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AuthorView – The Mud Bowl

Photo 1 Photograph by Vanston Shaw Photo 2: Robert Merritt

“The Mud Bowl”
“The Mud Bowl”

             They were old enough to know better. These over-60 victims of fate. But that didn’t stop them. From playing a game in the rain. Like they had each year for the past 50 years.
It started on a Thanksgiving morning at Roosevelt and Pike Park. Then moved to Thousand Oaks, now Kewin, Park. A group of Baby Boomers gathered to play “The Mud Bowl.” It was a morning of glory in a rushing stream of unremarkabledays. Adolescence run wild in lives of quiet desperation. And a way to avoid putting away those young boy ways. For just one day. It started out as a game. Then it became an excuse. For these “boys of autumn” to never grow up.
They’d been told for years by their parents, wives, girlfriends, and sibs to act their age. But, did they listen? No way. They just drank more, smoked more, swore more, played harder, and did more stupid things. What would you expect from a bunch of guys with nicknames like Dancing Bear, Whitey, Putz, Goat, Bo’re, Fast Johnny, Pancho, Hands, T Honey, and Pig.

In the beginning, it was about coming home from college during Thanksgiving break to catch up. They picked sides. Argued over rules. Played some touch that quickly turned into tackle. No plays. Everyone just went long. Then stayed up all night, after eating way too much turkey, to drink, play a little poker, and razz one another about how it was going with grades, girls, and life.

Then, it was about introducing wives and significant others and sharing pictures of new children, homes, cars, and jobs. They divided teams into “Class of ’66” versus “The Other Guys.” And canonized the gathering with T-shirts, a banquet the night before, a memorable (or was it memorial?) highlight video, trophies, and team photos. Real plays were sketched out on note cards. Tackle turned into flag football so nobody got hurt. Although a few did. Teeth, ankles, knees. And the local TV stations came out because it was better than covering soup kitchens. Then bird, cocktails, and cards. The same old routines and sarcastic digs as the years piled on.

And now, it’s about memories. They make catch-up phone calls and send emails from homes scattered across the West. Look at the photos and watch the videos alone and together. Remember those who are gone. And recall what each of them had done and not done and still hoped to do. A little less turkey, a lot less alcohol, and no poker.
They have passed the torch – AKA the “Cheap Shot Chicken” – to the next generation. And the generation after that. To carry on.

As long as there are two players still standing, there will always be a game.
The Mud Bowl was, and always will be, about old friends. And like Thanksgiving, it’s about family and tradition. And boys playing a game in the mud.

To see the greatest hits of The Mud Bowl through the years, go to http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1DC1D27DE02B3FAD.
In Memoriam:  Kevin Clark, George Rogers, Don de Camp.

All the Mud Bowl buddies
Gather ’round tonight
Yesterday’s alive and kicking
One more year
So we talk about some old times
And drink ourselves some beers
Still crazy after all these years
Still crazy after all these years

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