Focus on The Party Atmosphere Takes Attention Away From The Players
Despite the controversy, the change from a weekend to the middle of the week and the Manhattan Beach Police’s SWAT team approach to the event, the 6-man tournament is still all about the volleyball.
And it always has been about the volleyball, even with the one-day party of the past.
That’s been evident to those who actually watch the games as much as the costumes. And there are a lot of those people. After all, the sport of beach volleyball was born in Manhtattan Beach. Locals play it, they know the game and they applaud the outstanding play. And groan at the mistakes.
It was on display throughout the two days of the 2012 6-man. Agree or disagree with the mid-week dates – and pretty much every local who has been going to 6-man for years disagrees with it – the change highlighted the outstanding play that is the hallmark of the event.
The final between Fletch and Spyder’s sponsored BYU indoor team not went just three games, but a seemingly endless overtime. There were spikes met with blocks, dives for balls that seemed sure to land in the sand, serves that popped off the hands of the players that sounded like popcorn in a microwave.
The pure athleticism on display rivaled that of anything that was happening across the Pond at the Olympics. And, unlike the Olympics, you could walk right up to the edge of the court and watch it up close and personal. For free.
And this was not unique to 2012; that’s the way it is every year at 6-man. In the past, it happened the first Saturday in August, and rose up like a sky serve on Sunday.
In 2012, the crowd grew as the final progressed, reaching a level on the beach and the Strand that was about 60% of previous Sundays. Not at all bad for a Wednesday.
And the closer you sat the the Strand, the more vocal and knowledgeable the spectators were, for they allowed no slack on even the most minor misses, as well as on the usual controversial referee calls.
It’s a bit of an ironic twist to the watered-down event that the BYU team won. Instead of going to Shellback Tavern to celebrate, the Manhattan Creamery seemed more appropriate (one player did make a pass through “the Shell”).
The funny thing about all the controversy over 6-man – the first of the two-day event had become a showcase for creative costumes and teams, all with tents on the sand that – is that the quality of volleyball was always present. Most of the complainers and fan-flamming local media however, chose to ignore it. Banning boom boxes and bullhorns? Really? Even on Sunday!?
You could see the quality of play on the courts on that Saturday, even if Team Fletch (the Lakers) or Mangum P.I., put in the “scrubs” to romp over the likes of the hapless Tropic Thunders. And when those party teams were gone after Saturday, the level of play accelerated to the highest level on the final day, Sunday.
One of the big mistakes of the crackdown was to punish the teams by raising the entry fee four-fold to $1,000. The teams may have brought in the people but they were just there adding to the show.
As 2012 clearly showed with the drop in entries, they are local professionals who must work during the week. Imagine how creative they are at work if they come up with things like French Maids on the weekend. It’s like the NCAA’s punishment of USC not for a recruiting violation, which is why probation was initially created, but instead for a sideshow in which the school had no involvement.
And as 2012 showed, 6-man is really all about the volleyball. It’s a shame more locals could not skip work on a Tuesday and Wednesday to see it.
But here’s an idea: Make it a three-day event. Have the first round of the good teams on Friday (a lot of companies have alternative work Fridays, especially the aerospace companies in the South Bay) and have the party teams play on Saturday in what amounts to an exhibition.
That would reduce the number of teams – and people – on Saturday and the return the beach to the great teams on Sunday,
That way, everybody wins!