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Mafiosos wade onto unfamiliar basketball courts
Pembroke Mafia Football League
football play diagram

Hello out there sports fans. Welcome to another fun installment of the Pembroke Mafia Football League’s first-ever basketball picks column.

This week, on Final Four Eve, we learn which PMFL members are still in the hunt for the coveted title of Mr. March Madness.

According to B.J. "Bandicoot Butt Burl" Clark, our esteemed president, treasurer, chief petty officer-at-arms and public relations flack, he is, because he picked the Gonzaga Godzillas to win it all.

And, so is country-rapper Mark "Vanilla Slice" Clark, because Mark picked Oregon to win the title.

And, surprisingly, so am I, Jeff "Dusty Rhodes" Whitten, for picking USC. You may have thought I picked the Harlem Globetrotters, and that’s because I did. But I certainly didn’t mean it, according to B.J., who is probably fun to play golf with when nobody’s looking.

Me: "What does the rule book say about how many times I get to swing at it before I strike out and have to get back in the cart?"

B.J. "Rule books are for commie bedwetting liberal commies. Just do what I do. Pick the ball up and put it in your pocket, and walk it on over to the hole and drop it in. It’s what we call a mulligan."

Me: "I knew there was a reason you were PMFL president."

But I digress. Despite being on the tail end of a dozen or so generations of proud Upstate South Carolina rednecks, most of whom swear loyalty to Clemson or UGA, I am a born and raised Gamecock. I even went to school at USC back in the 1980s. Both before and after those days, I have spent more time than I care to remember agonizing over the tragic history of Gamecock football and basketball.

I say that to note this: People think the Cubs have a history of futility. Compared to the Gamecocks, the Cubs are a sports dynasty. Think Yankees – New York, not the ones standing in front of me in lines everywhere I go – and Patriots and Chicago Bulls and so on. Think Alabama football. Yep. That’s the Cubs, when compared with USC. The Gamecocks, with the exception of back-to-back baseball championships a few years ago, haven’t won doodley.

What they have done is occasionally get your hopes up - remember Joe Morrison and the Fire Ant Defense back in the early ’80s? Remember George Rogers? How about Frank McGuire and John Roche? What about Steve Spurrier?

But for every Spurrier or Lou Holtz, there was a Richard Bell or, shudder, Sparky Woods. For every George Rogers there is the sad story of a guy like Marcus Lattimore, who would’ve won a Heisman had he not had his leg torn off in a game. Marcus is a great ambassador for South Carolina. He’s also a reminder that in my home state, there’s rarely a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s usually a sinkhole. Or an outhouse.

Even those silly mutts from Athens can say they’ve got a football championship, although it happened so long ago most folks can’t remember the exact year, they just know it wouldn’t have happened without Hershel Walker and Erk Russell.

One local exception to knowing UGA history is probably Noah Covington, our PMFL county commissioner. To his credit, Noah, despite being a UG fan, is one of the nicest human beings on the planet. And, like many of us who are approaching early young middle age, he also is starting to resemble a friendly professional yard gnome in a tweed suit. He would if you put a pointy hat on him, anyway.

Of course, in fairness to Noah, I’m also rather gnomish. Actually, I’m abundantly gnomish. I blame it on years of working at newspapers.

And, somewhere in all that is the reason I didn’t pick the Gamecocks to get anywhere near winning the entire thing until B.J. told me I did.

It’s because I have half a century of Chicken Curse experience under my belt. I know that whenever South Carolina does well, it’s only so at some point the Gamecocks will make you cry just like TV preacher Jimmy Swaggert did when he apologized on TV for having an affair. It’s on Google, in case you forgot about it. Look it up. You can mute the sound and if you didn’t know the story you’d think the Rev. Jimmy was up there talking about being a Gamecock fan, not breaking a commandment. Tears everywhere.

Speaking of crying, honorable mention should go out to Trey Roberts, the assistant superintendent for something or the other of Bryan County Schools, which recently got $100 million in bonds to build another couple schools or something.

Of course, you could argue that that bond only passed because it was tied to the ESPLOST renewal, but that’s tax money under the bridge at this point.

What isn’t yet figured out is where they’re going to put all the driveways for all those cars belonging to all those people responsible for all those kids who’ll be getting driven to all those schools. But there will one day be a new interchange and another Super Giant Walmart, in case you don’t feel like going to the one already in Keller or Pooler or Hinesville or Brunswick or Rincon.

But don’t despair. This is all being worked on and planned for, strategically, in brilliant private public private partnerships. That’s how good government works. You ask developers what they want and then you get taxpayers to pay for it.

Trey, by the way, actually picked both Gonzaga and North Carolina to make the Final Four, but named Duke as his national champion.

We all know by now who beat Duke, eh? That’s right. The Mighty Mighty Game Chickens ruined Trey’s bracket. Take that.

Quick hits: One of my co-workers, Pat Watkins, is a Kansas alum. He fills his brackets out with Kansas in every spot. Most of the time he’s right.

The Atlanta Braves open the season Monday. I used to take the day off, sit in a lawn chair and listen to the game on the radio. I might do it again. Get hyped up for the Gamecocks win over North Carolina in the battle of the Kakalakis. You heard it here first.

Which means it’s probably wrong.

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