Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) When the home football team gets clobbered by its in-state rival, consequences will surely follow. When your entire city loses a food drive to the same rival in the same year, the consequences may be double.

The Montana State University Bobcats left their mark on the University of Montana Grizzlies last month, winning the annual Brawl of the Wild 21-55.

Bozeman did the same to Missoula in the annual “Can the Cats” food drive a week later, donating the equivalent of more than 613,000 pounds of food while stamping Missoula with a Campbell's cream of chicken soup logo.

Missoula, in comparison, brought in the equivalent of 428,000 pounds of food. It was another canned-food shellacking for Missoula, but it went to a good cause, regardless of the winner, helping feed Montana's food insecure.

In that sense, everyone is a winner.

“That's well over 1 million pounds of food, statewide,” Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess said on Monday. “While I'm feeling a bit sheepish, that's good business.”

Hess felt “sheepish,” as he put it (and looked it), by donning an MSU sweatshirt and ball cap during Monday night's City Council meeting. As it turns out, he lost a bet with Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus (that's Cindy with a Y, in case you're wondering).

Luckily, Hess had to pay his debt on a night that coincided with an ugly sweatshirt contest among members of the Missoula City Council. While their sweaters were ugly indeed – cloaked in everything jingle-bells and ribbons – they unanimously declared Hess the winner.

MSU is an ugly color, as it turns out.

“We have our mayor with a Bobcat university swag sweatshirt,” said council president Gwen Jones. “I'm nominating Mayor Jordan (Hess) for best holiday ugly sweater.”

While it should have been a hard-fought debate - given the Missoula's City Council's propensity for talking at length and sharing opinions - nominating Hess for the ugliest sweater was about as easy as MSU's romp over the Griz on the gridiron this year.

Council member Stacie Anderson wore a pretty ugly sweater with Christmas bows, while council member Heidi West came attired in a low-cut 70s getup, complete with a broad collar, as if heading to a Disco party – minus the Bee Gees' soundtrack.

Council member Amber Sheryl wore traditional Wal-Mart shopping Christmas pajamas (or so they appeared), while council member Jennifer Savage went “Slanted,” a possible reference to a soon-to-be drunk Santa Clause (it's time).

Or maybe it said "Sleighin 'it." That would be more like AC/DC.

Council member Daniel Carlino wore blue and black, perhaps hearkening the Northern Lights over the more socialist nation of Denmark. As for the others, council member John Contos went “Viva” Las Vegas with a flashing boa while council member Mike Nugent went Martha Stewart, minus the fondue and jail bars.

Everyone smiled.

Still – set aside the hideous sight invoked by all – the vote to nominate Hess' ugly MSU sweater passed on an 8-1 vote with two absent. Contos abstained and Sandra Vasecka – as always – cast the lone dissenting vote.

There's always one, and nine times out of 10, it's her.

But as it turns out, Vasecka is an MSU alum. She wore something akin to Ted Lasso on Apple TV but refused to label Hess' MSU sweater as “ugly.”

“I will not be in support of this motion,” Vasecka said, and not for the first time.

It wasn't a unanimous vote, but it rarely is in Missoula. The City Council took more than six hours to debate a subdivision last Monday, belaboring the point well past midnight into the next workday.

But as for the ugly sweater contest, it was a relatively easy vote – in Missoula speak – and it took all of 12 minutes to resolve.

“Bozeman Mayor Andrus sent me this Bobcat sweatshirt this month. Fortunately, it was just in time for this ugly sweater event tonight,” Hess said on the public record. “Cyndy (still with the Y), I don't know if you're watching us tonight – I hope not, for your own sanity – but I want to thank you for providing what turned out to be tonight's winning entry.”

Montana Food Bank Network.
Montana Food Bank Network.

That off course being the MSU hoodie Hess was wearing.

Andrus issued a challenge to Hess in November regarding the Can the Cats Food Drive. The loser had to wear the colors of their nemesis (a term that doesn't necessarily hold over dinner when all is said and done).

“It turns out we lost,” Hess lamented. “While I'm dressed a little strangely for a public meeting, I want to highlight what a little friendly competition can do a for a good cause.”

More than 1 million pounds of food is no laughing matter (though the MSU sweatshirt may be). Perhaps next year Andrus will be wearing the maroon and silver and growling like a grizzly. Back in the 1990s, when the end zone was still a grassy knoll at UM, the colors were copper and gold - and the Griz owned the Cats.

But today's social challenges require a statewide effort, colors aside.

“That's a good piece of business, and it's a good thing to highlight during the holiday season,” Hess said, inviting Andrus to Missoula while promising to clad her in “appropriate clothing.”