Jaywalking: Mayo bet

I betcha!

Those words can be described many ways. Call it the start to a challenge or call them fighting words, but when one person begins a sentence with “I bet you,” it’s put-up or shut-up time for the challenged. That person must either accept the bet, or decline, in which case the other person has all but essentially won anyway.

There have been some historically lopsided duels in which one person has challenged another. One of the oldest would be David vs. Goliath, in which a young Israeli servant boy with a devout belief in God, using only a sling and a stone, triumphs over the champion of the Philistines. Then there is the fictional story of the tortoise and the hare, where the quick-footed but arrogant hare learns a lesson when too much bravado costs him a race against a much slower and more modest yet determined turtle.

Of course, the basis to any good bet is the consequence of losing. The most common form, of course, comes in some sort of financial gain. But some of the most interesting/funny payments come when betting amongst friends. Maybe the loser needs to shave his head or his eyebrows, or get a tramp stamp of the winner’s name. Something harmless, but juvenile and funny to all those taking part.

It’s exactly that kind of bet that occurred between Mohawk Trail Regional High School track and field athletes Justin Malone and Tyler Lenois back in 2006, and it sparked something that has now become an annual school tradition.

Both boys were seniors that season. Lenois was a stud sprinter, who had been competing in track and field since the seventh grade and was one of the team’s top athletes. Malone, meanwhile, was no slouch when it came to track and field, but he had only been competing since his junior season, and was not quite as polished in any single event as Lenois.

At the end of the season, a decathlon is held for any schools in western Mass. deciding to send a team of boys. The way it works is that schools put together a team of three athletes, and all three compete in a series of 10 events. Athletes are awarded points in each event, not based on where they finish, but rather how they do. Certain marks gain athletes a specific number of points. For example, clearing 6 feet in the high jump is worth a certain number of points. Everyone who clears that mark gets those points. The better you do, the more points you score in an event, but you are not awarded points based on your place, as you are in a normal track meet. After the 10 events, the total points scored by each of the three boys on one team is added up for the team score. There is also an individual award. The 10 events in which the boys compete are the long jump, shot put, discus, javelin, high jump, triple jump or pole vault (athletes get to choose one, although most do the triple), 100 meter dash, 110 high hurdles, 400 and 1,500.

There is also a heptathlon that girls’ teams run.

When the decathlon and heptathlon started around here (sometime in the mid-2000s), it rotated among schools, but has remained at Northampton High School the past few years and is there again this year. It spans two days, and actually began on Monday and will conclude today. The event has no bearing on anything other than a fun event for schools to take part in. Former Mohawk track coach Bill Viera, who is originally from the eastern part of the state, actually helped get the western Mass. meet started. And today the meet director is Brandon Palmer, who was a Mohawk athlete (2005 grad) and is now the head coach of the Northampton girls’ team.

So back to Lenois and Malone. Both boys were scheduled to compete on the Mohawk B team back in 2006, when Lenois and Malone began to get downright competitive. If it were the tortoise and the hare, Lenois was the braggadocio, Malone the more reserved. Eventually, a challenge was issued that whoever scored more points got to watch the other one try to eat a jar of mayonnaise. That bet was made early in the season, and unbeknownst to Lenois, Malone used his free time at practice to work on the events he was not as strong in. Malone, who was the football quarterback, was a strong thrower and was decent in the 400 and hurdles. Lenois, a running back, was stronger in the sprints and was OK in the jumps and throws. Lenois was clearly the favorite, but Malone had dogged determination. According to current Mohawk boys’ track coach Shawn Billings, who was has been an assistant with the team for years, Malone’s resolve to beat Lenois came into play.

“Justin just gave it everything he had,” Billings said. “He killed himself and he beat Tyler by 100 points.”

Tyler wound up attempting to eat the jar, but, after only a few bites, tapped out. That wound up sparking what has become an annual bet, and there have been some great challenges over the years. According to Billings, the bet usually occurs between two athletes somewhat similar in ability.

“The guys know each other and they size each other up,” he said.

Jeremiah Jones lost the bet but became the most successful ever at finishing the mayonnaise bet. Billings remembered that decathlon as having taken place in Ludlow and, on the way home, the team stopped at a pizza joint (also a yearly tradition), and while there, someone went to the grocery store to buy a jar of mayo and a plastic spoon. When the team gets back on the bus, Jones begins to eat.

“From the back of the bus I hear Jeremiah say, ‘Dammit, the fork’s not big enough,’” Billings said laughing. “He was scraping the bottom of the jar. That’s the kind of kid Jeremiah was. He works at what he’s got and gets to the bottom of every jar of mayo, figuratively. And Tyronne (Henderson) sees Jeremiah eating it and starts yakking.”

Most of the bets end when the person gives up on eating the mayo, although some don’t stop soon enough. One of those people was Corey Bruffee, who bet Jeremiah Jones one season, even though, according to Billings, Bruffee had no business doing so. But that’s what makes the bet special. Someone like Bruffee gave it his best, even though on paper he was a prohibitive underdog. Unfortunately for Bruffee, there was no Hollywood-type ending. He lost and then made it through half a jar while the team was at Papa John’s in Northampton before he started giving it back.

That leads us to this season. Billings said there were a number of whispers about who might issue challenges. No one, of course, is required to do anything they don’t want to, and this season a number of athletes did not want to eat mayonnaise, so declined to take part. On Monday afternoon, as the team headed to Northampton, Evan Bruffee and Matt Walsh came to an agreement, and the bet was on.

Bruffee, who will try to not end up like his aforementioned older brother, said he decided to take part in the bet because it sounded fun and created a nice competition. The senior said he believed that his counterpart was the favorite going in, and said his best events are the 100 and the high jump.

As for Matt, he said he got tired of everybody talking about the bet and no one stepping up the plate. As for whether or not he likes mayonnaise?

“No, not at all,” he said. “It’d be pretty awful if I lost, but it would be funny.”

Matt, a junior, said his best events are the 100 and the 400, while the javelin and the high jump give him the most problems.

The loser will take the place of Alex Dekoschak, who ate the mayo last season.

Check back next week to see who won and who lost, and how the loser fared with the jar.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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