Volleyball gets minimal mention in America. Tulsa is no different. There is likely a group of youngsters right now who think volleyball is a contest between four scantily clad women on the beach.
The few times we are exposed to volleyball each year usually features gratuitous hiney shots of Misty May-Treanor or Kerri Walsh. Nothing wrong with that, mind you. No complaints here.
But something else permeates my brain when volleyball is mentioned. Two things actually.
The first cable box hooked up to my TV in the mid-80s was a beauty. The solid black box was not much smaller than a HD/DVR these days. The difference of course being the layout.
The cable box consisted of three buttons (as I remember). Power, + and -. There was no remote (or my parents did not give me one).
Late night viewing consisted of Cheers, Night Court and whatever this new ESPN channel was showing. Baseball was commonplace. A lesser known sport also filled the airwaves.
Men's and women's volleyball often provided a stopgap between "real" sports. This was long before professional poker and original programming cluttered the sports dial.
Since changing the channel required getting up, pressing a button multiple times and settling back into the beanbag chair, I left the channel alone. Besides, the cable options were limited back in the day.
So volleyball found the rotation. The six-on-six games always seemed close and important. Any time USA appears on the jersey, we're tuning in.
The second instance of volleyball in my brain was my first experience with High Definition. My cousin explained the HD phenomenon to me but seeing is believing.
When he flipped from the SD feed to the HD feed, well I'm sure you know. He just happened to illustrate the difference while the USA was playing Brazil.
All of this to say the University of Tulsa will host high-level international volleyball competition at the Reynolds Center Friday-Saturday, June 24-25.
"We are honored to host this class of extremely talented, dedicated Olympic athletes," said Ray Hoyt, Tulsa Sports Commission executive director back in February. "Through our partnership with TU, we're able to attract world-class sporting events such as this, which brings visitors, dollars and recognition to our city. We look forward to their visit and hope it's the first of many."
This does not appear to be an exhibition or preseason type of event. It is listed as an official FIVB Bama World League match between the U.S. Men's National Team and the No. 1 ranked Brazil team. Sounds important.
The U.S. Men's team is ranked 5th in the world. More importantly, they are the regaining and defending Olympic champs.
The top-16 teams in the world compete in various cities from May-July to crown a champion. Every team plays every other team in the pool for two matches at home and two matches away.
The four pool winners and the four second-place teams advance to the Final Round, which will be held July 6-10 in Gdansk, Poland.
Tulsa and Gdansk: the new international volleyball cities? Why not?
"USA Volleyball is proud to bring elite men's volleyball to three different U.S. cities for the sixth straight year," said Doug Beal, CEO of USA Volleyball. "Brazil, Poland and Puerto Rico are all teams that the U.S. Men could be meeting again in the 2012 Olympic Games.
"But the World League matches are more than just sporting events. They provide family-friendly entertainment and the chance to meet the coaches and athletes during autograph sessions following the matches."
It is no secret (or maybe it is) that TU Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham is a huge volleyball nut. He is also a great salesman. This year the Golden Hurricane football team will be televised more than ever. It is in part due to his strong commitment to televising games on odd days in the past.
But listening to him talk about volleyball is phenomenal. When he is pitching a TU/ORU mid-season tilt you would think the gold medal is on the line.
Will Tulsa join in his enthusiasm? Fickle is a term tossed out to describe fan support for local events.
One of the go-to arguments I hear a lot is "we want the best." Is it simply an excuse to ignore Shock games? Or is there merit to T-Town fans knowing what elite level sports looks like. Maybe this will be a pseudo litmus test?
Matches begin both nights at 7pm. Visit tulsahurricane.com for ticket information or just visit the TU box office on campus.
Who's Ya Mamma?
Sports related? Probably not. However buzz is buzz and last Wednesday there was definitely a buzz in Tulsa. The Tulsa-themed Man V. Food episode aired and people were ecstatic.
Joe Mamma's Pizza and owner Blake Ewing were the recipients of the majority of the airtime. Both Ewing and the pizzeria lent credibility to T-Town.
The host of the show seems goofy. He's the kind of guy you probably would not want to hang out with unless he was buying the meal. Even then...
While watching the show, it made me wonder about the originality of Tulsa. Pizza? Is that really the best kept secret in T-Town? Can we be famous for something Italy, New York and Chicago have not already trademarked?
The show should be in the rotation on the Travel Channel this summer. Kudos to the fire department and Kyle Younger for a job well done.
Now bring on the Incinerator pizza!
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