Nick and Manny swimming through Big Sandy River along the Oklahoma State field. A number of players are barely visible in the distance.

Manny: Shh.

Nick: What?

Manny: Stop.

You hear that?

Nick: Hear what? No.

Manny: There’s somebody up ahead.

Nick: I don’t see anybody.

Manny: Maybe it was nothing.

Nick: Let’s wait another second.

Manny: Nevermind. I don’t know what I

Nick: Look. Look look look.

Animation: The players are slowly creeping toward Nick and Manny.

Manny: FUCK! Fuck.

Nick: SHH.

Manny: Fuck.

Nick: We gotta dive.

Manny: They’ll find us underwater. Look, there’s lots of ‘em.

Why are they moving so slow?

Nick: Because they see us.

Manny: Oh Jesus.

Go go go go!

Animation: Nick and Manny turn around and swim back to shore, with a large number of players in pursuit.
“1:15 A.M.”
Overhead map showing Nick and Manny with 125 Oklahoma State players in close pursuit.

Juice: they gotta make a turn somewhere

if they don’t, Oklahoma State’s just gonna keep pushin em east, they can’t let that happen

Ten: Best to turn immediately at Ole Miss, seems like.

Juice: yeah that’s what i’d do

Nine: Not southwest, though. They should take Ole Miss northeast.

Ten: Huh?

Nine: Yeah, for misdirection. They have no idea who Nick and Manny play for, right?

Juice: nope

all OK State knows is that someone’s dickin around on their field somewhere with 9 footballs, and there are a couple strangers here who are running away from em. why would they run? think they can connect the dots pretty easy there

Nine: But since they don’t know which team they’re dealing with, they can’t really know where they’re trying to go. Nick and Manny should fake like they’re trying to go north.

Ten: It’s just … that’s too much dancing around.

They should keep it simple. Like here, just do this.

Ten’s proposed route for Nick and Manny that would bypass Oklahoma State’s players by turning southwest, then northwest.

Ten: Head southwest on Ole Miss, then just turn on Georgia and cut northwest.

Nine: They haven’t created enough distance, though. When they turn southwest, Oklahoma State is still close enough to get eyeballs on them. They’ll see which way they go.

And if they see that … they can just split up, send some players to the Georgia-Oklahoma State intersection to wait them out.

Ten: Well, they don’t have to take Georgia. They could …


Map showing the perils of Ten’s proposed route, as the Southern Great Lakes loom large just south.

Nine: Yeah, you see?

They’re too scared of the Sharks to try to cross the lake. Which means they’ll just have to make it back to OK State’s field anyway. And they’ll have to make so many transfers to do that that they’ll be pinpointed, no problem. If the Cowboys don’t scoop ‘em up, someone else will.

Plus, J, you said the rule is to head northwest, right?

Juice: when in doubt yeah. more escape routes, less busy

Ten: Yeah, okay. True.

Look Nine, you called it! There they go!

Map showing Nick and Manny’s decision to turn northeast and switch to the Ole Miss field.

Ten: I still don’t like it.

I get the logic, but how many times have you seen a ball player try to create yardage by going backwards? How often does that end in disaster?

I don’t like this.

Juice: lol look at you, you’re obsessed with this game


“1:58 A.M.”
Map showing that Nick and Manny have progressed several miles northeast to the Ole Miss/Mississippi State intersection. 100 Oklahoma State players are pursuing, but aren’t quite as fast. 25 Oklahoma State players remain on their home field.
Close-up of Nick and Manny on the Ole Miss-Mississippi State intersection.

Manny: Hold up, I gotta piss.

Nick: Now?

Manny: Oh no, not now. I was just thinking, that’s something I’d like to do someday. It’s on my bucket list.

Nick: What?

Manny: Yes, now! Jesus!

Animation: In an iconic moment from a 2019 Ole Miss-MIssissippi State game, wide receiver Elijah Moore celebrates a touchdown by lifting up one leg and pretending to pee like a dog.

Nick: Alright, fine. I guess we got a minute.

Manny: Yeah, we do. They’re not the quickest team I’ve ever seen. Is that Oklahoma State?

Nick: Gotta be, yeah.

