MASSILLON – EPISODE THREE: WHEN DREAD COMES LIKE A STORM
Episode Three opens with local fan favorite SHERBURN WIGHTMAN being introduced as the new player/coach of MASSILLON for the 1906 season. Wightman is a strong player with a solid college pedigree. More important to Tigers’ management, however, is that he and MAXWELL are a package deal. They are best friends after both playing for Stagg and transferring to Swarthmore together. Wightman is able to reel Maxwell in to the Tigers with the opportunity to exact his revenge on the former Penn thugs who rearranged his face when he was outmanned on the Swarthmore team. All WALLACE accomplished by plucking a few of Massillon’s marginal players was to enable STEWART to fill a roster spot with a legend who has a grudge to fulfill against him. Maxwell is the final piece to Stewart’s spectacular puzzle.
The two clubs go about preparing for the 1906 season with polar opposite approaches. Wallace runs a loose ship with his jovial demeanor. The BULLDOGS make their practices a constant stream of humor and practical jokes as they try to leverage the new rules and awkwardly learn passing plays. Their play is creative and aggressive, leveraging the centering on speed not size. The TIGERS are strict, regimented and disciplined. They are drilled relentlessly on conservative, perfectly executed running plays, accompanied by a massive and superior defense.
We fly through a montage of the 1906 OHIO LEAGUE regular season. Both Massillon and Canton crush their lesser opponents, running up scores to see which team can accumulate the most points, and give up the fewest. Still, the games between the two clubs have yet to be scheduled. It’s become a game of cat and mouse within the bigger game to see who will budge the most and cave in to the other’s demands.
Meanwhile, without a deal, Canton players are starting to grumble about their pay. Wallace has been delaying paying the salaries of his players due to the sparse crowds, and rumors are swirling that he’s been gambling on the games with their money.
Finally, another meeting is scheduled at Lakeside Country Club. Players from both squads are eager for news, and wait outside on the pristine lawn. They make a mockery of the haughty club by running relay races to see who is the fastest, while inside Stewart and Wallace are negotiating their fates. The rivals each make poker-like moves and lay out ultimatums to assure that they get what they want most. Blondy angles for the first game in Canton while also preventing Stewart from getting the rematch in Massillon on Thanksgiving by announcing that the Bulldogs have already been scheduled to play the famous Latrobe, PA game that day. Stewart calls his bluff by demanding to withhold the Bulldogs money from Game 2 if that claim turns out to be false. Stewart at least wanted the potential Game 3 to be played on Thanksgiving, but Wallace says that the deciding game won’t be necessary in any case. After much ego slaying has been done, they agree to terms, and the rosters rejoice outside, much to the golfers’ dismay.
As the season progresses with the championship series looming, Wallace arranges to meet with EAST, who is in the area about to join the Massillon squad instead. They meet in a billiard hall, where East lays out a proposition for a fix…more like a hypothetical…to see if Wallace would actually go for it. After all, the big money is in a third game… a rubber match for all the marbles…and East has the connections to put up the financial backing for it. Wallace is shocked at East’s brashness. He’s careful not to say the wrong thing, or commit to anything other than trying to lure East over to play for Canton. They’ll meet again, East says. As East leaves Wallace in deep thought, PUDGE SEAMAN, Stewart’s team trainer and lackey, takes notice of the clandestine meeting.
Stewart hosts CROXTON for one of his favorite hunting adventures to discuss the team’s roster and finances, and all goes as planned. He assures Croxton that Massillon will have a formidable team to beat Canton, but is forthright about having put out bad press on Canton’s financial demise. He can’t help himself.
East approaches his captain, SHIRING, over dinner in a restaurant. It is there he takes his turn at feeling Shiring out about the possibility of a fix. While shaming Shiring about his blue-collar background and future after football, East offers Shiring financial security if he agrees to work with him…and potentially Wallace. “To the victors belong the spoils,” East states.
Rumors start flying around the two towns about a possible fix. Stewart uses his power of the press to assure the fans that it’s in everyone’s best interests to “play it square.” Tensions amongst the players rise, and fraternizing is kept to a minimum. Players on both sides are piling up personal debts, and the backers and management of both teams are concerned.
WIGHTMAN calls a meeting with Stewart. There’s a “situation” that has been brought to Wightman’s attention regarding their new signing…Walter East.
East visits CASSIE’s bordello and insists upon a private chat with her. While alone, East makes advances on Cassie. He knows some compromising information about her past and tries to blackmail her if she doesn’t give him what he wants. He’s got Massillon’s playbook, and he wants her to deliver it to Wallace. He proceeds to “take her,” and afterwards claims that Stewart is planning something bigger. When East leaves, Cassie burns the playbook, never to reach Wallace’s hands.
Cassie spends the next day with Wallace. She feels him out, to see if something fishy is going on with the football games. He assures her that everything is legitimate. In fact, he’s taking the team to Penn State to work on new plays and get away from the raucous atmosphere in Ohio… but he’s not taking her with him. No women allowed. Cassie wants some assurances about their future. Wallace will give none, not with football the singular thought on his mind. To her dismay, she’s left with no answers, but only a request from Wallace to “take care of the boys” their last night in Canton before heading off to training camp.
Under the tutelage of legendary U. of Michigan coach Fielding Yost while at Penn State, Wallace and the Bulldogs get down to business and fine-tune their game plan for Massillon. HESTON also returns to the team to make good on his promise from Episode Two. Back in Massillon, Wightman consumes his team with revamping the Tigers’ entire offense for fear that East may have leaked their plays to Wallace.
As the two towns prepare for the first “Game of the Century,” Wallace does his best to make sure his players stay out of trouble. He sneaks the team back into town late at night the day before the game, but one of his players still gets arrested, obviously set up by Stewart. Gamesmanship is on display all the way up until kickoff.
Stewart also has a master plan in place…in case Massillon doesn’t win…