Sports in Hell

Sports in Hell by Rick Reilly Read Free Book Online

Book: Sports in Hell by Rick Reilly Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rick Reilly
rip-snorting toward our Texas Hold ’Em, I’m off like a prom dress.
    But then again, I’m not in Angola State Prison (Angola, Louisiana), which is one of the few places you can see bull poker these days, and I’m not doing a life sentence, which 85 percent of the fellas there are doing. So we humped our butts across the country to go to jail.
    Two hours northwest of Baton Rouge, Angola is surrounded by alligators and bears and twenty-five miles of woods and rednecks on all sides. Most of the inmates are on full-ride scholarship—lifers—which explains why approximately 500 necks nearly snapped in half when TLC walked by the exercise yard in a tight “Wonder Woman” T-shirt and spray-on jeans.
    Now, TLC is noticeable on Park Avenue, to say nothing of Angola prison. She’s a kind of cross between Faith Hill and a young Cheryl Tiegs. A long time ago, she was Miss Teenage California, it just doesn’t seem like it. About five-nine and built along the lines of Jessica Rabbit, she has Tahiti-blue eyes, California blond hair, and a swing on her back porch that would make the pope bite a hole in his hat. Not many women visit Angola, never mind a TLC, so you can imagine how many bench presses suddenly went unspotted.
    TLC was nonplussed. A thousand eyes watched her approach. A thousand eyes watched her reflexively toss her long blond hair back. A thousand eyes watched her sashay away. Five hundred lower jaws lost the will to close. It was a little creepy knowing that night when the lights went off, 500 guys were going to be recalling that same image.
    Our female PR escort took us to the chapel room of the prison church, and there we were, face-to-face with four murderers. No guns are allowed inside Angola, including on the guards. It was just two women and a jittery sportswriter against four guys who could take us hostage in three seconds. Break off a table leg. Block the door. Yank a shiv out of a boot. Anything. What was I going to do, squirt them with my fountain pen?
    But the more we talked to them, the more relaxed we got. These four were all going to be in the prison rodeo the next day. More than 11,000 people would be coming with the fervent hope of seeing them stomped, trampled, and gouged, which seemed just fine with these guys. “I ain’t scared of no bull,” said Marlon (Tank) Brown, a spectacularly built twenty-nine-year-old black man from Baldwin, La., who was doing life for murder. “I don’t mind playin’ rough. I been playin’ rough all my life. Hell, I hunted alligators. Alligators are worser ’n them.” The escort reminded Tank that two years ago he had his leg stomped upon and his jaw broken by a bull. “Whatever,” he shrugged.
    Each man professed even less concern for his physical well-being than the last. “When that bull comes, I ain’t leavin’ the table for nothin’,” said Jerry (Q-Tip) Tucker, a curly-haired white forty-three-year-old from Lodi, California, also in for murder. “Besides, the food’s better in the infirmary.”
    An Indian lifer named Rich (Injun) Sheppard, of Shreveport, La., said: “There ain’t been a year I weren’t hit doing the rodeo. I broke my wrist one time. I pulled my groin. I tore my shoulder and my bicep on a bull ride once. By the time the bull poker event comes around, I’m already hurt. But I ain’t goin’ to the hospital ’til it’s over. No way. You got a whole year to get better.”
    Turns out bull poker isn’t the only suicidal event the inmates would be in the next day. There were seven others, each sounding more brutal than the last, including:
    Bust Out, in which eight (8!) bulls and riders come flying out of the chutes at once, so that the prisoners have to survive not only their own bulls, but the hooves and horns of seven others. I didn’t like their chances.
    Wild Cow Milking, which sounds funny but may be the

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