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Mixing politics and sports
Pembroke Mafia Football League
football play diagram
The Pembroke Mafia Football League doesn't control games, it just calls them. - photo by Stock photo

Please allow me to start with a digression.

Back in the days when I had a full head of hair and a sense of humor, I was sports editor for the official Georgia Southern newspaper, the George-Anne. I wrote a weekly column — called The Spectator — and it sort of went in a lot of different directions, but rarely discussed sports.

Our executive editor at the time (and we had more editors than we had writers, I think, much like nowadays) told me I had to at least mention sports in the column, since it was supposedly a sports column and it was on the sports page.

So, I started doing what I called a "mandatory sports tie-in," and would faithfully write a paragraph or two about something happening in sports that week. "Hey, there’s a goalpost," for example, or, "They play tennis well."

Anyway, I mention that to say this. It’s football season, and that means it’s Pembroke Mafia Football League time.

Ordinarily, the erstwhile adventures of the Pembroke Mafia Football League would be on the sports pages of this august little newspaper, but we’re short of space over there this issue. So, I’m putting it here on the opinion page.

But in the spirit of thinking that I need at least a "mandatory news or opinion tie-in" in order to justify to myself my putting this here, I offer this bit of opinion:

Highway 144 in South Bryan will be widened when I am 144 years old.

There. Mandatory oped tie in.

Now, on to the first PMFL column of 2017.

For the uninitiated, the PMFL is a group of college football fans who formed a couple years ago (I forget how many) for the express purpose of picking football games and then irritating the world through these columns. And, it’s fun. And sometimes we have lunch and wear beanies.

Anyway, we’re up to 10 members this year, and I would be remiss if I did not introduce each one. Besides, they expect it.

The leader and founder of the group is B.J. Clark, who is a big-deal in the Pembroke American Legion. He’s also an Auburn and Georgia Southern fan, as well as being retired Navy and a great American. I sometimes call him Bandicoot Butt Burl, and he hasn’t hit me yet. B.J. is the heart and soul of the PMFL.

And then there’s Ernest "Ernie the Medium-Sized Elf" Mitchell, who is also retired Navy and a mover and shaker in the Pembroke American Legion, Post 164. Without Ernie the Elf, the PMFL would be short an Ernie. If B.J. is the PMFL’s right knee and hip, Ernie is it’s left, even if he is a Florida State fan.

Another longtime member is Noah "King of the North" Covington, a Georgia and Georgia Southern fan. You may know him as the county commissioner for Bryan County’s District 1. Noah is the PMFL entry into the world of county government. He is also, well, King of the North. He even has a throne, with KOTN written in gold on the handle, and a hat that says Make North Bryan Great Again. Nothing goes on in the North without Noah knowing about it, because he’s the king. Need a hole dug, ditch drug or pond stocked? Ask the king. Ever wonder why Noah looks like Mr. French, the old butler from ‘Family Affair’? It’s because he’s the King of the North and he’s hungry for more cheeseburgers.

And then there’s Development Authority of Bryan County CEO Anna Chafin, the PMFL’s obligatory token CEO of a development authority. Anna, a huge UGA fan, bless her heart, paid her college tuition by picking football games and then not telling anybody who she picked until the game was over. That’s why she’s so good as the DABC CEO. Those folks are experts at hiding stuff from the public until they want it unhid. Besides, Anna is the smartest person in the PMFL and probably helped get a lot of folks a job.

And then there’s Trey Robertson, who is assistant superintendent for operations and building for Bryan County Schools. Trey is a Tech and Georgia Southern fan. He really likes it when people call him "The Fabio of Black Creek." Oh wait, that’s another administrator. Never mind.

We’re more than happy to have Trey back on board. He gives us an "in" with the school system, in case we want a new bus or temporary classroom or something. Or if somebody finds my transcripts.

Up next is Mike "Pembroke Elvis" Clark, a diehard Georgia Southern fan, famous country rapper (he wrote; "I got my lawn chairs out, baby, come over and let’s build a fire, maybe") and the author of "Why Georgia Inhales Vigorously: A complete guide to why UGA Inhales Vigorously." It starts by noting UGA inhales vigorously because it does not acknowledge that it offered Erk the head coaching job. I agree.

And there’s Mark Rogerson, who has been a PMFL member from the time he was barely out of his Georgia Southern diapers and taking freshman geometry. Mark wins a lot of our weekly battles.

I would write more but I think his mother reads these things and I don’t want to get me in trouble.

