Shellback Tavern And Team Fletch Keep The Tradition Flowing
The lively scene inside this beachside dive bar was about the only thing keeping alive the grand tradition of the Manhattan Beach 6-man beach volleyball tournament in 2016.
That and Team Fletch, the incredibly-skilled players who dressed up in their afro wigs and Los Angeles Lakers basketball uniforms and packed into Shellback during the afternoons.
Because what was happening on the sand was a sad scene for those who remember the glory days of the 6-man.
In 2016 – held on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 4-5 – there were but 12 courts (there used to be that many just for the legends division) that took up barely the equivalent of a block on the beach. Those courts were blocked off from the rest of the beach by snow netting and there were restricted entry points.
There were barricades up at The Strand and you had to walk your bicycle but there were so few people on The Strand, pier and sand you could have rolled every volleyball used in the tournament down the middle of it all and barely nicked anyone.
It was also quiet by comparison to the past. A DJ played music but only when Fletch played was there any vocal activity on the beach.
In short, this once glorious tournament – the summertime highlight event of not just Manhattan Beach but the entire South Bay – was pretty much like any other of the dozens of amateur beach volleyball tournaments that take place here about every weekend.
To those who experienced the height of this event, seeing the 6-man in 2016 was like watching an aging athlete well past his prime still trying to play the game : Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attempting the sky hook into his 40s, Emmitt Smith no longer able to turn the corner in football, Tom Watson shooting 8-over at his final Masters, Muhammad Ali getting pounded in the ring by Larry Holmes.
Or perhaps Yasiel Puig trying to hit a fastball.
This, of course, did not stop officials from having security guards conducting checks of purses and backpacks at entry points and the Manhattan Beach Police Department from setting up a “command center.”
Was all this for security? Nope, just to keep people from taking a beer or cocktail onto the beach. (At one time, drinking on the beach was ignored and the tournament roared.)
Inside Shellback, tho, there was a mini version of what used to take place on the beach. There were scantily-girls (they were in bikinis) and a bunch of very tall and vocal guys downing pitchers of beer and drinks as if the alcohol would all go bad if they didn’t consume every ounce of it at that moment.
At least for some, the spirit – and some of the spirits – of the 6-man remained alive for 2016.