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Pensacola Power

The Pensacola Power team logo

If youโ€™ve read any of my books, youโ€™ve probably noticed my love for sports. Not that any story spotlights a specific athlete or team, but there are references in every novel. Breadcrumbs, as Amity Davenport would call them.

Consider the Dragonfly has a prosthetic leg baseball game that takes place in the terminal unit of a prison hospital where one of the characters, Smoke, is a diehard Atlanta Braves fan. The villain in With Arms Unbound, Lance Broxson, a brutal and corrupt guard at a Panhandle correctional facility, was a former small-town high school quarterback. Izzy, one of the protagonists in On the Shoulders of Giants, played basketball as a teenager before being sent to the notorious Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

There are other references in my other books as well. Some were intentional, others were Freudian slips that bubbled up out of my subconscious; a product of sitting in prison dayrooms watching Sunday NFL triple headers for most of my life. A major example of this is in my fourth novel, Sticks & Stones. It wasnโ€™t until after the book was published that I realized the lead character shared his name with a middle linebacker for a professional football team. Oops.

Even the Miranda Rights series, which closely examines the female journey through the Florida Department of Corrections, is not immune. Mirandaโ€™s bipolar father, who is also a compulsive gambler, once worked on a pit crew at Pensacolaโ€™s own Snowball Derby auto race. The crafty character of Daphne โ€œThrokkieโ€ Throckmorton shares a similar name with a New Orleans Saints offensive lineman.

These are just a few examples. There are other nods, both subtle and overt, that Iโ€™ve forgotten over the last twelve years of my incarcerated writing life. But there is one in particular that stands out. It is in my latest novel, The Weight of Entanglement. It occurs in an exchange between Miranda McGuire and the character Tasha Pitts. It takes place in the caged dog-run that serves as the recreational area for the disciplinary confinement unit at Lowell Womenโ€™s Annex. This scene pays homage to one of the most dominateโ€”and most fascinatingโ€”Escambia County sports teams of all time: the Pensacola Power.

โ€œYour nameโ€™s Miranda, ainโ€™t it?โ€

She turned back to Tasha. โ€œMm hmm.โ€

โ€œMy old bunkie had a lot to say about you before she left.โ€

โ€œShe got out?โ€

โ€œYesterday,โ€ said Tasha. โ€œBut Iโ€™m not surprised she didnโ€™t stop by your flap to say goodbye.โ€

Miranda shrugged. โ€œI think she was mad at me because I didnโ€™t want to move into her cell.โ€

โ€œI think she had a thing for you.โ€


Tasha laughed. โ€œWhere are you from, girl?โ€


โ€œShut the fuck up!โ€ Tasha screamed.

The napping guard opened her eyes. โ€œHey Pitts. Watch your mouth. Unless you want to go back to your cell.โ€

โ€œMy bad.โ€ She held up her hands. Then, low enough for only Miranda to hear, โ€œI forgot weโ€™re in preschool.โ€

Crazy Train passed again, mumbling to herself. It occurred to Miranda that the only difference between her own inner narrator and the rambling dialogue of the woman with sores on her face was the fact that she confined those conversations to her head and called it thinking. Crazy Train either lacked the ability or the desire to do the same.

โ€œWhat side of town are you from?โ€ said Tasha.

โ€œFerry Pass.โ€ Miranda scratched her nose. โ€œOlive Road.โ€

โ€œIโ€™m from Ensley!โ€ She slapped the fence. โ€œBorn and raised. Tasha Prime Time Pitts? You ainโ€™t ever heard of me?โ€

โ€œShould I?โ€ said Miranda.

โ€œHow old are you?โ€

โ€œI just turned twenty last month.โ€

โ€œTwenty? Shit, I got a son older than you.โ€ 

โ€œI have a son too,โ€ Miranda said quietly.

โ€œWell, way back in 2001, two years after I had Cedric, I heard on the radio that they were holding tryouts for an all-womenโ€™s football team. The Pensacola Power. Remember that?โ€

Miranda shook her head. โ€œFlag football?โ€

โ€œHell nah! We were hittinโ€™ out there. Shoulder pads, helmets, cleats. Just like on TV.โ€

โ€œIโ€™ve never heard of it. The Pensacola Power?โ€

โ€œYeah, theyโ€™re called the Riptide now, or some shit like that, but back when I was playing, it was the Power. And we ran shit. Our first season, we went to the championship after going undefeated. Thousands of people were showing up at our games. Dan Shugart was talkinโ€™ about us on Channel 3 News. I canโ€™t believe you donโ€™t remember.โ€

โ€œMy dad might,โ€ said Miranda.

If heโ€™s still alive, said her inner narrator.