Manny: Big 12 speed, baby.

Nick: I think we go south here, right?

Then just get right back on Oklahoma State and head west.

Juice: noooo don’t do that.

Nick’s proposed route that would take them south on Mississippi State’s field, back to Oklahoma State’s field. The folly of this route is evident, as 25  Oklahoma State players still remain on that field.

Manny: I think it’s too soon for that.

We gotta draw ‘em out more. We gotta get ‘em further off course.

Nick: We can’t just be running all over the country, man. It’s bad enough we had to switch fields at all. Just get back on course as soon as possible.

Manny: Nahhh, no no no, that’s how you get trapped. They’ll just close in on us from both sides. north and south. That’s exactly what they’ll do, too, that’s the playbook.

And it won’t even matter how much faster we are. We’ll be fucked.

Nick: Okay, well, we got like two minutes before we gotta get running again. What do you wanna do?

Manny: Let’s take a loop, but let’s take a bigger loop.

Manny’s proposed route, which takes a much wider turn and has them pivoting south on the Northwestern field instead.

Manny: We keep on this for a little longer, get to Northwestern, and THEN we cut south, then we keep on west like you were saying. That’s not far. We can do that tonight.

Plus, if they watch the scoreboard and they see that we fuckin’ went right past Mississippi State just so we could get to Northwestern, what does that let us do?

Nick: It makes ‘em think we’re Northwestern.

Manny: Yeah. It lets us fake like we’re Northwestern. So then they send a bunch of their people up north looking for us.

Ten: Ehhhhh I don’t know about this one. They’re panicking.

Nick: I mean, MAYBE. Big maybe.

No man, no. Let’s stay simple. Let’s just head south, right now.

Manny: Nick.

You know I don’t like digging up old shit. And you know I’m not trying to, you know, throw it in your face or whatever.

Juice: oh here we go

Nick: Oh, here you go.

Juice: lol

Nine: Don’t tell me they’re gonna start fighting NOW.

Manny: Nooooo. No. Listen to me. You listen. You got your way with the train. And you didn’t involve me in that decision. And now it’s my turn to make a call.

Nine: This is the greatest fumble recovery in centuries and they’re really gonna stop and fight.

Manny: And I’m telling you … we’re being chased by what, a hundred players? Maybe more? And then they might call in favors with another team, send a fuckin’ army after us? Maybe a smarter army?

Whatever the easiest option is, we CANNOT take it. We CANNOT. We can’t be predictable. We gotta throw a wrench in it.

Nick: All right.

Manny: All right?

Nick: Okay! Okay. We’ll do it the way you want to do it.

Manny: Come on, baby. Let’s bring it on home.

Let’s get to the beach.

Sunset over the city of San Diego, as San Diego State’s field runs through it and ends at the Pacific Ocean.
“3:31 A.M.”

Radio: Aaaand a quick pause for station identification. This is KCPJ-AM SportsTalk 790, Stillwater, Ohhhhhhhklahoma. Thirty minutes until the top of the hour, I’m Greg Griffin.

It has been a WILD night here in Stillwater for those of us staring at the scoreboard. Oklahoma State has fallen all the way down from #3 in the country, all the way out of the rankings. While that might seem at first like disaster, it sure seems as though whoever’s carrying these footballs is running scared from Oklahoma State football.

Coach E, once again, thank you for being gracious enough to come on the program in the middle of the night.

Coach E: Happy to, Greg, I’m happy to.

Radio: Now, I know you’re out there in Tennessee, on the scene with the Oklahoma State football team, and I don’t want to keep you too long. And of course, there are some operations you do not want to make public. But how much can you tell us about what Oklahoma State is doing to recover these footballs?

Coach E: Now, you are right that at the moment, there are things we will say about this situation, and things we won’t. But one thing I can tell you, Greg, is that we’re sending the whole house after them. All 100 players are giving chase, and we’ve got our 25 home-field players ready to support as well.

Radio: A full house. You know, Coach, I think that’s gonna make the boosters very happy. Now, can you tell me, how many footballs are we dealing with?

Coach E: That information we don’t think is wise to share. But we can tell you that this is a very big fumble. A very big fumble.

