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LA Times: Beach volleyball might be screwed in SoCal soon

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Piotr Rasputin, Aug 12, 2006.

  1. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member


    I have covered a lot of volleyball, I have relatives who have a strong stake and interest in whether or not beach volleyball continues to succeeed/stage events in SoCal, I have friends who can't get enough of this stuff.

    And I honestly don't care. Niche sport, regional interest. Sure, epople show up to events in other cities, but is it more for the novelty, or the sport itself?

    I would think that if they charge 20 bucks a pop for people to go watch beach volleyball, their attendance will fall like an anvil in a septic tank. They would slowly rebuild an audience, perhaps. But would it survive, or would the players have to go to overseas tourneys for a lot of their revenue?
  2. Ledbetter

    Ledbetter Active Member

    Don't most of the guys go to look at the hotties?
  3. pressboxer

    pressboxer Active Member

    And vice versa?
  4. maberger

    maberger Member

    regional interest is certainly true.

    MB open will be about 10 blocks from my house. my bet is, AVP will never get coastal commission permission, because beach neighborhoods hate this commericialized shite.

    as a relative (11 years) MB newcomer, i hate the idea that AVP/leonard amato think they can hold MB/HB hostage. put it to a vote here and AVP goes down in flames.
  5. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Charging money to watch volleyball would be suicide.

    Volleyball is the only sport I play above the level of suck and I wouldn't pay to watch it.
  6. terrier

    terrier Well-Known Member

       Actually, the tour was going great guns back in the early '90s BEFORE anybody charged paid admission. Sponsors were lining up to get in on the action, and prize money was steadily rising
      The problems began in about 1993, when Jerry Solomon (known around here as Mr. Nancy Kerrigan) became executive director, and decided the way to get mainstream media attention was to pump the prize money at the top beyond the tour's means. To do that, he had to start charging (albeit for the primo seats), and move the tour off the beach. (Classic example: the AVP had played on Cape Cod on Craigville and West Dennis beaches, but they year Solomon took over, it played at the Cape Cod Mall parking lot). That's really when some of the bloom started falling off the rose. Meanwhile, the B and C-level guys who helped fill the field every week weren't getting a piece of this additional money, and the overall talent level started to plummet.
       When they dominated the tour in that era, Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes each made about $400,000 in prize money. The top guys aren't making half that today.
       I last saw AVP events in '95 at Newport and Quincy, Mass. (at the Marina Bay complex, where Tom Brady lived at one time), and their first-day crowds weren't exactly huge. Meanwhile, the WPVA (the old women's tour) drew well at Newport - players and tour people were saying their Friday/Saturday crowds were bigger than those back home in Cali.
       I used to tape every tournament on TV 10, 15 years ago, but I'll admit I don't watch the game as often as I used to. The FIVB-induced rule changes (rally scoring to 21, serves off the net counting, etc.) have sucked some of the life out of the game, too. It's just not the same experience it once was (maybe just nostalgia for the days of walking down the beach and seeing Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos in action at Narragansett, or Karch ripping down the net in Newport after a lame call cost him the championship match - good times). The rise of the international circuit and the X-Games probably hurt the AVP, too.
       A little background on Leonard Armato: he helped the players found the AVP in 1983 after they went on strike against the tour's former promotion company at a big year-end tournament. Armato went on to basketball, representing Shaq among others (his name is still mud among Celts fans for holding out Brian Shaw, and that season halted what looked like Shaw's rise to stardom). Don't even discuss Armato's obvious conflict of interest - he brought the women back under the AVP umbrella about the time he married Holly McPeak, one of the game's all-time greats, whose career is winding down.
       Meanwhile, the game's hurting at the grass roots - back in the day, I'd go to the beach on Sunday and see four or five nets (all people bringing their own - no permanent nets), and we'd have some competitive yet fun pickup games (not to mention the games at Newport - I didn't care for that crowd, however). I used to even find games on weekdays. Now, I never find a decent pickup game at the beach anymore. Most of my contemporaries have hung it up, but it's as if the next generation left the game behind - I almost never see younger people playing.
  7. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Very cool post.

