Nothin' but Net

In the only game Mark Skipper plays at Madison Square Garden, the cathedral of basketball, the seventeen-year-old sees an apparition of sorts.

The godlike images of Walt Frazier, Earl "the Pearl" Monroe and Bill Bradley dribble through his mind.

"Here I am," Skipper says to himself, "playing on the same court as them. Here I am. In Madison Square Garden."

Skipper's team is playing for a championship in a New York City summer tournament that attracts the best ball-handlers from the boroughs. Skipper's opponents from Manhattan, the Gouchos, are the perennial champions who are known to recruit players from outside their boundaries--most notably, the McCray brothers, Scooter and Rodney, who are from Mount Vernon.

Skipper and his buddies come from the New Brighton neighborhood on Staten Island, and their team has gone 14-0 to earn its spot. Skipper is the point guard and captain, a role he cherishes.

"I'm the general. I'm in charge, plain and simple. I gotta get the ball to you. I gotta create the shot. See, the big guys can shoot low, bang around on the inside and in the paint. And they can rebound. But not too many big guys can create their own shot. And especially not from one end of the court to the other."

And Skipper's got a game of behind-the-back dribbles, through-the-legs, no-look passes and quick moves to the hole. He's also got some defense--not a lot, but some.

The Gouchos, however, are simply too much for the kids from the Island.
In one play late in the game, Skipper defends with his back to the basket, preventing his man from running the baseline. Squarely in position, Skipper turns to check the ball action. From the corner of his eye, he sees Rodney McCray break to the inside. (Three years later, McCray will win an NCAA national championship with the University of Louisville Cardinal as one of the "Doctors of Dunk.") Skipper spins around to defend the hole, but he's too late. McCray jams the ball hard and lets his body hang from the rim for emphasis. Skipper opens his eyes and sees abdomen everywhere, getting a mouthful of thundering belly for no extra cost.

Skipper's team loses badly, by a score he can't remember. However, he says, "just being there and playing in the Garden was like we won anyway."

Now 39, Skipper stands up six feet tall in his new uniform, a felon-green jumpsuit issued by the Denver County Jail.

Skipper smiles wide and puts his hand up to his waist.
"The second-place trophy was this big," he says, a child's voice escaping.
That summer night, Skipper caught the No. 2 train at Penn Station to downtown and jumped a ferry to cross the Hudson river. He stood on the deck in the cool breeze, eager to get home to show his mother, Lillian, what he got from his game.

Today Mark Skipper plays basketball for a chance to eat a slice of pizza.

The ripe stench of body odor hangs heavy inside the small gymnasium of the Denver County Jail.

There are no windows, and the red brick walls that encase the basketball court don't do much for ventilation. The floor is cement. An armed guard occasionally mans the only entrance to and from the acrid arena.

On March 1, the first day of the tenth annual Denver County Jail basketball tournament, the referee, sheriff's deputy Al Murray, summons the teams representing two cell blocks to center court.

"All right, everybody listen up," Murray says in a serious tone. "We've been doing this ten years. We ain't never had no problems, and we ain't gonna have no problems. There'll be no saggin', no bitchin', no gripin' to the referee."

Murray slowly scans the faces of all fourteen inmates who gather around him in a semi-circle. "So don't trip," he warns.

Teams from fifteen cell blocks have entered the three-and-a-half-month tournament. Dwayne Burris, programs coordinator for the jail--the David Stern of this league--watches the first game from behind the scorekeeper's table. Burris started the tournament ten years ago to give the inmates something to do, something to look forward to. Something, he says, to relieve the tension and stress that builds up inside those who are incarcerated. He asked a popular inmate to help him organize and promote the first tournament, which was gladly approved by Denver corrections chief John Simonet. "The tournament has proven to be a very positive thing for us," Simonet says on the first day of this year's contest.

A squad of shabby misdemeanors is playing with a lot more hustle than skill; their uncoordinated bodies keep missing the strip of padding beneath the rim. The sound of flesh and bones slapping into a brick wall is hard to ignore.

"I don't know why some of these guys play so hard," Burris observes. "They're not going to be here for the championship. It's pride?" he asks, eyebrows raised. "I don't know."

Each Friday, cell blocks submit a list of inmates who will play on game day, the following Monday. Some blocks hold as many as fifty inmates in dorm-style barracks, and Burris lets cell-block justice determine which seven players and one coach will compete.