Radio: “A very big fumble.” Well folks, I think that’s about as complete an answer as we can hope to get. Could be five and it could be fifty.

Coach E: Ha, well, one thing I can tell you is that it’s not fifty. They’re not moving through the woods in a pickup truck.

Radio: But at any rate, Coach, recovering a fumble of this size could change the future of Oklahoma State football. We’ve seen how a high ranking has helped recruiting for other programs. Hell, we’ve seen how it’s benefited Michigan State, that’s for sure.

So what I would love to hear from you is, you know, you’re a newcomer to this program. You’ve only coached this team a couple years. You’re not even from Oklahoma, which made some within the fanbase a little concerned. What would recovering this fumble mean to you? Do you feel like it would secure your legacy in Stillwater?

Coach E: You know, and I appreciate you saying that, Greg, and of course, it would mean everything in the world to me. But my focus is on this program. I’m not thinking of me, I’m talking about Oklahoma State, and I’m thinking of my responsibility to my players. Making sure that they


Greg, I’m sorry, we have a situation developing and I’m gonna need to let you go.

Radio: You know what, Coach, we are just now seeing that ourselves as it seems as though the … the footballs have now transferred to Northwestern. They’re now on Northwestern. Coach, I’ll let you go. Good to talk to you.

Coach E: Thank you.

Radio: *click*

Coach E: When was this?

Hal: Just a few seconds ago.

A view of the public scoreboard, showing that Northwestern has moved up into third place.

Coach E: Okay! We’re cookin’ now.

Here we go. Here we go.

Hal: I think they want us to think they’re Northwestern.

Coach E: Uh huh. If they were they would’ve turned well before they hit the river. Not that stupid, y’all.

Alright. I want everybody huddled up in two minutes. All 25 on the home field, tell ‘em to call in. All hands.

Hal: You know what you’re gonna call?

Coach E: Almost. I will by the time you set it up. Keep everyone moving, I’ll be right behind you.

Hal: You got it, coach.

Coach E: Hey, Hal. Hold up, before you go. Does Oregon still have scouts up north?

Hal: Yeah, a little east of Paducah, last I checked. Should be five of ‘em.

Coach E: I think we’ll need to call in a favor with them. We need lookouts.

Hal: What do you wanna give ‘em?

Coach E: Could offer free passage on our field for a year. I don’t know how much of a shit they’d give about that, though.

You know what, just give ‘em a football.


You sure?

Coach E: If we fall on this fumble we’ll have nine. We can give one away. We need ‘em bad for this.

Hal: You’re the boss. I’ll call ‘em up.

Coach E: Thanks.


Map showing that Oklahoma State’s 100-player squad is coming very close to the Ole Miss-Northwestern intersection.
“3:41 A.M.”

Coach E: Okay, gonna give everyone just a moment to let the room fill up. Everybody keep moving.


Coach E: Whoever that is on the call, I appreciate that you’re marching, but could we please mute?


Hal: Everybody, please mute your


Hal: phones while Coach is speaking.


Coach E: All right. I think we’ve got a full huddle here, so we’re just gonna push through this.


Coach E: For those of y’all who have been near the back of the pack tonight, I’m gonna catch all y’all up.

Those nine footballs that were on our field? We popped ‘em loose tonight. That dent in the scoreboard that everyone in the country saw? We did that. We did what we set out to do. And we should be


Coach E: proud of that.

While we were crossing the river, a few of y’all on the front line got eyes on ‘em. The good news, there’s only two of ‘em. The bad news, there’s only two of ‘em. The worse news is,

Phone: SHT SHT

Coach E: whoever they are, they’re quicker than Hell.

But we’re gonna tie ‘em right up. We’re gonna bring these balls back to Stillwater. And this is how we’re


Coach E: gonna do it.

Map with Coach E’s notes on top, highlighting two zones on Northwestern’s field. Zone 1 sits between the fields of Oklahoma State and Ole Miss; Zone 2 sits between the fields of Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

Coach E: These are gonna be our two crunch zones. They just moved to Northwestern a few minutes ago, so we know they’re in one of these two areas. First zone’s about 20 miles long, second one is closer to 25.


