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Monday, October 19, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Football? - Sept. 14, 2009

The regular season for professional football began this week. Watching and gambling on football is a major pastime at Stateville, as well as at other prisons. During the games, you can hear numerous inmates cheering loudly, yelling insults, clapping, banging, and making the occasional ooh's and aah's. There are many one-on-one bets made between people before, and even during, the games. People yell out to one another, even from galleries far away, to place a bet. There are also a few bookies who take bets, fantasy football "commissioners," and an occasional pool. Prisoners are bored, and spend enormous amounts of time in their cells. Football gives them something to do, and get excited about.

I also like the sport of football. Before my arrest, I played organized football in a private league, and also at school for a number of years. I typically played the position of defensive end, but did from time to time, find myself in other positions. I was good on the defensive line, and there were a number of quarterbacks who feared being sacked because of me. However, the opposing coach would eventually make adjustments, and have plays go the other way, or pitch the ball past me to a receiver. I had a coach who regularly warned me not to get sucked in, but the temptation to get to the quarterback or make a big play sometimes got the best of me.

Because I played football for a number of years, I probably pay more attention to the intricacies of the game. I also watch it sometimes from the perspective of a player. I am not one to be yelling, screaming, or banging, but the sport can sometimes get my full attention. I look at the strategies employed, the plays of individual players, and the team as a whole. Of course, I also enjoy the exceptional talent or plays exhibited during a game. At times, I will wonder if I had the talent to play successfully in college or on a professional football team, although I never contemplated the idea of a sports career, and had other ambitions and dreams.

I watched a few games this week, in part or totality. The Sunday night game was the most watched, and emotional game for the inmates at Stateville. The game was the Chicago Bears vs. the Green Bay Packers, and was played at Lambaugh Field in Wisconsin. Most of the people at Stateville are Chicago Bears fans, but there are a few "haters." Haters are prison slang for people who just like to root against a popular team without liking the opposing team. I do not really have teams I like or dislike, especially now that players are traded and switched about so often. I have particular players that I like, and if enough of them are on one team, then I will favor that team, and vice versa. There are considerably more players I like on the G.B. Packers team, and coaching staff than are on the Bears. Thus, I was a Packer fan last night, and contrary to the vast majority of people here, was glad when they won in a dramatic fashion in the last quarter.

I do not typically make one on one bets, but occasionally I will. Yesterday, someone wanted to wager me ten dollars on the G.B./Bears game. I told him the highest I would bet was five, and he said that was not worth his time. On the Superbowl, I will bet higher amounts, or on certain playoff games, but not otherwise. When the Bears made the Superbowl a few years ago, another man wanted to bet me one hundred dollars. Again, I told him no. He settled on a twenty dollar wager, though, and bet another person eighty. Later, he told me I should have accepted because I would have won a hundred, but I did not want him to harbor any bitter feelings towards me. There are some people, although not this man, who become terribly upset when they lose. I have had people become upset upon losing a few dollars; they were sore losers.

For the first time last year, I played Fantasy Football. I do not like playing this game because it is very time consuming, and I have better things to do with my time. Plus, I do not trust the commissioners who make the rules and count up your score from week to week. However, a cellmate of mine went to segregation, and left me three teams. I did not even want one, let alone three, but he was unable to play the game from Seg, and did not want to forfeit. I won second place in two different leagues, and may have won first place in one of them, but did not confront the commissioner about my skepticism because there was not much difference in the reward.

This year, there are more parlay tickets circulating than usual. A parlay is where you must bet on more than one game, and the more games you bet on, the higher your payoff. The catch is that you must win every game you wager on, and if you lose just one, you do not receive anything. The tickets cost a minimum of one dollar, and the highest payoff I saw this week was three hundred for a dollar. Wagers are not made in cash, of course, but in commissary goods. Cigarette packs were used regularly as currency, but smoking has been banned in Illinois' prisons since January 2007, when a legislative bill was put into law that forbid smoking in any public building. This week, I noticed an amateur parlay ticket that had poorly set spreads, and payoffs better than any casino in Law Vegas would ever give. I placed a wager on a pick four, and won. I would have placed more money on the ticket, but with a new bookie who I do not trust, I did not want a possible problem in getting paid.

A few weeks ago, the prison's internal affairs unit raided a number of prisoners' cells in a different cell house. They spent hours looking in cells for any fantasy football paperwork. A number of people were taken to segregation, and the guards were not believing the men who said it was merely fantasy, and just done for fun, not money. In my cell house, fantasy football drafts were done this week, just before the first games. The draft is done by prisoners yelling their picks out of their cells. Any snitch or guard could easily know who was involved. The majority of guards do not care, however, and many play fantasy football or gamble themselves. This is probably why the internal affairs unit conducted the searches.

There is a double-header Monday night football this evening. The New England Patriots play the Buffalo Bills, and then the San Diego Chargers play the Oakland Raiders. I will watch the first game, but not the second. One game is enough football for me tonight. Although the Patriots are expected to win easily, I suspect it will be a better game than anticipated. It is just about game time, and thus I close this journal entry.