' Cinema Romantico: A Digression: An Appreciation of Awesomeness

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Digression: An Appreciation of Awesomeness

(Note: I'm sorry if people are tiring of my Beijing-inspired rants but every four years the Olympics consume me in totality and stir my emotions and, well, this is my outlet. You're gonna' have to cope.)

108. Read that number and let it sink in. Got it? I'll repeat it just in case, 108. That is the number of matches the American beach volleyball duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have won consecutively. One hundred and eight matches in a row. They have not lost a match in over 365 days. They have won two straight Gold Medals (a feat never accomplished in the sport), in Athens in 2004 and now in Beijing. They have not only not lost a match in those two Olympic tournaments, they have not lost a set. Only one word can sum up such information - dominance. Well, actually another word, a word used by Kerri Walsh after she and May-Treanor beat the Chinese team yesterday to earn their place atop the podium yet again, also could be used - "awesomeness". As in, "Eight years of awesomeness." (That's how long this duo has been playing together. Their career record over those eight years? 476-18. No, no, no, you don't understand. 476-18.)

There seems to be, well, maybe not resentment, but an inability to accept beach volleyball with complete seriousness back here in the States. After all, the women on the sand play their sport while wearing two piece swimsuits and pop songs (beach volleyball is the only Olympic sport where you will hear "Sweet Escape" by Gwen Stefani) blare between points. And, yes, Misty May-Treanor is attractive. I'm not going to - in the words of so many hip-hop artisans - front. She is, shall we say, pleasing to the eye. That, however, does not change the fact she's probably the best volleyball player (male or female) currently roaming the earth.

Why, it was just last week a female co-worker of mine was drooling over Michael Phelps and his "well-toned abs" (her words, man, not mine). Oh, you don't remember that "Golden God" Phelps swims while in a speedo? And perhaps you've never attended an NBA game (that's a sport contested in America, if you forgot) where they not only play pop music between timeouts but quite often while the game is actually in progress. And maybe you haven't attended a major league baseball game where they have human beings dressed up as sausages running laps around the bases between innings. Yeah, that's what athletics are all about right there. God Bless America, huh? Way to be even-handed, U.S. sportswriters. High quality journalism, I must say.

Okay, I'm being a little snippy but, you know what, I don't care. I'm not apologizing. You don't win 108 matches in a row (did I mention that?) without possessing a plethora of athletic ability.

I read one writer who tried to claim they have been so dominant only because Kerri is taller than everyone else on the beach volleyball tour. Reality check: one of their opponents in the Gold Medal match was, in fact, taller than Kerri. It was fascinating to watch how Kerri got stuffed by her opponent the first couple times at the match's start only to keep calm, re-group, and quickly figure out more clever angles at which she could get the ball around the Chinese player. It wasn't just jumping up and smacking the ball, she out-smarted them. And don't even get me started on Misty's mad ability to dig the pesky ball. She hurls herself around the court with an abandon that's more precise than reckless. Most players I've seen pull off the dig by collapsing into the sand and then scrambling back to their feet in the hopes of receiving their partner's set. But Misty digs, perfectly, even if the laws of physics say it shouldn't be dug, keeps herself on at least one foot so she can hop back up while Kerri simultaneously sets the ball, puts it away on the other side of the net for a kill, and then acts as if she's gonna' go pour some sangria. No biggie. Another point. My serve, Kerri, or yours? It's more spectacular, as far as I'm concerned, watching Misty dig a ball when the pressure's on than watching LeBron dunk or whatever major leaguer is currently the man of the hour crank one deep.

This duo, see, brings the heat come rain or shine. Literally. The aforementioned Gold Medal match was contested in a driving rainstorm (no tarps here, amigo) against the hometown Chinese team that had the backing of the crowd's majority. But did Misty and Kerry gripe about the weather or the situation? Nope. They just went out and did took care of business. Even when one of the Chinese women appeared to indulge in a bit of theatrical showmanship ("oh no! My arm hurts! Injury timeout!") to delay the game and try to stall momentum Misty and Kerri just sluffed it off and rocked the mushy manmade beach like it was a sunny saturday in Santa Cruz.

And did you see them after the match? That was giddiness personified. Man, they were happy. They ran around and around the court (still in the rain) hugging everyone, whether they know them or not. Kerri even hugged the intrepid NBC reporter. On the medal stand they looked like the kids in "Willy Wonka" when they first enter the chocolate factory.

Listen, I'm not kidding myself. I know there's a great deal of people whose only interest in watching a beach volleyball match is because, well, all the reasons not including volleyball itself. I'm also willing to bet most (if not all) of those people can't run as fast or jump as high as Misty and Kerri. In fact, if they tried to run in the sand they'd probably fall down after one step. In fact, the only thing they've probably done 108 times in a row is....woah, Nick. Pull up the reigns. Let's not get carried away.

On second thought....let's. No word gets tossed around more when discussing sports than Dynasty. The New England Patriots were given that label about 347,565 times last year. And then, when it mattered most, on the biggest stage, when it was all on the line, what happened? Cough, cough....choke, choke. But Misty and Kerri? In an Olympic year they faced the best of the best week after week, everyone gunning for them, and got to the Olympics and played the best of the best of the best and then, when it mattered most, on the biggest stage, when it was all on the line, when they were playing the home country on the home country's turf in a mini-monsoon, what happened? Oh, nothin' much. They just won again. Two gold medals. 108 straight matches. Ho-hum. Another day at the beach (ha! ha!).

Misty May-Treanor. Kerri Walsh. "Awesomeness", and the real American sports dynasty. End of discussion.

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