Murray says the selection committee is usually one person who elects himself captain, then chooses the players.

How is the captain selected?
"Oh, they know who that is," Murray nods. "They know."
Sometimes choosing a team falls to favoritism rather than the best players, Burris says. "Just 'cause you can shoot a nine-millimeter with your homies don't mean you can shoot a basketball."

And misdemeanor squads change frequently, since players are in the clink for just a few days or weeks, then get released. The felon teams are more consistent: Felons wait at the DCJ for sentencing and transfer to a state prison, so they are likely to stick around for at least six months. Compared to the misdemeanors, players on the felon squads also tend to play--and be--hard.

After a misdemeanor squad from 11A took the championship for the first time in 1993, a court-side shouting match broke out. Burris says no one had to be restrained, but the felons were embarrassed to lose to a squad of dime-store thieves and drunk drivers. "It's like if your little brother challenged you to a game, and your little brother won," Burris says. "Your little brother isn't supposed to beat you."

Days in solitary confinement and court dates also hinder team chemistry. On March 22, in the third week of this tournament, Bruce Mingo, a six-foot-three, 250-pound inmate from 8DEF, dominates the court with his physical game. Mingo, age twenty, is in on a first-degree-murder charge after he and three friends beat and stomped a taxi driver to death before stuffing his body into the trunk of his cab. Witnesses testified at the February 11 trial that Mingo's one-two combination dropped 27-year-old Moustapha Marouf to the ground, leaving him unconscious; an autopsy revealed the imprint from one Nike Air Jordan shoe on Marouf's ravaged face. During the game, Mingo wears low-top, jail-issued black Chuck Taylors. The next day, after Mingo scores fourteen points in a close but losing cause for his team, he gets sentenced to life in prison without parole and is transferred out of the jail before 8DEF plays again. Until then, Mingo's cell block had been the odds-on favorite to take the championship.

Traditionally, teams from Building 8 are tournament powers, since that's where the core felons reside--the men in 8DEF were tourney champs in '91 and '92; 8ABC ruled in '95, '96 and '98.

This year there's a new dimension to the game: The court is played by the width, not the length. Burris says the court was too long for the four-man squads, and the out-of-shape inmates tired easily.

"If they were smart," Burris says, watching the players huff back and forth across the 35-foot-long cement floor, "they would keep a man or two in the backcourt. The court is so small, you can afford to leave someone back there." Essentially, Burris's suggestion would cut out the transition from offense to defense. "It's funny," he says. "You watch these guys runnin' up and down, and their bodies are hurtin'." He wags his tongue like a panting dog, and wiggles his arms in mock exhaustion. "You can almost see the sweat coming out with the crack, the cigarettes, their wine..."

Two more bodies fight for a loose ball, sliding into the wall.
"Oo-wee," Burris flinches. "Careful, guys, careful."

Building 22 is the softest cell block in the Denver County Jail.
After it was built nine years ago, the building earned the nickname "The Pink Palace"--not only for the color of its walls, but also for its plush facilities. The other pods were built in the 1950s and resemble the rows of dilapidated double-decker cells at Alcatraz. Two men share each dank cell. Inside the Pink Palace, however, inmates have single-man cells shaped in a large circle, new television sets and a spacious pod where they can commingle. "A city within a city," Skipper calls it. Only felons who are "going to behave" get to live in the Pink Palace, Burris says.

The players from the Pink Palace prefer the term "Deucey Deuce." This year the team from Deucey Deuce, wing C, seems to have the right chemistry: a coach named Joker, a center named Slim and a captain named Skipper.

Joker, whose real name is Joseph James, is maybe five-foot-nine, most of which is mouth.

Joker paces the sideline. "Get that shit outta my house, get that shit outta my house," he says, taunting the other team each time one of his players, usually Slim, blocks a shot. Or "That's what I'm talkin' about, that's what I'm talkin' about" when his team, usually Skipper, scores. He claps, pounds his feet, wags his hips. In one game when his team is ahead, Joker suggests to his opponents--and to anyone else who will listen--"We gotta get this on NBC. We just gotta."

In the third week of the tournament, as a competing team enters the gym, Joker yells: "You gonna get a good look at the future champions today." In the first minutes of the game, Skipper attempts a three-point shot and starts back-pedaling before the ball bounces from the backboard. When his opponents grab an easy rebound, Joker rips into Skipper and the team. "Follow your rebound, Skip, follow your rebound! If people don't start following their rebounds," Joker says to his bench players, his hands grasping his shaved head, "I'm gonna trip."

