The side out era

Apr 21

I have still yet to ever eat a meal in Italy, but after reading John Grisham’s imagery of Parma, Italy that will be the first city I visit. A football story that venture’s quite a bit away from the American portrayal of the game, Playing for Pizza gains my interest with his tasteful descriptions of Italian Cuisine.

A third string quarterback that ruins the Cleveland Brown’s 17-point lead in the AFC championship game, Rick Dockery decides it’s time to find employment somewhere else. Without knowing a word of Italian, Dockery reluctantly becomes the starting quarterback for the Parma Panthers. Much to his surprise, football gains the same amount of media attention in Italy as men’s volleyball does in the United States.


For Grisham, who is not normally a sports novel writer, it seems as if this book was a chance for him to express his love for Italy in terms of the food, culture, and landscape. He used the platform of football to gain an interesting point of view on the “characters” of Italy. This is not a story to read if you are looking for an elite level of sport. At the end of the day, what does it truly mean to be Italian Super Bowl champions?


Despite not being an inspiring sports story, the rich characters combined with the rich food descriptions creates for an entertaining and mouthwatering read. When Dockery first reaches Parma, his American coach Sam Russo takes him to a family owned restaurant in dowtown Parma. Gresham describes at great page length each and every course that the two are presented with. You will never crave wine, cheese, a proscuitto more reading any other novel.


playing-for-pizza playing-for-pizza-1

Grisham was able to put me in Parma, Italy whether I was in the restaurant, on the field, or with the beautiful female tourists. I would not recommend this book to any sports patron who is looking to really root for a player or a team in their readings. This is simply an image filled novel that will help you choose your next destination for your Europe vacation.


Apr 18

Southern California is the place for anything men’s volleyball. However, if we were to shine a magnifying glass on this particular area we would find that the highest concentration of volleyball stars come out of one mile by two mile town.

Manhattan Beach, California, the town that I grew up in.


However, the kids that come out of this area are so talented that they have to split up into two different high schools to even have a chance to play by their senior year. Mira Costa and Loyola have combined to win over 20 CIF championships and eight National Championships. On any given year at least 10 players on each squad are recruited to play in Division 1 volleyball.

In addition, this is the biggest rivalry for either of these two schools in any sport. The match between these two schools gets so out of hand that they actually had to move the match to a neutral location each season. They separate the sides so that Loyola fans are on one side of the gym and Mira Costa fans are on the other. Last years CIF finals featured these two teams, and there were reportedly 5,000 fans in attendance.

Apr 18

The AVP site has just recently been revamped. I am hoping that this site will really start to take advantage of all of the social media outlets in order to get word out there about the sport. The problem with the beach volleyball sport today is that not enough people actually know anything about it.


For instance, the AVP tour schedule really needs to find a way to get more people to come to the beach and buy merchandise. Youtube should be a great place for the AVP to explode, because it’s a beach scene with a bunch of girls wearing bathing suits. That should be the most appealing sport in the world to the younger high school and college audiences.


If the AVP were able to get more people taking interest then we could start to gear stories around the hero figures of the sport. People will have reason to continue to tune in each weekend in the summer, and maybe even strike a TV deal. Until this site can truly take advantage of all that the internet offers us, we will not be able to see beach volleyball as a truly viable professional sport.

Apr 18

In my four year volleyball career I have now had the opportunity to play our rival (Penn State) 9 times. I am 0-9 in those matches.

My first two seasons here at Mason we were never even close to competing with the Nittany Lions. However, by my junior year, I really felt like we had the talent to compete with these guys. Much to my dismay, during our regular season they put us in our place providing us with two sweeps. We were given one more chance in the finals of our EIVA conference tournament. The winner would move on to the Final Four.


The first two sets went much like our past, and it looked like we were going to take an early exit. The third set truly changed the dynamic of our rivalry from that point forward. We aced the Nittany Lions off the court, and made a very strong effort in the 4th game as well. We did still lose this match in 4, but it was apparent that we had finally seen the fear in their eyes we had been looking for all these years.