โ€œI was only a baby in 2001.โ€

โ€œWell, we were kickinโ€™ ass all the way up to 2008, the year I came to prison. We didnโ€™t even lose a regular season game until 2006. We just couldnโ€™t win the big one, couldnโ€™t get past Detroit. They beat us once in the semis and twice in the championship. Those were some tough bitches. I gotta give it to them. Mean as hell too. Every single one of them looked like Dixie.โ€ She looked beyond Miranda and shouted, โ€œYeah, Iโ€™m talking about your big ass! Youโ€™re lucky we ainโ€™t got a chessboard out here.โ€

โ€œThatโ€™s strike two, Pitts,โ€ said the guard.

โ€œWhatโ€™d I say? Ass?โ€ Tasha was incredulous. โ€œAss ainโ€™t no bad word. Itโ€™s in the Bible.โ€

โ€œKeep on.โ€

Tasha rolled her eyes. โ€œAnyway, I was starting left cornerback for all those teams. I had 37 interceptions in my career, 9 returned for touchdowns. Most in the NWFA. Those records probably still stand.โ€

For some reason she thought of Nebraska Jackson, her fellow news junkie from the county jail who peed standing up. She would have made a good football player. โ€œWhatโ€™s the NWFA? Northwest Florida . . .โ€

โ€œAinโ€™t no Northwest Florida,โ€ Tasha quickly corrected. โ€œNational . . . National Womenโ€™s Football Association.โ€

โ€œImpressive,โ€ said Miranda.

โ€œYeah, I was pretty good.โ€ Her eyes went middle distance, somewhere over the razor wire. โ€œBut my son, Cedric? That boy is next level. Strong enough to jam wide receivers at the line, can flip his hips and bail as quick as any corner in college football, ball hawk instincts, perfect technique, and unlike his momma, he can hit. I was a lazy tackler. Ced has been layinโ€™ wood since he played for the Salvation Army on Q Street. As a junior at Auburn, PFWโ€™s draft guide ranked him as the number two corner in the nation. Mel Kiper called him a generational talent.โ€

โ€œI have no idea what you just said.โ€

Tasha blinked, grinned, came back. โ€œHuh? Oh, my bad. I always get carried away when I talk about my son.โ€

โ€œI know how you feel.โ€ Miranda thought of Cameron. She wondered what potential was waiting to be maximized in her little boy. The oak sleeps in the acorn. โ€œAnd you should be proud. Auburn University. Thatโ€™s a massive accomplishment.โ€

โ€œYeah, well, heโ€™s fuckinโ€™ up now. Back-to-back dirty urines for weed, then he punched a teammate in the face on the sideline during the spring game. Got kicked off the team. Now they talkinโ€™ about cancelling the rest of the season because of Covid.โ€

โ€œIโ€™m sorry,โ€ said Miranda.

She looked up at the white sky. โ€œHeโ€™ll be all right. Cedโ€™s a survivor. His agent said he could still go as high as the third round in next yearโ€™s draft. But he was gonna be a top twenty pick. Maybe top ten. His knucklehead decisions are costing us millions of dollars. The plan was for him to use his signing bonus to get me a real attorney.โ€

โ€œYouโ€™ve got a lot of time?โ€

โ€œLife.โ€ Her face hardened. โ€œFor killing his no-good daddy. It should have been a stand your ground case. I got railroaded.โ€

It was strange how these conversations were now commonplace in her world. A year ago the idea of meeting a murderer would have been terrifying, but at this point every cellmate she had and most of the friends she made were lifers. She thought of Nebraska again, and the stories about her mother being abused.

โ€œDo you know Nebraska Jackson?โ€

The smooth skin of her brow knotted as she searched Mirandaโ€™s face. โ€œYeah, I know Brass. Everybody in Pensacola knows that bull dagger. Poisonous ass.โ€

โ€œPoisonous? What do you mean?โ€

โ€œSheโ€™s jumping on all those peopleโ€™s cases in the county. Bianca Bradshaw, Kim Robinson. Now theyโ€™re saying sheโ€™s gonna testify against that little girl on the sixth floor who killed her baby. Whatโ€™s her name? Sheโ€™s always in the newspaper. Amity something.โ€

โ€œDavenport,โ€ Miranda said softly.

โ€œYeah, thatโ€™s it.โ€ Tasha shook her head in disgust. โ€œAmity Davenport.โ€

2017’s must-see games

I get it. Your life is crowded. Between romance and responsibilities, recitals and referendums, revenue and rent, there are not enough hours in the day. Especially not for the distractive force of a 17-week NFL slate consisting of 256 regular season games. Lucky for you, Uncle Malcolm has no life outside of writing books and watching football. Below is a list of weekly must-see games and storylines from the 2017 schedule that will keep you pigskin fluent at both the water cooler and the watering holeโ€ฆ