Joker turns back to the action on the court and puts both hands on his knees.

"Sometimes," a soft voice says from the 22C bench, "people are going to miss their shots, Coach."

Joker looks over his shoulder and shakes his head.
In 22C's next game, two weeks later, Skipper is the first man to enter the gymnasium, the first to change into his uniform and the first to take warm-up shots.

Skipper's determination catches the eye of a scorekeeper who does a poor imitation of ring announcer Michael Buffer: "Ladies and gentleman, it's Skip-peerrrr."

Skipper is eager to try out his team's new defense, which he created three days earlier in his cell. "Defense," he says like a head on Sports Center, "wins championships."

Skipper names the new scheme "Diamond One." The Diamond One zone defense uses three players to form a triangle: One player guards the top of the key and the other two cover the corners. The fourth player--the "one" in the Diamond One--stays beneath the opponent's basket. As Burris noted earlier, the lone man in the backcourt is always in position for a quick bucket if his team steals the ball or beats the opponents off the in-bounds.

Skipper's defense works so well that 22C's opponents from 9B quickly become frustrated. After 22C takes a 23-0 lead, one of the opponents complains to referee Murray after each shot that he was fouled. Starting to give up, the opponent throws up halfhearted shots and whines after the ball bricks off the rim each time.

In one play, the disgruntled opponent dribbles wildly outside the perimeter, searching for a crease to exploit. Skipper breaks from his zone to chase him around like a cat on a mouse. Skipper shouts, "Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey," into his opponent's ear and stomps his feet. Finally, the opponent dribbles the ball off the tip of his sneaker and watches it rebound against the bricks. Skipper's ball.

Joker can't resist.
"Ahhh, that's Deucey Deuce, baby, that's Deucey Deuce."
Murray looks at Joker and puts a finger to his lips.

But the opponent, who trots with a lazy gangsta lean and wears his hair in cornrows, doesn't care much for Joker's enthusiasm. He scowls each time he passes Joker in the transition.

A moment later, the opponent shoots a high-arcing jump shot. While the ball rotates in the silence of the air, Joker shouts, "Deucey Deuce on that motherfucker, aaaay"

The ball clanks off the rim, and 22C rebounds.
Murray blows a whistle on Joker and tags him with a technical foul, which subdues him. Temporarily.

When one of the teams calls a timeout as the score reaches 54-21, Joker leans forward in his coach's chair to glance at the scoreboard. He's impressed. Out of Murray's range, Joker looks at the opposing bench and laughs into his clenched hand, stomps his feet and laughs, "That's fucked up. That's fucked up."

"Why don't you get in here and play," the frustrated opponent says to Joker.
"I'm the coach, dawwwg."
The opponent glares at Joker and turns his back to re-enter the game.
"But I'm a full-time gangsta," Joker reminds his opponent, just loud enough.
The opponent doesn't respond, but the 22C bench continues the jawing.

In the final minute of the game, Skipper sends Joker and the rest of the bench into a wild eruption by dishing a no-look pass that results in two easy points.

"Let's take this shit back to 22, take this shit back to 22," Joker cheers. "Pink Palace? Pink Palace? No more. That's what I'm talkin' about, that's what I'm talkin' about."

22C sets a tournament record by scoring 86; 9B leaves with 37. Undefeated and looking unbeatable, 22C becomes not only the team to beat, but also the team to shut the fuck up.

Dwayne Burris, a disciplined man who wears a "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelet, does not care for the language used by some inmates. Burris rolls his eyes heavenward when clips of jailhouse argot catch his ear, but he's also capable of letting out a small laugh if the remark is particularly witty and not simply gratuitous.

The week after Mingo is sentenced to life and removed from the DCJ after a one-year stay, Burris stands behind the score table watching the action of another game. "It still hasn't hit him yet. He won't ever get out," Burris says of Mingo. "He doesn't know what that means."

But those hard realities are just part of daily life for Burris. "I don't ever ask what people are in here for. It makes me judgmental," he says. "There was this one guy--he had a problem with another inmate. He asked me to mediate their problem, which I did. Well, I learned later that the guy had raped a woman and shoved her bra so far down her throat that they didn't even know it was there until the autopsy. Had I known that, I might have punched him in the mouth.

