August 9, 2012

Believe me, I know what you’re thinking. My wife, Anna, has said all of the things that are running through your head right now:

“Sure you hate it,” she might say, one eyebrow arched north of Nunavut. “An opportunity to watch superfit young Brazilian and Italian and Californian women throwing themselves around in skimpy bikinis. What torture.”

And she’s not wrong. I mean, I live; I breathe; I look. Not exactly Cartesian in its depth, I know, but pretty apt for your average middle-aged heterosexual male with a gut.

But the flesh isn’t enough.

I look at those hypertoned bodies and I see a slower, more repetitive form of a sport that I never enjoyed watching. Playing volleyball is a lot of fun—though, at 5’ 7”, don’t choose me for your side—but watching it is a total drag. It’s all serve, dig, set, fake run-up, spike, dig, set, fake run-up, spike in an endless loop until one side accumulates 25 points to win a set. Then they play another set. Five of them, if you’re unlucky.

Beach volleyball does have the advantages that the sets are shorter (to only 21) and there are fewer of them (best of three), but at least with the gym version there are six people on the court, and six others who can come in as subs, so you get to see a variety of people doing those repetitive things. Not with beach volleyball—two players per side and no replacements means Misty May-Treanor digs out an opponent’s spike dozens and dozens of times in the same game, and Kerri Walsh Jennings spikes the ball over and over again. And that also means, I suspect, that slight differences in talent or ability translate into large margins on the scoreboard.

My two year old daughter, Alma, loves watching beach volleyball. I suspect it’s because she loves the beach rather than because she loves the volleyball. But she did point out while watching a portion of one game that the players didn’t seem to be on an actual beach. (No jellyfish was the giveaway for her.) So she took it upon herself to redub the game “sand volleyball.” Which seemed to me an excellent name change.

Until I found out: It’s not even real sand. That’s how fake the game is.

“Why I Hate … Beach Volleyball,” by Bill Vourvoulias.

From “We Are Family,” the August 9, 2012, issue of V as in Victor.

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