Coach E: AGAIN, whoever that is, please, please mute your phone.

Now here’s how we’re gonna tie ‘em off.

Animation: Coach E’s plan to surround them on all sides. Five Oregon players will be utilized to close in from the north, 25 Oklahoma State players will be standing guard on their own field, and the remaining Oklahoma State players will patrol through the closed-off section of Northwestern’s field.

Coach E: Red teams, you stay put. You park your asses on your intersection and you don’t move. If they try to come your way, they’ll have nowhere to go.


Coach E: I’ve put in a call to Oregon. They’re gonna team up with us for the night. They’ve got five posted up at Mississippi State, and they’re gonna send word if they see anybody comin’ their way.


Coach E: Orange teams, you’re gonna flush ‘em out. Move, but be thorough. Orange Team North, you’re a team of 50 and you’re gonna blitz north.

Orange Team South, there’s only 25 of you because I don’t think it’s as likely they’re gonna be down there. Eyes open, though. There’s only two of ‘em, and I’m sure they’re hiding. Get eyes on every yard. If make it back down to our home field and you haven’t found ‘em, I’m gonna send all teams north.

Now, it’s on


Coach E:

It’s on each and every one of y’all to keep your eyes out. There’s no other team in our position. No other team in this part of the country who has nearly as many players as we do. No mistakes, no excuses.

This is our chance to make our mark. This is our chance to make history. This is our moment and we will rise to it. You hear me? Every single one of us will rise to




aw fuck


Coach E: Okay. Y’all know what to do. Break.

“4:18 A.M.”
Close-up of the 100 Oklahoma State players on Northwestern’s field.

Nine: Bumpus Mills. Huh.

Ten: What?

Hey! Hey, you’d better not be researching.

Nine: Just for a minute.

Ten: God damn it! Your battery can’t take that right now!

Nine: Hold on, hold on.

I think it’ll be worth it.

“6:07 A.M.”
Map showing Nick and Manny’s location very close to the Northwestern-Oklahoma State intersectin, where 25 Oklahoma State players are waiting.

Nick: God damn it.

Manny: You counted a hundred earlier, right? I only counted a hundred.

Nick: Yeah.

Guess they had their home-field players trailing behind ‘em.

God damn it.

Manny: All right, well ...

Can we sneak past ‘em?

Nick: Not with all these leaves, man. Every time you step it sounds like corn flakes.

Manny: Let’s just cut the corner then. Use a few seconds of OBT if we have to.

Nick: Nah, ‘cause look. You see five? I only see five.

Close-up of Nick and Manny, with five Oklahoma State players in the distance.

Nick: There’s no way they’d send just five of their home-field players all the way the fuck out here. They sent ‘em all. They rest of ‘em are probably close by.

Manny: Well then we just cut a longer corner, then. Spend couple minutes of OBT if we have to.

Nick: Man, you know we can’t afford to do that.

Manny: I guess we try back north, then.

Nick: Nowhere else we can fuckin’ go.

“7:19 A.M.”
Map showing that Nick and Manny have headed north, but are now about to run into another 25-player Oklahoma State squad.

Juice: oh no

they’re gonna get crunched

this is like the trash room scene from the dark vader

Ten: From the

From the what?

Sometimes it’s kind of a fun puzzle to try to discern what the fuck you’re talking about.

Juice: i am a blessing to all who surround me

Animation: The 25 Oklahoma State players appear ready to cross the river. Nick and Manny sit on the other side.

Manny: That’s … babe, that’s too many of ‘em. That’s at least 20. That’s like 25. That’s too many of ‘em.

Nick: We gotta move.

Manny: Nah man.

They’ll be here in a few minutes. Let’s just … let’s just sit.

Nick: You cannot do this.

Manny: I’m tired, man. I’m used up.

Nick: You cannot give up on me.

Manny: It’s done, man! It’s done! It’s fucking over.

Put the map away.

Nick: No.

Manny: Fine then, do whatever.

Fuck, man. Two thousand years …

Two thousand years.

We fucked ‘em up for a while there, though. We got everybody crossed up.

And the train. We’re gonna be famous for that.

