I braced to block the inevitable heavy charge from our weak side. I cross-body blocked the slashing end, but the Spartans' blitzing linebacker made a wide charge. From my position on the ground I saw him turn the corner with blood in his eye, preparing to blindside Joe, who was faking left. I usually played within the rules, but, as I had often done with the penal code, I played it by ear. I reached out with both hands and grabbed his ankles, throwing him off balance. As he stumbled past Joe, reaching out vainly with one arm, I saw Joe turn to the right and launch a high wobbler toward the right sideline.
An urgent voice bellowed from the Spartan secondary: "Sleeper!"
Two bodies pinned me to the turf. I lifted my head and scrutinized Joe's face as he followed the course of his pass. Like a golfer employing body language, he tilted left, then right, his eyes lifting and descending with the pigskin. He grinned, clapped once, eyes wider than a speed junkie's. Finally, both hands went up, and he screeched like a game-show contestant as he fell to his knees in supplication. Then a roar erupted from the gallery. Irish 12, Spartans 7.
Seven minutes still remained, and the Spartans immediately went to work. They moved the ball at will. A dejected silence fell across the field as the Spartan machine advanced deep into our territory. Cellblock C cast a late-afternoon shadow against our backs as we dug in. The Spartan quarterback barked signals. Just before the snap, the sound of a nightstick striking concrete echoed across the yard; that meant line up and return to cells. The referees instantly signaled the end of the game. The Spartan coach screamed from the sideline, "Hey! It ain't time to go in yet! We got another 15 minutes of yard time!"
Then all the guards rapped their nightsticks against the cellblocks. A prison timetable is inviolable. When those sticks start banging the walls, all activity is finito.
We hugged and slapped one another in jubilation, and I saw tears of joy—pride—in the eyes of hardbitten men who usually hid sentiment beneath a cloak of cynicism. Moments of elation are rare for convicts.
No Super Bowl rings were forthcoming, no six-figure salaries or newspaper headlines or locker room interviews. Just a momentary high—which, minus the hoopla, is what sports is about. In that instant, I had an inkling of how Mazeroski must have felt when he rounded third and headed for home.
Back in my cell I peeled off my "equipment" for the last time at Green Haven, savoring the moment, a single victory in four years. The guard who had rescued our win with his timely rap on the cellblock paused before my cell while taking head count. "Sorry about cutting your game short," he said. "I got screwed up on the time, but"—he winked—"we all make mistakes, right?"