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  • by Tom Eastman

Mauled in the Muck

Following the Mt. Washington Valley Hogs' world championship Mud Bowl victory over the New York Hamslammers in Holland Patent, New York, two weeks ago, there probably was no player more exultant than Hog wide receiver, Gary Sheldon.

"Too Tall's dramatic catch in that game had given the Hogs their world mud football title back and the right to host the Mud Bowl VII games next year in North Conway. These happenings put the Eating House chef in good spirits. Likewise, when the Hogs were bombed by an inexperienced but hungry Plymouth Valley Muddah team in last weekend's 1980 Olympic Mud Football Games at Hog Stadium before national television, a hometown crowd of 1214 and in their own mud, Sheldon exhibited a different mood. "So what," he growled, "Even the Pittsburgh Steelers lose once in a while. I don't want to talk about it."

Hog general manager Steve Eastman reacted to the 19-0 loss to the Cinderella team somewhat more strongly, saying that the Muddahs had prepared and played the game much too seriously. "We intend to file a protest to the league, We want a forfeit on the grounds that they had the unmitigated gall to hold a practice at 9 a.m. Sunday before the game," Eastman said. He noted that anyone who had truly partaken in the festivities at the Mud Football Banquet the night before would not have been splashing in the ankle deep mud at that hour.

Despite the hometown team's loss on Sunday, the 1980 Olympic Mud Football Games were judged to be a success, with the primary purpose of letting players and spectators enjoy themselves while contributing to a worthy cause remaining intact. Attendance for the two-day affair was 1108 on Saturday and 1214 for Sunday for a total of 2,332 paid spectators, a figure which translated into $4,900 for the North Conway Community Center.

Media attendance was also far above the previous mud football events. NBC-TV's "Real People", WBZ's "Evening Magazine" and Channel 8 all provided television coverage while the UPI wire service also carried a photo and story of the games. Assessing this year's event, general manager Eastman said, "We were extremely pleased with how well the entire weekend went. We came close to our goal of $5,000 for the Community Center, the turnout was great both days, and we generated a lot of publicity for Mt. Washington Valley on national television. Mud football is now quite an event, which everyone enjoys and which helps the community."

Against the Hamslammers in New York the previous weekend, the Hogs had been a determined team set on reclaiming the world championship. Their attitude heading into the 1980 Olympic Mud Football Games was much more loose and fun-loving. They had proved that they were the world champions the week before in the Mud Bowl; now they were back home, playing before national television, ready to enjoy themselves. They rolled to an easy 26-6 win over Portland's Free Street Pub in the opening game Saturday, clowning their way through the drier than normal muck of Hog Stadium while hamming it up for the cameras. After the game, most of the Hogs headed for the Eating House for a shower and refreshments while most of the spectators also departed.

Those who stayed to watch the second game between the Muddahs and the Carabasset Valley Rats would not have been as surprised by the upset on Sunday. Invited by Hog general manager Eastman to play when the New York team was forced to drop out due to other plans, the Muddahs left no question in their 37-0 clobbering of the Rats that they had come to play, period. Bolstered by the play of New York Hamslammer ringers Bob Wolcott and Chris Kincaid, the Muddahs thumped, drove, and surprised their opponents while a few members of the Hogs watched from the sidelines. "They're gonna be tough," David Cianciolo said. "They really look serious."

When the Hogs and Muddahs did take to the field at 1:30 p.m., the stage was obviously set for an upset. The playing surface was better tilled and wetter than Saturday due to the Mt. Cranmore maintenance supervisor Jimmy Mersereau bulldozing and two truckloads of water poured on by the North Conway Fire Department supplementing Saturday night's rains. The sky was overcast, the air cool when the Hogs dove into the mud for the cameras and audience while announcers Peter "Piggy" Case and George Cleveland read the players' names.

Following the playing of the National Anthem by the Mt. Washington Valley Band and Mt Cranmore President and General Manager Herbert Schneider's throwing of the game ball to Ricky Tibbetts, the game got underway before the capacity crowd. The Muddahs received but neither team capitalized until six minutes before the end of the half. Then Muddah quarterback Jason Holder passed from five yards out to go ahead 6-0. The second half picked up where the first had left off, as the Muddahs continued to churn over the mud for yardage like bulldozers while the Hogs tried to get in gear. The Muddahs scored twice more before it was over, ending the Olympic championship match with a score of 19-0.

While the Hogs yelled in unison asking the question, "Where were you last night?," the Muddah's Holder said that he was just glad his team had been allowed to participate. "Steve Eastman let us in this thing because he thought that we'd be pushovers, but that only inspired us to come out here and prove that we could win. We practiced hard, but above all, it was just a lot of fun for a bunch of fraternity brothers to get together again and enjoy ourselves like this." Hog defensive end David Cianciolo applauded the Muddahs' speed, ability, and sportsmanship, noting that they were a good team before smiling and adding, "But just wait until enxt year."

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