It shouldn’t have ended like this. Man, it’s my fault! It’s my fault! We shoulda just cut north. Or I don’t know, cut anywhere else.

Nick: No it’s not. It’s not your fault.

Manny: It’s my fault, man, it’s my fault.

Nick: Babe, come here.

Nick and Manny embrace as Oklahoma State moves closer.

Nick: You and me, babe. You and me.

Can you do something for me?

Manny: What?

Nick: Can you meet me in Missouri?

Manny: Hey! Hey what are you




Animation: Nick takes the footballs, sprints south a  bit, then streaks off the field along a road headed west.
“7:27 A.M.”

Juice: ooooooh boy

Nick’s got some balls on him

Ten: Well, yeah.

Juice: no i mean like: Nick’s got some nuts on him

Ten: Well, yeah.

He clearly made the conscious decision to run on pavement. He’s definitely gonna use the road.

Map highlighting Donelson Parkway, the road on which Nick is running, which connects the fields of Northwestern and Ole Miss.

Ten: That’s 5.38 miles. About 95 conventional football fields.

How much out-of-bounds time does he have?

Juice: 16 minutes, 53 seconds.

Ten: Wow.

Juice: yeah jesus i’m glad i gave him that extra 10 seconds the other day

he’s gonna have to run about five miles at a pace of 3:08 a mile

plus he’s carrying a backpack with nine footballs in it

plus he’s wearing boots

plus it’s hilly as fuck through here

plus he’s already gassed, he’s been runnin all over stewart county tonight

Ten: What do you think?

Juice: he’s fuckin toast, right?

i could see a situation where he gets like halfway across, maybe two-thirds. he gets ejected, then it’s Manny’s job to try to go out there and take it the rest of the way

of course if that happens, half the country’s gonna come out and set up camp around here. who knows who ends up with those footballs but it won’t be Manny

man this is such a recurring theme in this relationship. once in a while Nick just goes and does what he wants. so intent on doing right by Manny that he forgets to, you know, do right by him. doesn’t communicate with him

Ten: Oh, you know what? Donelson Parkway. He’s gonna run right past Fort Donelson. Where it used to be, anyway.

Juice: is that one of y’alls’ civil war things

Ten: Yeah.

This is where Grant got famous. He took Fort Donelson and opened up a big chunk of Tennessee for the Union. Thing is, he personally knew one of the Confederate generals in charge of defending the fort, and he’d later say more or less that he knew the guy was soft and would fold pretty quickly once the attack began.

He was right. The general managed to save his own ass by taking a boat across the river and escaping. Turns out this guy was kind of delusional and thought he was some incredibly important asset for the South.

What’s funny about that is, when Grant was asked about that later, he said that if he’d caught him, he would have just thrown him back. Said that he was such a shit general that he was most valuable for the Union if he just kept his job fighting against them.

Juice: lol

what was his name

Ten: Are you ready to hear this?

Illustration of Confederate general Gideon Pillow. An 1862 newspaper clipping notes that General Pillow conspired to pass command of Fort Donelson to another general so that he himself could cut and run.

Juice: oh come on man NO WAY MAN


Ten: Nine, was this the story you were trying to dig up? I’m sorry if I stepped on your toes.

Nine: No … mine’s something else.

Still working on it.

“7:35 A.M.”

Coach E: We got somebody. We got somebody!

Manny: It’s okay. I’m not running.

Oklahoma State reaches the other side of the river and runs into Manny.

Manny: Manuel Baez, San Diego State.

Coach E: I’m sorry, did you say San Diego State?

Manny: Yeah.

Coach E: You know there are penalties for impersonating a football player, right? You’re on the field. This is part of the field. You can’t be here.

Manny: Look.

Manuel Baez’s football card. His bio reads: “The Elite Series Sports Card Company fields innumerable requests each year to cease production of Mr. Baez’s football card. It is the official policy of Elite Sports to print a football card for every player on every active roster in college football, regardless of whether they ‘play.’ Elite Sports considers this matter closed and will not be responding to further inquiries.”

Coach E: Oh my God. You’re that guy!

Manny: Why thank you.