"Some people would like to lock them up, throw away the key and keep turning the screws slowly. 'Don't give them this, don't give them that,'" he says in a dismissive tone. "Even if we wanted to, our country is not based on that. Laws do not work like that."

But what about the most severe criminals, whose acts are so gruesome, so cruel, that they are seemingly unforgivable?

What would Jesus do?
"If Jesus was against the death penalty, he wouldn't have gone to the cross, now, would he? Not only that, the two thieves on either side of him--did he say anything to stop that?"

Burris pauses to answer his own question.
Burris may conceal his judgments on the inmates behind bars, but he's more vocal in his convictions about the society that exists outside his jail.

When the Denver Broncos asked taxpayers to pitch in for a new stadium last November, Burris was curious how a community could rally for a sports venue when crime and jail space are still severe problems.

Burris wrote an editorial and sent it to both daily newspapers.
The great Roman Empire fell because of government corruption, sexual sins, over-taxation of the people and too much emphasis on entertainment sports. The same thing is happening in our country and specifically Denver. Who in their right mind in this age would want a football stadium instead of a Justice Center/Jail? There are only eight home football games a year and crimes are committed around the clock...The jail would not be crowded if we just locked up real criminals. Let's talk about a stadium when we figure out why jails are full of poor minorities. Let's talk when justice is totally blind and the scales work properly. A bigger jail is not the best answer but we have to realize that all people do not obey the laws. Sometimes we have to lock up the very athletes that we worship.

The letter went unpublished. Meanwhile, stadium supporters raised $2.3 million dollars in a matter of months. Denver citizens passed the stadium tax handily.

"Guess they didn't want to hear it," Burris says of the letter.
Dwayne Burris has worked at the DCJ for sixteen years, and he has had some of the sickest criminals ask him for help. Nathan Thill asked him to fill a prescription for a pair of glasses; another prisoner asked him to call his mother to find out his Social Security number--the inmate had never held a job. Burris also arranges visits for related inmates who are separated by cells. He prepares the annual graduation ceremony for GED graduates, he supervises the jail's drug, alcohol and religious counselors, and he arranges jailhouse marriages. He also guides tours of the jail for at-risk high-schoolers, though he doesn't wholeheartedly agree with the "scared straight" theory. Burris believes in showing kids what they can become, not what they might become.

But when he goes home, Burris does not watch movies about prison, he does not read books about criminals, and he does not talk about life inside the jail.

And when Dwayne Burris stands behind the scorer's table, he watches people--not thieves, rapists and murderers--play basketball.

On May 17, twelve weeks after the tournament began, Burris licks his lips and rubs his belly and exclaims, "It's gettin' chicken time!" He's referring to the trophy for the tournament champs: one meal of their choice from the outside.

Only six teams remain now. Five of the six teams already have one loss and will be eliminated from the tournament if they lose once more. 22C, however, remains undefeated and is the only team that can afford the luxury of losing. The quality of the game is also rising. Scores stay close, and the intensity of play now dominates the air in the small gym, almost enough to mask the odor.

Today the usual suspects from 8ABC face elimination if 22C can knock them out. If 22C wins, it will be the first time a team from the Pink Palace earns more than three wins and makes it into the semi-finals.

But when the metal door swings open and 22C enters the gym, neither Skipper nor Joker appears.

Instead, Slim walks behind a supporting cast of new faces in green jumpsuits. Only two other players remain from the original Deucey Deuce squad, both of whom are small guys, pure shooting guards.

The team that once looked like the 1998 Chicago Bulls now resembles the 1999 Chicago Bulls.

"They lost Skip?" Murray says. "They lost Skip? They don't gotta team now."
"He was their mastermind," Burris says.
Even the look of 22C is comical: Slim stands a lanky six-foot-five, while the five other players around him hope for five-nine in new shoes.

There is no replacement for Joker, who, word has it, has been shipped to Canon City to serve out his sentence for drug possession.

As 22C changes clothes with their bare backs against the brick wall, a player from 8ABC already in uniform walks over to greet Slim. The player stops a few feet away and puts his arms out as if to say, "We came for a challenge and you brought us this?"

Slim says, "We on a skeleton crew today."
"Aaaay," the player nods, slapping a friendly palm into Slim's. "Your team is looking slim. You gonna go down."

"It ain't gonna hurt too much," Slim offers.
"It ain't gonna hurt too much, huh?" the player says, laughing.
The player pulls Slim's arm in and gives him a chest hug.

