It wasn’t the Olympics, but it’ll do.

The 2012 Olympics featured a lot of volleyball in the early days. There was a time when this was not the case. It changed one night in 1984.

The scheduled network coverage was all about gymnastics this night. I know; I was watching it while vacationing at the Jersey shore. As they started their coverage, the arena grew dark. There was something wrong with the power. The competition was suspended, but the cameras’ red lights glowed bright and angry. The network had to do something. They had prepackaged videos meant to get us “up close and personal” with the athletes. Filler stuff at best, but this was prime time.

They must have asked, “What else do we have going on?” Seems USA mens volleyball was going on in another building. The plan was they would switch to volleyball and return to gymnastics when the power came back on. This must have rankled “real sports” fans since volleyball was considered a picnic game. We had been feasting on tiny pixies doing fancy stunts and wanted more.

With the world watching, the volleyball game became hotly contested. Our mens team showed world class athleticism and great team spirit. I stared at the TV and drank in it all in. After all my years of playing competitive volleyball, my chosen sport was finally getting some notice.

After a bit, the lights at the first gym were restored and, as promised, the coverage changed back. But something unexpected happened, a wave of people called in and asked for more volleyball. Note: in these pre-email days, people actually phoned the networks. The TV coverage was split between the two events. America’s mens volleyball team won this early round, and the network promised to show the upcoming match.

The next day, I went for one of my long walks along the beach. I drifted toward a makeshift volleyball court with some adults playing a sloppy version of the game. I was about 20 feet away when an errant ball rolled towards me. I heard the familiar, “A little help, buddy”. I picked the ball upĀ and tossed it into the air smacking it sharply. It launched like a frozen rope – hey, it’s my story.

One guy said, “Come over here.”

I spent about an hour with these budding volleyballers. At their requests, I showed them how to bump, set and spike along with serve and block. As they grew more comfortable with the game’s mechanics, their games started looking darn good. They even took on a team of passing-by jocks.

I shook hands with them and asked them to keep playing and watching volleyball. I assured them they could play the game for a long time.

On sandy strip of beach in the summer of 1984, I was an international ambassador for volleyball played correctly.

It felt good.





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