Coach E: I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be rude, it’s just …

How did you get out here? How did you even get here?

Manny: I ran. Listen, there’s some pressing business. I’d like to propose a trade.

My husband and I have the footballs. They’re in a secure location off the field.

Coach E: We know, we saw them fall off the scoreboard a few minutes ago.

Manny: I’ll give you the coordinates if you give up your players’ locations.

Coach E: That’s all you want?

All right, sure. Gimme your map.

We got all 125 here along Northwestern. 25 right here. 50 up in Kentucky, 25 up at the Ole Miss intersection, 25 down at our intersection.

Manny: Holy shit.

Coach E: Yeah we got you crunched, sorry to tell you. Good game, though. Y’all put up one hell of a fight. You had us scared for a while there!

Manny: So. The balls are here.

A map showing the location of the nine footballs, which are now very close to the Ole Miss field.

Coach E: How did they get all the way

Manny: His name is Nick Navarro. He’s my husband, he finds a way to piss me off every goddamn day, and he’s the fastest man you’ve ever seen. In order to make it from our home field to the rest of the country, he had to run approximately five miles. He did so at a pace of three minutes, 53 seconds per mile.

What he’s attempting to now, without discussing it with me first, is run a similar distance at a little over three minutes per mile. This means he needs to somehow shave off 45 seconds for every one of those five miles. He only has 16 minutes, 53 seconds of OBT.


Manny: And fifty-three seconds, yeah. I see what he did. He wanted to run on pavement. It’s the closest thing to a treadmill, that’s where he always makes the best time. We’ve been sprinting through woods for so long that actually running on pavement probably feels like a miracle. It’s like swinging a baseball bat with the donut off.

He just took the balls and ran out on me a few minutes ago. All the math in the world says he can’t do this.

But right now he’s on pace to do it. I think he’s actually gonna do it, because I know that man better than anyone, and there’s nothing he loves more than being right.

Coach E: You’re tellin’ stories. I’m sorry. I don’t have time for this.

Manny: I’m not.

Just watch the scoreboard.

When Ole Miss pops up into third place, you’ll know I’m not lying. Should be within the next minute.

Just watch. It’s gonna change. Watch it.

… come on babe …

Animation: Nick runs along Donelson Parkway. The Ole Miss field is visible in the distance.
Close-up of the scoreboard. Nothing has changed.
Close-up of the scoreboard. Nothing has changed.
Close-up of the scoreboard. Nothing has changed.
Close-up of the scoreboard. Nothing has changed.
Close-up of the scoreboard. Nothing has changed.
Animation: Most other schools fall down a spot as Ole Miss suddenly moves up into third place.
Close-up of Nick and his nine footballs on the Ole Miss field.

Coach E: Get me Hal on the line.

Hal! Get all teams southwest. The balls are on Ole Miss.

Manny: You can’t catch him.

Coach E: We’ve got 25 down south.

Manny: You just saw how fast we move. Can you run like that?

Map showing Nick’s location on the Ole Miss field, as well as that of 25 Oklahoma State players who are still at the Oklahoma State-Northwestern intersection.

Coach E: <sigh>

Hal, cancel that. All teams take a breath. Regroup on the home field at 3 p.m.

Good game.

Manny: Good game.

Coach E: Well, now I’d like to propose a trade.

We won’t share your identity with any other team. I think you’ve earned that much from us. Y’all are headed out west, I’m guessing?

Manny: Yeah.

Coach E: Okay. In return, can you use our field to get there?

Manny: For a while, at least. We had plans to break off right before we get to Stillwater.

Coach E: That’s good enough, I suppose. You know, just to keep us high in the rankings for a little while longer. For recruiting.

Maybe to let our fans feel like they got a big win for a while.

Manny: We can do that.

Coach E: It’s a deal, then. Best of luck to you.

Y’all really sat around on the field for, what, 2,000 years so you could pull that?

Manny: About that.

Coach E: All these days we spent marching out here, I kept telling my players it’s all about who wants it more. Who wants it more, who wants it more.

There’s so much about y’all I don’t understand, but I know nobody on Earth wants it like you do.

I mean, what is that?

You waited 2,000 years for this?