And now there’s Alex Floyd, whom some of you might know as the Young Old Fart, thanks to his penchant for wearing suspenders, a pipe and comfy slippers to work despite being in his 20s. Alex, a big fan of Wally Butts and Arnold the Talking Pig on the TV show Green Acres, is the erudite director of the Pembroke Downtown Development Authority. I’m hoping that means he’ll use his authority to develop us up a PMFL headquarters in downtown Pembroke, but that might not be how this works.

There’s Ted O’Neil. Ted is assistant editor of the Bryan County News and a hipster. Originally from Michigan and an alumnus of Michigan State, Ted dislikes the Wolverines, boiled peanuts and electronic billboards. He’s also very tall. Think the Jolly Green Giant, but more articulate, and with dexterous fingers capable of cranking out copy and posting it online for people to disagree with in ALL CAPS.

And then there’s me. The guy who for some reason keeps writing this stuff year after year. Your humble servant, devoted Gamecock and Georgia Southern fan, but mostly Gamecock now that the Iggles are in the Sunbelt and most of their games are at night. I hate night games.

Now, this week’s picks, brought to you by the Bryan County News.

Navy vs. Florida International: Everyone is picking the "Gobs" as B.J. put it. Go, Gobs, go.

Colorado vs. Colorado State: Noah, B.J. and Anna are taking the Buffs, which is short for Buffaloes, which once roamed the Great Plains in vast herds. Then us white people moved in and there went the neighborhood. The rest of us take Colorado State.

Georgia Southern vs. Auburn: Trey, Alex, B.J., Mike and Mark are all on whatever it is they are on, because they’re taking the Iggles. The rest of us aren’t having it. By the way, GS is a 35-point underdog.

Brigham Young vs. Louisiana State: Mark takes BYU. The rest of us say Bayou Bengals gonna be making some Cajuns happy. On a serious note, hopefully this game gets played. That will mean Hurricane Harvey didn’t do to Louisiana what it did to Texas.

Utah State vs. Wisconsin: Nobody picking the Aggies, or whatever mascot Utah State uses. Anybody know? Anybody?

California vs. North Carolina: Everybody picks UNC but me. I’m from South Carolina. The only things in football I dislike more than the Tar Heels are Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State.

Virginia Military Institute vs. Air Force: This is how B.J. put it: "All pick Air Farce (spelled incorrectly on purpose." That’s because us ex-military folks (I’m ex-Army) can poke fun at services other than our own. And we all pick on the Air Force. Even the Cub Scouts pick on the Air Force. Even the Brownies pick on the Air Force, because Brownie boot camp is tougher than Air Force boot camp.

But yeah, we all picked the Falcons to beat VMI.

North Carolina State vs. South Carolina: B.J., Ernie, Ted, Alex and Trey take the Wolfpack. The rest of us go with the Gamecocks. The Wolfpack? What kind of a name for a team is that? Sounds like a 1950s high school hoodlum car club. "Hey, we’re the Wolfpack. Give us your lunch money."

Michigan vs. Florida: Mike, Mark, Ted, Alex and Trey take Michigan, Ted only because he wants to win this thing. Us cool dudes take Florida, the jean shorts and mullet wearing capital of the universe.

Troy vs. Boise State: Mark takes Boise State. The rest of us pick Troy. I have no idea why. Is Troy supposed to be good all of a sudden? Oh, who cares.

Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech: B.J., Noah, Ernie, Ted and Alex are taking the Vols. The rest of us go with the Rambling Wreck, who not only continue to run the Triple Option but also have the world’s greatest college football offensive mastermind on the sidelines, Mr. Paul Johnson. It’s your world, coach. The rest of us are merely here to applaud the beauty that is your offense, when you have a quarterback who can run it the way it’s supposed to be run.

Appalachian State vs. UGA: Alex and I are taking the Mountaineers. I’m doing it even though I know it’s probably a loss, but there are just some things I can’t do - like pull for UGA to win a football game. Everybody else in PMFL is picking the silver-britches-wearing pups to hunker down and win.

Kentucky vs. Southern Mississippi: Alex takes Southern Mississippi, probably just so I’ll have to spell it twice. Everybody else is taking the Wildcats.

Texas A&M vs. UCLA: Mark, Ernie, Ted and Anna select UCLA, everybody else goes with the Aggies. I almost picked UCLA, because I actually like pastels. But I like football more, and also am rooting for everything Texas at the moment.

PS. This will move back to the sports pages next issue. Unless something happens between now and then. Go Gamecocks, and here’s hoping your favorite team does well. Unless it’s Clemson.

Whitten is managing editor of the News until someone runs him off.

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