Week 1 – 9/11 NO @ Min โ€“ Adrian Peterson returns to face his old team and their vaunted defense in the stadium hosting this yearโ€™s Super Bowl. Reality TV at its finest.
Week 2 – 9/17 GB @ ATL โ€“ ARod & Company were run out of the building in last yearโ€™s NFC title game beatdown. But this is a new building, ATLโ€™s home opener in their shiny new stadium.
Week 3 – 9/24 NYG @ PHI โ€“ Perennial bad blood division game. I know youโ€™ve seen the movie Invincible with Mark Wahlberg. Old Bears WR duo Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery now on opposing sidelines.
Week 4 โ€“ 10/1 NO @ MIA (London) โ€“ An early measuring stick game for my beloved fish. If you want to know if your defense is any good, Drew Brees can help you find out quickly.
Week 5 โ€“ 10/8 BAL @ OAK โ€“ Love these West Coast matinee games. If youโ€™re a gambler, take the over. Guaranteed shoot-out.
Week 6 โ€“ 10/15 PIT @ KC โ€“ Revenge factor: KC fired PITโ€™s OC Todd Haley a few years back. Big Ben seems to relish making them pay (see last yearโ€™s blow-out). But this one is in Arrowhead. Tough crowd.
Week 7 โ€“ 10/22 ATL @ NE โ€“ Remember last yearโ€™s Super Bowl? Nuff said.
Week 8 โ€“ 10/29 HOU @ SEA โ€“ If youโ€™re into pitchers duels, circle your calendar. Two of the leagueโ€™s most physical defenses battle it out.
Week 9 โ€“ 11/5 OAK @ MIA โ€“ The second in a trilogy of consecutive prime time Miami games. I canโ€™t remember the last time the Dolphins played on Sunday night. This one could exceed 1,000 yards of offense.
Week 10 โ€“ 11/12 NE @ DEN โ€“ One of the best rivalries in recent memory. But whether itโ€™s an instant classic or a blow-out depends on Denverโ€™s QB situation.
Week 11 โ€“ 11/20 ATL @ SEA โ€“ Refs botched last yearโ€™s regular season game, ATL got revenge when it counted. Looking forward to Julio Jones vs. Richard Sherman Part III.
Week 12 โ€“ 11/26 GB @ PIT โ€“ Two of the best QBs of this era square off in prime time. This one has โ€œlast possessionโ€ written all over it.
Week 13 โ€“ 11/30 WAS @ DAL โ€“ A rematch of last yearโ€™s Thanksgiving Day track meet. Who will win the NFC East? Probably a 4-team photo finish.
Week 14 – 12/11 NE @ MIA (Note: ALL Dolphins games are must-see TV to me) โ€“ Can the Fish whup AFC East bullies and Super Bowl champs on Monday night? I hope this is for the division title.
Week 15 โ€“ 12/17 NE @ PIT โ€“ Has Big Ben ever beaten Tom Brady? Doesnโ€™t seem like it. Home field advantage in the playoffs will be on the line here.
Week 16 โ€“ 12/24 SEA @ DAL โ€“ Unstoppable force vs. immovable object? Two things are for sure: On this Christmas Eve match-up, Dallas will be #1 rushing and Seattle will be #1 vs. the run.
Week 17 โ€“ 12/31 KC @ DEN โ€“ Swiss army knife Tyreek Hill had a coming out party during last yearโ€™s mile-high thriller. Denverโ€™s defense should be less hospitable this time around. Especially with a division title at stake.

And there you have it, 2017โ€™s must-see games, week by week. If I left your team off the list, itโ€™s probably because they suck. But look on the bright side: We are all tied for #1 until the season starts. GO DOLPHINS!

Dysfunction junction

There are 32 teams in the NFL and 53 players on each active roster. That’s 1,696 men. Throw in another 300 or so for each team’s practice squad and P.U.P. list and we’re talking about 2,000 people. Now imagine if that was a town. Dysfunction Junction. Population 2000.

But this is no rural community with an economy on life support, or some fading rust belt township. This is a town full of millionaires. Of mansions and Maseratis. Where the average income is higher than the Hamptons, but the crime rate per capita is worse than Camden, NJ. Think about all the arrests over the past two years. Not just the high profile cases that made the national news, but the other less publicized domestic violence cases, the assaults, the possession charges, the numerous DUIs. There was even an underwear theft in November. And when you include former citizens of this figurative small town, the statistics become even more alarming. Ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez is about to begin trial for murder with more potential charges pending, and Ex-Saint Darren Sharper is an alleged serial rapist.

Most towns with such minuscule populations have little more than a holding tank in a police substation to house the town drunkard overnight. Think Mayberry. NFLville would need a jail as big as Rikers Island to hold all the defendants. But then again, hardly any of them would ever go to jail because their high-priced attorneys would ensure that they got off with a few months’ probation and community service.

Do I sound bitter? I’m not. I live for the Fall. The Miami Dolphins are right behind Momma on my list of loyalties. And the NFL is not all bad. For every ugly story there are ten that will warm your heart and give you faith in humanity. But I live in a prison dorm and the same can be said for the dudes in the neighboring bunks. I just think it’s amazing that such a small, affluent community could be so rife with crime and self-sabotage.

Makes you wonder if there’s something in the Gatorade.