From the tipoff, Slim comes out raging. He scores the first bucket of the game on an acrobatic reverse layup and hustles down the court to reject a shot so fiercely that even his opponents applaud the effort. 22C's other players scrap around the court, making quick points and causing confusion for their much larger opponents.

But the conundrum for 8ABC doesn't last long.
Without discipline and leadership, Skipper's Diamond One defense looks more like a cinderblock. The team gets beat on man-to-man defense and fails to move the ball offensively.

22C holds on to trail only 23-34 at the half. It's a curable deficit, Slim tells his new teammates at the bench. "C'mon now, guys. That was shit. We can do this."

But the team can't.
In the second half, 8ABC's Paul Brown hits long outside shots. The big men surround Slim, preventing any passes or penetration into the paint. With eight minutes left and the score 57-33, the first voice of enthusiasm comes from the 22C bench.

"C'mon, Deucey Deuce," a first-time player in a No. 14 jersey says weakly.
On the other side, the coach of 8ABC sounds like Joker.
"That's what I'm talkin' about, that's what I'm talkin' about," he shouts, clapping his hands when Brown hits a three-pointer from half-court. "Represent Building 8."

At the buzzer, a shooter from 8ABC lobs a full-court shot. It misses. 22C loses 84-58, but keeps its tournament record for most points scored in a game.

"We'll be back," Slim assures, drinking ice water from a plastic peanut-butter container. Slim leaves the gym and returns to his one-man cell in the Pink Palace.

With Skipper gone, Slim has assumed the role of 22C's captain. Back when he was known as Kevin Knight, Slim played two years at Savannah State College in Georgia, and he takes his competition seriously.

After the first loss, Slim and his new teammates return to the gym May 24 to play 9C in a do-or-die game for both teams. Loser goes back to his cell.

Slim huddles the team members at the sideline, and they all put their fists in the center. On the count of three, they say "defense"--but without Skipper, it carries with a lower-case D. As the inmates from 9C run a set of clean lay-up drills before the game, they do not look intimidated.

As in the previous game, 22C's small point guards sink a string of outside shots early. But their lack of size inside the paint is still a problem. "Once they cool down," Burris says of the long-distance shooters from 22C, "they're going to have to create some shots." He shakes his head as if to say, "And they can't create shots."

A new player for 22C, a white guy--a "Larry Bird," as some of the inmates tease--has a slow shake-and-bake hook shot that generates laughter from 9C's bench. "That's some old school," their coach blurts out when the first attempt hits the backboard like a sandbag.

22C is winning 30-17 at halftime, thanks to the early points from the outside. But as the second half begins, the cooldown that Burris predicted starts to chill the gym. 9C closes in.

The scent of chicken and ribs and mashed potatoes with gravy--even the large Blackjack Pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms that Skipper would have ordered--it all seems to be escaping from 22C.

But Larry Bird doesn't let it get very far. His second attempt hits the backboard, vibrates in the rim and falls through the hole to the cement floor. An ugly shot. A proud shot.

From there, nearly everything that 22C puts up goes through the hoop. Slim muscles a few rebounds and taps a few in. This time, there is no laughing at the team from the Pink Palace. They need one more victory to get into the championship game.

On May 11, Skipper was transferred to the Colorado Department of Corrections Reception and Diagnostic Center and then on to Canon City.

After their brief meeting beneath the rim at Madison Square Garden that summer day in 1977, Mark Skipper's basketball career didn't work out much like Rodney McCray's.

After college, McCray was the third player taken in the 1983 NBA draft. He played ten seasons in the NBA, his last with the 1992-93 Chicago Bulls. He earned a championship ring as a teammate to Michael Jordan.

Skipper played on a scholarship at the College of Staten Island, a Division 2 school. But halfway into his first season as the starting guard, his mother, Lillian, died at only fifty. Upset, Skipper quit the team.

In college, Skipper smoked a little weed and drank a few beers, he says. Nothing serious. He joined the Army in 1981 and was stationed in Germany, where his company basketball team became battalion champions. "I had some guys I could work with," Skipper says. After he won the title, the battalion commander offered him a position as a Military Police officer at headquarters, a fitting position for a shooting guard.

"You don't have to go into the field. You're always in a starched uniform," Skipper recalls. "You're the police, man. You're setting the example."

