning to the field, I told one of our guards to remain, as unobtrusively as possible, on the sideline. In the huddle I divulged the plan: "All receivers go 10 yards and angle left. Flood the left side. Todd's on a sleeper. Don't look, for chrissake!"
Puzzled frowns. "Todd?" "Todd?" "Why not somebody who might catch the ball?"
I turned to our quarterback and said, "Joe, fake left and then wing it as far as you can down the right side."