The time-honored tradition of the annual ladies’ crud tournament occurred Oct. 16 at the Old Officer’s Club at Luke Air Force Base.
Women from around Luke, mostly officers’ wives and female Airmen, met to clash against each other in teams fashioned from those with a Luke association, some dressed in costumes, donning playful call signs to distinguish themselves.
“‘Hotdish’ is sort of a Minnesota thing,” said Jennifer Pleus, spouse of Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, and member of Team Hotwings. “In Minnesota, we don’t call a casserole a casserole. We call them hot dishes, so when you bring a casserole to a function in Minnesota, you would be bringing a ‘Hotdish,’ and well, my team brought me.”
Crud is a game played by opposing teams on a billiards table. Play is started when a member of one team “serves” from one end of the table while an opposing team member “receives” at the opposite end of the table. Serving consists of rolling the cue ball by hand to strike the striped ball, the only other ball on the table. Play ensues when players switch off with teammates to attempt to either strike the striped ball into a hole thereby scoring while the other team uses physicality to block the cue ball. Once a player’s three lives are gone, the player is “killed” and removed from play. Once all players on a team are killed, the opposing team wins.
“The game started as a part of fighter pilot culture,” said Monica Bailey, spouse of Col. William Bailey, 56th Operations Group commander, and member of team Hotwings. “The men have carried that tradition and have their own teams and tournaments, and at some point their wives began to play also. Now we have the women’s tournament, and although I’ve seen some more aggressive games in the past, we’ve added some different rules to keep the ‘lady’ part in ladies’ crud.”
Although the tournament is designed simply as a fun recreational time for women on base, the ladies who compete take winning seriously, and when push comes to shove, some of the matches can get heated.
“Most of the time, many of the women are really competitive and want to win,” Pleus said. “It’s about unit morale and a chance to get to express their competitive spirit. The camaraderie is amazing. The guys don’t get dressed up because they’re in flight suits, but the ladies come out in all kinds of team uniforms, or orange painted nails, or thunderbolts on their face … whatever they need to do. It’s just really cool to see.”
Despite the intensity, at the end of the day, the teams shake hands, hug and congregate together after the games to enjoy food, drinks and friendship.
“This crud tournament is something we do as a community to bring our groups and units together in order to boost morale,” Pleus said. “Luke is unique because it’s such a large base and there are so many other things to do outside of the base. This is a time to bring everyone together, and it’s so fun when everyone is here. It’s part of Air Force heritage and that’s what makes it so fun.”