In 1984, Skipper left Germany and moved to Fort Carson, Colorado, to complete his duty. Two years later he was honorably discharged from the Army and came to Denver.

Two months after he arrived, he smoked crack for the first time.
"It was something I never felt in my life."
It was also something that would eventually determine his life.

In 1987, Skipper tried selling $20 worth of rock to an undercover officer and earned four years' probation. In 1988, he and a friend were arrested outside a Denny's in Aurora when his buddy attempted a holdup in the middle of the afternoon. After being discharged from a half-way house in February 1993, Skipper moved into an apartment in Capitol Hill where hitting the pipe--and chasing the dragon--became an around-the-clock habit. After another possession charge and another stint at the DCJ, he was released on a Friday afternoon in April 1995. By 4 p.m. that same day, he was at the intersection of Smith Road and Peoria Street, scoring crack.

In 1996 he was busted again for possession. He was paroled in March 1998 and arrested again in January this year.

During these twelve years of benders and groveling, Skipper says he kept up his game skills by playing at Del Mar Park, Rude Gym and the Sports Center Gym behind the Target shopping center on Colorado Boulevard.

It was also during this time that Skipper ignored his faith.
"A lot of people say you go to jail and you find God, and that's true," Skipper says. "But let me tell you, it's not where a person finds God or when. It's that they find him."

While he was at the DJC this year, Skipper heard through an inmate that Burris was a good Christian.

Skipper sent Burris "kites," or letters, asking him to arrange meetings with a drug-abuse counselor. "And he did," Skipper says. "Right away. Every time I go into his office, he gives me some literature, some Christian literature, of course, or some other thing that just helps you get by."

When he is released, which could come as early as July, Skipper says the only one who will be at the gate to pick him up is God. From there, he says, he'll try to live and work in a transition house for former prisoners. He figures he's spent a solid seven years of his life behind bars. Whenever he does get out, he will also look for a court and a basketball, and a team to lead.

On June 7, the tournament Final Four becomes two.
Before 22C's game starts, Slim runs lay-up drills and says to his teammates, "We gonna make history today. 22C gonna go to the finals."

22C is playing against a team of overachieving misdemeanors from 11B. Instead of wearing the traditional misdemeanor blue, the 11B squad wears white jumpsuits, indicating that they work in the kitchen.

For this game, Slim sets up a variation of Skippers's Diamond One defense, the "two up, two down," which puts two men in the corners and two men at the top of the key. Slim says that since Skipper left, his new players aren't schooled enough to run the Diamond One. And 22C's offensive strategy still relies on outside shooting.

But the strategy falls apart when their guards miss the first three shots and 11B takes an early 12-4 lead.

At halftime, down 30-23, Slim pulls the team into a tight huddle at the sideline.

"You gotta hustle like a motherfucking bandit," he tells one of his point guards. "You gotta turn it up."

He picks on another, telling him, "When I get a chance, get me the ball. Let's work it."

Their silent response frustrates Slim. "You all ready to go home? Let's go home right now, then. The first [half] was a freebie. Let's tighten it up."

But it's Slim who is getting worked on the inside. 11B's center is 250 pounds, six-foot-six, and played nine seasons in the NFL.

Slim scores three points in the game. 22C loses 61-47.
There will be no steaks, no Blackjack pizza or fried chicken or ribs for 22C. "It was about braggin' rights," Slim says afterward, as he changes back into his green jumpsuit. "[The meal] didn't matter to me. I just wanted to talk trash."

Exhausted, the felons from 22C stand in a dejected line against the wall of the gym, waiting for a guard to open the door so they can return to the Pink Palace.

"It was fun while it lasted," Slim says. "Now we go home."
On June 14, 8ABC will play 11B in the championship game.

From his jail cell, where Skipper now wears a hunter-orange jumpsuit, he sends Burris a kite.

Dear Mr. Burris, May this letter find you in the best of health. I know there can't be too many games left and my team is in position for the big dinner. You might want to start checking rosters out, because you know as well as I know, they are all out to get us (smile). Oh, I meant to ask you; Do you think it might be possible to get a plaque for 22C? Think about it (smile). Well Mr. Burris, I see the Board in July 1999. I just put it in the Lord's hands. If it's His will, then I will get out. The Lord has blessed me with a job here at DRDC. I am trying to stay here and do my time. Please fill me in on the outcome of the season.

God Bless, Mark Skipper.

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