    I'm surprised to hear you don't see young'uns playing vball, though. I'm usually by far the oldest person playing at the gym. Lots of teenagers and enough of them are actually into the game--as opposed to just trying to hit the ball as hard as they can--to keep things interesting. (That said, I'm still pissed about the stupid dork who served a ball right off my head a few months ago and didn't apologize) I haven't gotten to the beach yet this summer (thanks work!) but the last few years the courts have ALWAYS been packed on the weekends, usually with college-aged kids.
  8. terrier

    terrier Well-Known Member

    Actually, last night I played in an indoor reverse coed 4s tournament (with a high school girls' tournament on the other side of the gym), and I was on by far the oldest team among six (my team was ages 44, 43, 37 and 29). There are still young'uns playing indoors (and the youth club scene in Rhode Island is perking up), but it hasn't translated to the beach. Not that I ever saw that many girls playing on the West Bay beaches (granted, most of the girls who could play gravitate to Newport, and none of the wives or girlfriends of my group played).
  9. digger

    digger New Member

    The AVP has actually done pretty well in New Jersey with its Belmar and Seaside Heights events (the long-time Belmar event was moved to Seaside this year for a number of reasons, mostly because of sponsors - Cuervo wanted to sell alcohol on the beach).

    People pay and they draw a pretty big crowd. I was also in Cincinnati last year at the tennis stadium event, and that drew well and was run well.

    A little more history (thanks, terrier for your input): the big problem in the 90's came because the tour was promising more money in prizes each year than it actually had - they would say the purses were 4.5 million, but they actually had like 3 million. So each year, they'd borrow a little from the next year's purses, hoping to pick up extra money somewhere (i guess kind of like check kiting). Eventually, people didn't get paid. Thats a big reason Kent Steffes isn't playing anymore - they owed him money and he wanted it.

    When Armato took over, he scaled everything back and it has grown a little each year - 10 events 4-5 years ago, now like 14-16. The money has also gone up. Not a major sport, but they do ok.

    As far as local participation, in New Jersey that is also on the rise - the local beach tour (Greatamericanvolleyball.com) has had events this summer with as many as 40 nets or so - it started out a couple years ago with about 14-16 nets each week. There's also plenty of pick-up games at the local beaches. the 40 nets is still a far cry from the heyday in the 90s when the JSVBA had an average of 50-60 nets per weekend, but its rising.

    The AVP probably had its most visability in the 80s when it was on ESPN on Monday nights as part of a beach package. (with surfing and others). Then, it was on a top channel, and fans who played on weekends were home to watch on mondays. They need something like that back again.
  10. terrier

    terrier Well-Known Member

    It's great to see the game alive in Jersey - does that tour get to Delaware? About '93, I was at Rehoboth Beach on a Sunday, and I counted 57 nets, end to end down a relatively narrow beach.
    A big part of the problem when the tour started charging and moving away from actual beaches was that they lost many of the sponsors who got into the game for the lifestyle identification, and it was difficult to get them back. Yeah. you see Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh doing TV ads, but that's off their Olympics participation. Nobody gets that marketable just from the tour.
    Ah, Steffes...he was able to reach the top and walk away thanks to everything he had going for him off the court, but he could also be a raging asshole. His career ended, essentially, with the players' tent fight with Brian Lewis in Michigan. This was no purse swinging - Steffes got his nose broken and Lewis ended up with 34 stitches in his head. Tour officials DQed Steffes (Lewis played on, but his injuries probably cost him a shot at winning), Olympic silver medalist Mike Whitmarsh immediately dumped him as a partner, and he faded from the scene not long after that.
    As for the TV coverage, it's just not the same without Chris Marlowe and Paul Sunderlund every week - as fun a broadcast team as there ever was (at least Chris still does some NBC, and the Lakers recognized Sundy's talents). Well, as Chris would say at the end of the telecast, "The beach...is officially...closed!"
  11. digger

    digger New Member

    I don't think the JSVBA ever went into Delaware, there was probably another tour organizer who did that.

    Lewis was a major jerk as well - i was at one final where Lewis played with Dave Swatik against Whitmarsh and Canyon Ceman. All three of them had played as partner with Lewis for some tournaments before that. Lewis went in the water after the final, and I was talking to the other three, and all of them absolutely hated him. They all got along great, too.

    I never really had any problems with Steffes.
  12. terrier

    terrier Well-Known Member

    Interesting dichotomy - a fan fave like Lewy hated among the players. But if I just got stuffed by a short guy with prematurely gray hair, I'd be a little cheesed if he went up to the net and hit the crab pose in my face, too.
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