What makes you want to do this?

Manny: Ha.

We ask each other that all the time. I like to say that him and me are so damn crazy, of course we married each other. Nobody else would take us.

I just need to try something impossible. That’s what it is for me. I need to find one of the rules of the world and break it.

Coach E: You sure would be doing that here.

There’s really just the two of you?

Manny: Out here, yeah. Just us two.

Coach E: Can I give you some advice?

Don’t let this eat you up. I’ve been through it time and again. I’ve played football a long long time. All kinds of different games, all kinds of different rules. This game’s beat me down over and over again. It’s about to it again. I’m gonna get fired for this.

Manny: Well, you never could’ve known what you were up against. You had no idea we could’ve run out of bounds like that. It’s literally, like nobody’s ever done that!

Coach E: Nah, no excuses, no excuses. Biggest fumble in centuries, and we let it bounce out of bounds. That’s on me. I’m done.

And that’s okay, because that’s what this game does to me. This game hates me. I’m snakebit.

But that’s okay, because it taught me how good it can be sometimes to just let go. Walk away.

That’s the advice, I guess. Lord, I hope y’all make it. But just … don’t let it eat you up if you don’t.

We’ve all seen enough sadness in our time. No need for you to go off and make more of your own.

Life’s too long for that. You got a trillion tomorrows.

Sunset over the United States.

Radio: KCPJ-AM 790, and you know what, we’re coming up on 10 p.m. local time here in Stillwater. Before I have to sign off here, I just wanna make one thing clear.

I’m overjoyed to see those football back on Oklahoma State’s field. I know we all are. And I hope that means that State is indeed in possession of those footballs. That puts us on the map. That gives the fans something to be proud of after going through hundreds of years of losing. The last few centuries of Cowboy football have not been fun, and I feel like, as the fanbase, you know, we DESERVE this. So this would be a happy day.

However, folks, however. And I know people are gonna tell me oh Greg, shut up, you should just just up about this and be happy. But however.

We still don’t have answers. Who had the footballs to begin with? Who’d we beat? What were they doing on Northwestern’s field? What were they doing on Ole Miss’s field? What proof do we, as the fans, have that we’ve got our hands on the footballs? I’m tellin’ you folks, it smells funny. It just smells funny.

And if it turns out things went sideways? If we don’t have possession? Then I’ll just come out and say it: Lacrecia Evans MUST resign as head coach of Oklahoma State football.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about–bbzzzZZZZzZtt–

Ten: Man. Poor Lacrecia.

I can’t believe one person can be so unlucky.

Juice: i cannot believe ANY of that shit

i mean Nick ran at like 20 miles an hour for five miles

Ten: Yeah, I’d seen people do that for short stretches. Never like that.

I keep reviewing the data to make sure he really did that. And he really did that. Makes me wonder what human beings are gonna be capable of in, say, another hundred thousand years. Another million years.

What are we gonna see? Ten-mile throws? What’s the ceiling?

Juice: i dunno, but man

every time i think those little guys hit the ceiling, they bust through it

almost makes you wish there was extraterrestrial life out here just so they could peek in and get a load of this shit.

Ten: Well, they’ve got us.

Someone out here sees them. Someone out here knows.

Animation: Distant view of the Earth as it rotates, with the 111 fields highlighted.

Ten: Huh. I got an email.

Juice: gross

Ten: Shit it’s from Nine!

Oh, that little asshole. They shut down.

Juice: oh so they did

yep Nine’s hibernating. all systems normal. looks like it’s gonna take em a few months to come back online

used every last bit of their battery researching, looks like

Ten: I told them not to do that!

Juice: ah ah ahhhhh you’re fallin into big sister mode again

you know Nine’s gonna do what they want

Ten: I know.

I guess I just miss them already.

Juice: well what’s it say

Ten: Lemme see.

Juice: huh

who is Eugene Jennings

Ten: No clue.

Searching, but it isn’t pulling up much.

Juice: well let’s load it up

you got a few minutes?

Ten: Do I ever.

Nine: On the bank of the Cumberland River sits the Kentucky State Penitentiary.

To Americans, nothing is more frightening than the past, so they built it to resemble a castle from medieval Europe.

