The weirdest sporting event I’ve ever attended

No, this is not about the race walk, sorry to get your hopes up. Instead, I attended a 9 a.m. beach volleyball session, and while it was incredibly fun, here is why it was the oddest sporting event I have ever been too.

This is not the end of a match, this is the end of every single point. These two hugged their way all the way to a Silver medal. (Photo by Danny Medlock)

The Location

Beach volleyball takes place at Horse Guards Parade with the palace directly in your eye sight if you are sitting on one side, and the massive British Parliament building in your view if you are on the other side. What other stadiums can claim those views? I’m used to sitting at Fenway Park and looking at the Citgo sign out in left field and the Prudential Tower in right. Palaces? Yeah, right.

The AtmosphereEverybody cheers for everybody. The Brazilians cheer for the Brazilians, but they also cheer for the Germans whom they are competing against. If your countrymen aren’t playing, like me on this day you just cheer for everyone like a 5th grade teacher going to check out the U10 soccer game.

Additionally, the games have a hype man. Literally, there is a British man in his early 20s who has a microphone the whole game and is just saying things to keep the fans into the game and entertained. He hosts contests for fans, like some sort of minor league baseball PR intern. While the experience is similar to a minor league baseball game, it also has the feel of an NBA game in say Cleveland, Detroit or Atlanta. Stadium music plays the whole game, but unlike in the NBA, it’s not annoying and makes it more enjoyable.

If the hype man is not enough, the dancers are enough to get you hyped. These women are gorgeous and they are dressed quite professionally, I would totally bring them home to mom.

Wait, there were male dancers too … news to me (Photo by Chris Longo)

The Game

Are you ready for a series of questions?

What sporting event have you been to where woman played first, and then you watched them make modifications (net is raised) to the playing surface so the men could play?

Have you ever been to a sporting event where the match was played in a bikini or at the very least barefoot?How about a sport where the winning team embraces each other 42 times (see picture above) in one match?

Been to an event at 9 o’clock in the morning? If yes, was everyone drinking regardless?

Lastly, despite the ludicrousness of this event, is it weird that I loved every second of it?



How I became Brazil’s biggest fan

Brazil’s Ricardo Santos spiked the volleyball into the sand as crowds of green and blue chanted.  “Arriba, arriba, arriba!”

Somewhere among the packed house at Horse Guards Parade, under the lights, a young American girl, draped in 50 stars and red stripes, found herself cheering on Brazil as well.

I have no explanation as to why I chose Brazil over Germany that night. I had never heard of Santos or Pedro Cuhna until the Bon Jovi music faded, the dancers left and the announcer introduced the teams.

At first, I simply placed my bet on who will win, as I always do with any sporting event I watch. When the Cleveland Browns take on the Pittsburgh Stealers, as a Cincinnati Bengals fan, I still have a hopeful outcome.

Cheering on a team I had no relationship with was nothing out of the ordinary, or so I thought.

Photo by Jenna Stenger
Both teams argue to the referee their case about the controversial call. Point was later awarded to Germany.

I realized how emotionally invested I had become in the game when there was a controversial referee decision during the first match. A point, initially awarded to Brazil following a superb rally, was stolen by Germany, after referee discussion.

I immediately felt frustration and booed alongside a group of Brazilian fans behind me. This wasn’t Dusty Baker out at the plate, arguing a call for my beloved Reds. This was Brazil taking on former world champions Brink and Reckermann of Germany.

As the sets and matches continued, my desire to see Brazil hold on and comeback overcame me. Every impressive dig, save or point, I waved my American flag and screamed for Brazil. I saw other USA flags across the court waving proudly, but I also noticed one guy in particular jump up after every German point.

We were not from Germany or Brazil, but we adopted their players, fans and country for an hour. You truly become a part of the Olympics when it’s right in front of your eyes and all around you. It’s something you cannot explain until you experience it.

At the Olympics, surrounded by high emotion, winning means much more than another medal. America counts medals in the race against China, but for some of these smaller countries, the victory represents hope. When Guatalama’s Erick Barrondo, 21, claimed the country’s first-ever Olympic medal with his performance in the race walk, optimism transpired.

Following his silver, Barrondo told the Associated Press, “If somebody tomorrow changes a gun or a knife for a pair of shoes and begins to train for a sport, I would be the happiest person on earth.’’

Photo by Jenna Stenger
Jacob Corrigan, Kayla Hanley, and Megan Hickok attend the men’s beach volleyball event. All three dressed in support of their country, America.

This, to me, exposes the power of the Olympic games and the emotions that accompany them. An unfortunate and unexpected loss meant Team USA would not be playing the night I had tickets. Instead, I found myself in an arena surrounded by German and Brazilian fans, not sure how I would fit in. Quickly, you realize how intense the crowds are at the Olympics. The cheers are electric and unifying. I made the decision to bet on Brazil, but the Olympic atmosphere overtook me, and before I knew it, I wanted Brazil to win more than anything. ­­

Germany, Netherlands score beach volleyball wins; Germans to play for gold Thursday

Horse Guard’s Palace played host to two quick wins by Germany and the Netherlands Monday night, and Scripps London captured these images to give the audience a feel for the game.

Germany’s Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann played first against Brazil’s Pedro Cunha and Ricardo Santos and managed to win the match 2-0 putting them in the semifinals.

The Netherlands’ Reinder Nummerdor and Rich Schuil defeated Italy’s Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo 2-0 immediately following Germany’s win.

Germany beat the Netherlands Tuesday to reach the gold medal final against Brazil’s second team Thursday.