Ladies push, shove to dominate annual crud tournament

Members from two opposing teams struggle for domination of the billiards table during the annual Ladies’ Crud tournament, Oct. 16, 2015 at Luke Air Force Base. The tournament holds a long history and heritage at Luke, originating in fighter pilot culture before transitioning to an activity among their wives also.

Members from two opposing teams struggle for domination of the billiards table during the annual Ladies’ Crud tournament, Oct. 16, 2015 at Luke Air Force Base. The tournament holds a long history and heritage at Luke, originating in fighter pilot culture before transitioning to an activity among their wives also.

The annual Ladies’ Crud Tournament this year took place at the Old Officer’s Club, Oct. 16, 2015 at Luke Air Force Base. The tournament draws both officers’ wives and female Airmen from various units across Luke to engage in an intense, yet friendly morale-boosting competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ridge Shan)

The annual Ladies’ Crud Tournament this year took place at the Old Officer’s Club, Oct. 16, 2015 at Luke Air Force Base. The tournament draws both officers’ wives and female Airmen from various units across Luke to engage in an intense, yet friendly morale-boosting competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ridge Shan)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The time-honored tradition of the annual Ladies' Crud Tournament occurred Oct. 16, 2015, 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 their husband's squadrons or other Luke-related references, with individuals donning playful call signs to distinguish themselves.

"'Hotdish' is sort of a Minnesota thing," said Jennifer Pleus, spouse of General Scott Pleus, commander of Luke, and member of team Hotwings. "In Minnesota, we don't call a casserole a 'casserole,' we call them 'hotdishes,' 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, and re-started, when a member of one team "serves" from one end of the table, while one from the other team "receives" standing opposite the server on the other end. Serving consists of taking the cue ball and rolling it from hand to strike the striped ball. Play then ensues wherein players switch off with teammates to attempt to either strike the striped ball with the cue ball into a hole, thereby scoring a hit on one of three lives of the opposing player, or using physicality to block the player with the cue ball from striking. 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, 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 in it take winning seriously, and when push comes to shove, some of the matches get pretty heated.

"Most of the time, a lot of the women on the teams are really competitive and want to win," said Pleus. "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 their flight suits, but the ladies come out in all kinds of team uniforms, or orange painted nails, or thunderbolts on their face, or whatever they need to do. It's just really cool to see."

Despite the intensity, at the end of the day, all of the teams shake hands and hug and congregate together after the games for the food, drinks, and friendship.

"This Crud tournament is one of those things that we try to do as a community to bring all of our groups and our units together in order to boost morale," Pleus said. "Luke is unique because it's such a large base and there are many other things to do outside of the base, so this is our one little piece to really try to bring everybody together, and it's so fun when everyone is here. This is a part of the Air Force heritage and that's what makes it so fun. We get to bring a little bit of that heritage back to Luke Air Force Base."