“Man, I knew Seattle was gonna lay down on me. I fuckin’ knew it. Something told me, ‘Don’t take Seattle on the road,’ but did I fuckin’ listen? Fuck no.” Mike G crumples his ticket up and tosses it toward the trashcans under the stairs. He misses, gets up from his chair, walks over, picks up the piece of crumpled paper and dumps it into the trash. “Is it too late for a late joint?” He asks no one in particular. “Where’s Dub at?” He lifts his chin to bellow out loud, “Who got a late joint?”
I’ve already turned in my bets for the afternoon games, but I feel bad for Mike G, so I discreetly wave him over to my cell. “Whatchu got, man? It’s too late to make the move, but I’ll just shoot it over when they call yard recall.”
“Bet,” Mike G says resurrected back to life after having died an early death. “Lemme get the San Fran/Arizona game over. Um…lemme get…Oakland minus three. Nah, scratch that. I’m taking San Diego with the points. Oakland’s some shit.”
I look up at the clock in the day room and say, “C’mon, man, you gotta hurry it up. They gonna call this move any minute now.”
“A’ight, a’ight. Lemme get, uh…” Mike G studies the ticket like it’s the stock market, but I’m pretty sure all he sees are numbers and abbreviations. No formula or answers, nothing jumping off the page like an epiphany. He’s just guessing like anyone else. “Fuck it, lemme get Denver.”
Mike G rubs his chin, contemplating the return on a five stamp three pick, and asks me, “Who you like tonight? The Giants or Indy?”
I hate when they ask me for my picks. First of all, just like everyone else that gambles on sports, I’m superstitious of letting anyone even know what my picks are. Enough people jump on the bandwagon and you can almost guarantee it’s going down in flames. Second of all, I don’t wanna be the guy that gets blamed when all his other picks come in except the one I gave out. Still, it’s Mike G; I’ve been bidding with this dude for about a decade. So I break down and tell him, “I like Indy. Peyton ain’t gonna let his little brother get the best of him, ‘specially at home on a nationally televised game? Fahgetaboutit.”
Mike G leans over on the desk and circles Indy on his ticket. “Give me the Colts then, make it a four pick. Here.” He hands me four stamps, assuming he’s getting a five stamp bet and that I’ll let him slide on the commission, which I end up doing for him because like I said, its Mike G. Everyone loves Mike G.
I gotta say, Al, Eli Manning is playing absolutely lights out. I’ve never seen him so calm inside the pocket. This is truly one of the highlights of his career, being able to come into this hostile environment and out-perform his brother on the big stage. Chris Collinsworth says. Al Michaels lists off Eli’s stats for the night, Seventeen completions on twenty-one attempts, three hundred and ten yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Right now Peyton Manning can only watch from the sidelines and hope his defense can come up with a stop, Collinsworth notes as the camera zooms in on the despondent QB. The front four of the Giant’s defensive line has given him problems all night. They’ve already gotten to him six times, knocking him down twice, coming up with four sacks and forcing two interceptions.
Down twenty-four to six in the fourth quarter, it’s not looking good for Indianapolis at all. Al Michaels says.
“Yeah, no fuckin’ shit,” Mike G yells at Al Michaels.
The crowd in front of the sports TV is deep, and I’m in my chair, leaning with my back pressed up against the wall. Every now and then Mike G will turn around and look at me and shake his head. Like I’m to blame for the miscues in the Colt’s offense, or the ineptitude of their defense. His other three picks came in like clockwork and the only thing he’s waiting on is for Indy to cover four points and he hits. A four pick pays ten to one, and I’m pretty sure ever since the afternoon games got finished he’s been counting the fifty stamps like it’s a for sure lock. He probably has already spent a book of it, probably owes out another book on top of that, so he’s looking up at the TV watching his money burn, money he never owned, but has already spent.
None of that would’ve diminished the immense sense of reward he’d have felt if he had hit, that’s to say if Indy could’ve won and covered four points. There no feeling in the world that compares to standing up and screaming, “To the windooooooow!” and then having the dudes in front of the sports TV yell back at you, “To the wall!” and so on.
Two and a half books ain’t nothin’ but twelve dollars and fifty cents on the compound, but when you ain’t got shit in the first place, that little money can certainly make you feel rich.
The next day, as I’m walking up and down the tiers, passing out the tickets before four o’clock count, I stop in front of Mike G’s cell and knock on the door. He’s stretched out on the lower bunk, his boots hanging off the edge of the mattress, flipping through an old issue of King as he looks up for a second before waving me in.
“Whatcha got for me?” he says, reaching his hand out for a ticket. “Who’s all playing tonight? Monday Night Football, you gotta take the over.”
“Baltimore and Pittsburgh,” I say, repressing the urge to point out that these two teams are among the league leaders in defensive points allowed, that their games usually end up being like, thirteen to ten or something.
“Who’s at home?” he asks, looking right at the ticket where it says “Home” on one side and “Away” on the other, with “Pittsburgh” clearly printed under the side that says “Home.”
But the customer’s always right, isn’t that what they say? So I tell him, “Pittsburgh,” and stand there for a second while he mulls that one over in his head. “Get up with me after count if you’re trying to do something. I’ll be in my cell ‘til they call the unit for chow.”
I turn to leave and am halfway out the door before Mike G calls me back in so he can ask me the inevitable, “Who you like tonight?” Just another day in the penitentiary.