It sent an intimidating, menacing message, and television networks were more than happy to produce what was essentially state propaganda to broadcast that message: These people you fear? They will suffer. 

These are the walls between Heaven and Hell. You are on the good side.

But shows like this one never, ever dared to tell us about Eugene Jennings.

Back when Americans would imprison one another by the millions, KSP was among the most high-security prisons in the country. The nature of its construction, along with its surrounding geography, made escape nearly impossible.

In 1958, KSP counted among its inmates 30-year-old Eugene Jennings, a.k.a. Gene Robert Jennings. He was a career criminal who had committed a scattering of robberies throughout the United States.

Jennings was a man who occasionally brought a pistol to a robbery, but never fired it. He smirked in his mug shots. He enjoyed the poetry of Omar Khayyam. He might kidnap you if he really needed a ride, but he wouldn’t hurt you, and you might even walk away liking him. You might say he was not a good man, but he was by no means an evil man.

He’d ended up in KSP after stealing $432 in a holdup in Louisville. He killed no one. He injured no one.

The Louisville jury sentenced him to death.

This sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment. Regardless, if your fellow man has agreed to have you killed over $432, what respect are you supposed to have left for them? For their institutions, their laws, their buildings?

In December of 1958, Jennings and a fellow inmate jumped on the back of a milk truck and escaped Kentucky State Penitentiary. They had done the seemingly impossible. 

The two were picked up by a couple of thrill-seeking young guys who volunteered to drive them to St. Louis, only to find themselves shut in the trunk of their own car. Jennings made it all the way to Chicago, then to Michigan, before eventually being recaptured near Jonesville and returned to KSP.

Two years later, Jennings escaped again. This time, the famously athletic Jennings took a more brazen and direct approach: scaling the prison wall with his bare hands.

What followed was a three-day spree of car-stealing and hostage-taking that ended with his apprehension in a barn not far away. But, as always, no one was hurt. He was even described as “courteous.”

Eugene Jennings had become one of the only people ever to escape from a 20th-century, maximum-security prison multiple times.

And then, in 1962, he escaped KSP a third time. This escape may have been the most embarrassing for the prison. Those stately battlements, the ones built to make the prison look like a castle? Jennings and a friend used them to catch a makeshift grappling hook they made out of bucket handles.

This time, Jennings only made it a few miles east before he was found and returned to prison. With his third jailbreak, he had broken his own record for most escapes from Kentucky State Penitentiary, a record that would stand for years.

Until 1966, when he escaped a fourth time. He was described as “catlike” as he scaled the 30-foot wall yet again, and then he fled through the wilderness and demanded a ride from a man he encountered. He did not demand money, however; he asked nicely for three dollars and he received it. As always, his “hostages” had nothing bad to say about him.

Police set up roadblocks all throughout Bumpus Mills and the surrounding areas. Somehow, he snuck right through all of them. It was his greatest escape.

Jennings started a new life with a new name in Atlantic City. But thanks to his fourth escape and adventures in Bumpus Mills, he was now a member of the FBI’s Most Wanted whose most damning offense at this point, it seemed, was his refusal to be jailed. After a few months, he was found and returned to KSP.

By this point, his reputation prevented him from ever getting close enough to those walls to scale them. So for his fifth and final escape, he didn’t go north, south, east, or west. He went up.

Jennings broke away from a guard and climbed the prison’s iconic water tower. He sat up there for two days. Maybe it was just to get his photo in the paper one last time. Perhaps he wanted to feel free, if only for a while. To feel like a man who could still wander.

After 50 hours, he made his way back down, having concluded what humankind would later learn as a whole: there is nothing for them up here.

We can’t pretend to truly know Eugene Jennings, but he strikes me as a person meant for another time, another world where freedom is true and unconditional, where property can be forgotten. Sins can be forgiven. Failings can be embraced.

He never asked or expected to live forever. Even now, it’s hard to believe he would stay within the lines. But I know he would have loved this American sandbox.

To run, to explore without consequence, to wander without meaning, to play. To love and enjoy our own world. It’s all he ever wanted.

It’s all we ever wanted.