This season we actually had a match point in our match at home. We still ended up dropping the match in 5 sets to a sold out crowd, but we are really starting to get the sense that we are knocking on the door. This is all happening very late in our senior careers, but I think it is finally time for us to play the match of our careers. If we take care of business we will have this opportunity on April 27th when we take on Penn State at State Park.

Apr 18

The Cal Baptist Lancers have always been somewhat of a mystery in the volleyball community. They end up on the schedules of some of the power houses of NCAA Division 1 men’s volleyball like Irvine, USC, and UCLA. However, Cal Baptist has always competed in the NAIA, and have never been allowed to compete in the National Championship.


This year was supposed to be different. They were placed in the Mountain Sports Pacific Federation for the first time and were considered to be complying with NCAA compliance to be allowed to compete in Division 1. This is very exciting news for volleyball, because this team has historically always beaten the top teams in Division 1. In the past, many foreign professional players have come to play for CBU and receive an education.


However, recent news has stated that the Lancers will not be eligible for the MPSF postseason play. Considering their past this could mean a number of things. Perhaps the NCAA has found more players on their team accepting money from professional teams or perhaps their coach messed up on some of the compliance issues within the team.

This is very unfortunate for a team that has performed very well and was poised to go very far in the tournament. We will now have to wait longer to see how a team like this matches up when championships are on the line.

Apr 09

If you plan on watching a movie with champions and winners this is not the movie for you. If you want to see immense physical talent in sports you are not going to find it in Rudy. This movie just simply embodies the dreams, trial, and tribulations of every childhood Notre Dame football fan. Rudy, overall, is a fantastic sports film that inspires athletes as well as sports fan to always remain loyal to their sports.

This film by David Anspaugh recounts the football career of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger. Rudy played by Sean Astin is shown growing up in a small town in Illinois, where his entire family is huge Notre Dame football patrons. He tells his father that he plans to play for Notre Dame when he goes to college, and his entire family laughs at him.


Once seen in high school, the audience becomes aware that Rudy is quite small, and not a very gifted athlete, but he works harder than anyone else on his team. At first he does not succeed in being accepted into Notre Dame, but after life events put things into perspective for him, he decides to continue to pursue his dream. He works his way through being a groundskeeper for the football field and attending junior college to eventually one day be accepted into Notre Dame and play for the team.

The world of sports is always gauged on success (wins and losses). Those of us who are athletes always feel that the only way we can ever truly achieve anything in our respective sports is to become championships. Sports films, in almost every case, rely on these championship stories of elite athletes to tell their stories. However, the pinnacle of Rudy’s life was to just be given the chance to suit up one time for a collegiate football team.


He never planned to win a game for his team, score a touchdown, possibly not even play in a single down. Even so, all the work he put in was to simply be “part of the team”. He is exactly the kind of teammate that every team truly needs to be successful.

Shortly after he starts to practice with the Notre Dame squad, an offensive lineman takes it “easy” on Rudy, because of his size. Rudy jumps in the lineman’s face and says that if he doesn’t bury Rudy’s head in the dirt during practice their would be no chance they could win on Saturday. This kind of emotion from a guy who has never even been named to a game roster is incredibly inspirational. The entire team was made better through the effort that Rudy puts forth in their practices. The coach later goes on to tell Rudy that he wished that his players with more talent could have been given the same heart Rudy had. This “5 foot nothing” kid from Illinois personifies the efforts that so many student-athletes put in for just a single glimpse of recognition.


Mar 19

Many of us hope that Donald Sun will be the savior to all our past AVP problems. After going bankrupt once again, the AVP was bought out buy mulit-millionaire Donald Sun in attempt to make a profitable professional league.


He was made some significant changes to the website, and I really believe that the AVP can benefit from the increasing attention to social media in recent years. Beach volleyball trending through twitter, youtube, facebook allows it to get to an entirely new fanbase then simply the west coast or a few choice other places with a beach.


