Letter to the Editor: Here’s mud in your eye, Mr. Mud Volleyball, as you play in your 37th and last tournament

Kevin Murphy mud volleyball

Kevin Murphy will play in his 37th and last Mississippi Mud Volleyball Tournament on the Hannibal riverfront during Tom Sawyer Days next week. | Photo courtesy of Jay Mack

There is absolutely no doubt Hannibal is known for its rich history, amazing art scene and world-famous people.

However, Hannibal also is known for something else — and something very unique.

Each year buried deep inside Tom Sawyer Days and surrounded by the Fourth of July, 60 teams from all around the Midwest gather by Hannibal’s river levee, huddled under a makeshift tent city to play in the Mississippi Mud Volleyball Tournament. This year marks the 45th year of the tournament.

Forty-five years is a milestone that few locally sponsored and organized sporting events get to. For 36 of those years, one man has laced up the duct tape and played, competed and won. This year’s tournament will be the 37th and last he will play.

Being a Mud connoisseur myself, I can 100 percent tell you the same discussion takes place every year at the pits. Who is the best player ever?

I can attest there is always a difference in opinions for each one of these conversations — except one. There is no doubt that there is only one Mr. Mud Volleyball, and his name is Kevin Murphy. Let me tell you why.

Kevin and his family have played a monster part in the Mud Volleyball Tournament for as long as any Hannibal Y-Men’s member can remember. There has always been a Murphy Mudders team that highlighted its way across the bracket every year. What most general mud voyeurs don’t know is the fact there have been many Murphy-sponsored family teams for more than 20 years that I can remember.

At one time, eight Murphy teams were in the tournament. They are easy to find when they play. It always seemed like each player’s entire family would be pit-side, cheering them on. At one time, Kevin’s mother and father housed more than 100 people at their home for the tournament. I’m literally talking about people sleeping in bathtubs and setting up tents outside.

In addition to bringing huge numbers of people and players to the mud tournament over the years, Kevin developed the idea for the Mississippi Mud Volleyball Junior Tournament held on the Wednesday night before the adult tournament starts for the weekend.

If I am honest, I both love and hate him for this. I love him because it has brought so many more players and families to the tournament than ever before. If you don’t believe me, come on down and witness the Wednesday night crowd.

I hate him because now I am a much older player, and there are too many good young teams now. Let’s face it. The junior tournament cements my belief that my favorite sporting event to play in might live on well after I am gone. Thank you for that, Murph.

The contributions don’t stop there. Kevin is an absolute guru of the tournament. If you want to know when someone plays, ask Murph. If you or someone you know wants to play and can’t find a team, ask Murph. If you want to know if there are any rule changes this year, ask Murph. If you need ideas on how to maybe beat another team, ask Murph.

My favorite of them all: If you need a smiling face, a huge heart and someone to have a drink with, ask Murph.

I almost forgot to mention that Kevin is an amazing mud volleyball player. He has fantastic hands and can place the ball wherever he wants. He truly understands how the game is played. The man has championship mugs, which surprisingly after 45 years of the tournament, not many people do.

Most important, Kevin is the best teammate. He can lift the spirits of his teammates and the opposing team’s players. That is greatness in my mind. It’s for all these reasons, and numerous more, that Kevin has earned the title of Mr. Mud Volleyball.

Thank you Kevin for the 36 years you have given to the Mississippi Mud Volleyball Tournament. I look forward to your 37th. I am thankful to be able to call you Mr. Mud Volleyball.

I’m even more thankful to call you my friend.

Jay Mack
Hannibal, Mo.

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