A sport where girls and boys play an athletic game on sunny beaches without a lot of clothes should be able to pull a lot of attention. Donald Sun’s strategies and marketing campaign should be able to get this sport to the masses. He also looks to solve the problem of ticket sales.


California Beaches are all public beaches, which are free to all users. The issue is this means that even when the AVP comes in with its bleachers, they are not allowed to charge any money for tickets. This means there is a whole other source of revenue stream that the AVP is missing out on.


I believe that Sun will be able to come up with solutions to these problems, and I think the AVP is  here to stay. I also think that a few years down the line we will see tournament purses that exceed $ 1 million.

Feb 26

In order for a sport to try to build a fan base there must be some kind of integrity to the game. Beach Volleyball seems to come out with multiple new rules every other year or so. The AVP tends to follow in the FIVB’s footsteps in most cases, and the thought is to make the sport more TV friendly. However, I believe they have actually just made the game less exciting.


The original beach volleyball match was played to 15 with side out scoring. This means that only the team that is serving can score a point. Now the match is two out of three payed to 21 where teams can score on every rally. This not only takes away from the excitement of the game from a match standpoint, but it also takes away from the velocity of serves from the service line.
At one point the league even tried to put a time limit on each match, so the games would finish before they had even reached 21.


Another huge rule change was the structure of the court. They shrunk the court from 18 meters by 9 meters to 16 meters by 8 meters. In addition they added indoor antennas to the net to make the court even smaller. The thought was that this would create for better defensive plays, but it actually just means that the serves are weaker and the big players with less talent can get away with having bad ball control.


Aside from these major rule changes there have been many that have come and gone through the last decade. Let serves are now in play when the used to be an error, the actual ball that is used to play on the AVP seems to change every other year, and the way that you are allowed to set your partner has changed. They no long allow what is called a “deep dish”. So, when it comes down to it the fan cannot actually watch a consistent match of volleyball from year to year. My hope is that one day everything will go back to the way it was in the side out era, and we will be able to gain the respect of the true patrons of the sport.

Feb 25

Division 1 Men’s Volleyball is divided into three conferences: the MPSF(West Coast), EIVA(East Coast), and MIVA(Midwest). Now each year these three conferences host conference tournaments, and each of the tournament champions get a bid into the NCAA Final Four. The fourth bid goes to the AVCA chosen at-large bid.


The problem, however, is that the MPSF houses a majority of the NCAA’s best volleyball teams yet they only get one guaranteed bid. The AVCA comes out with a weekly Top 15 poll and currently the MPSF holds 11 of those 15 spots.



My solution would be to create an Elite 8 rather than just a final four. That way there would still be the three conference champions that would make it in to the tournament plus the team with the best record in the MPSF, and four at large bids. This would be the easiest way to create balance within the conferences again.

Feb 25

Imagine if the SuperBowl were played on a Tuesday morning at 9 AM this year. This kind of crisis on a much smaller scale is where the livelihood of beach volleyball finds itself.


Over the past several decades beach volleyball has revolved all of its popularity around one single event in the year: the weekend of the Manhattan Beach Charlie Saikley 6 Man Volleyball Tournament.


The combination of professional athletes, celebrities, costumes, and a Spring Break-like atmosphere attracts upwards of 100,000 fans to the Manhattan Beach pier on the last weekend of July each year. This all seems like a match made in heaven for a sport that is most well known for its skimpy uniforms, but instead the true beach volleyball patrons may never get a chance to see this kind of popularity for the sport again.




Beach volleyball is chained to the very nature of the sport: it is played on the beach. The beach is public property by law, and therefore any beach volleyball event is truly run by the city in which it takes place. One cannot charge money for admittance into the tournament, because it is free for anyone to go the beach.


Since there is no ticket fee for the event, the city of Manhattan Beach is liable for the what happens to the beachgoers. With that kind of attendance they could charge $1 a ticket and create great revenue for the city, but these are public beaches and anyone is supposed to be allowed to go to the beach for free. Until beach volleyball can come up with a solution with town governments events like this one will cease to exist.