Shortly before I left for Super-Spike on Saturday I mentioned in passing to a friend that I would be there all day, prompting him to ask “I keep hearing people say they’re going to that. I don’t get it, its just volleyball right? Whats the big deal?”
The best way to truly understand what keeps people coming back to Super-Spike would be to come check it out for yourself one year with or without a team. Since this year’s opportunity to do that has just passed, I suppose the second best way to understand what its all about would be if someone could write a first hand account of their day at Super-Spike.
Luckily, I have prepared for you today, based on my experience, a modest example of what that might look like. To read the story of my day, tentatively titled “Super-Spike: A sojourn into the land of giants and booty shorts”, read on.
I arrive at 2:30 p.m. with Huy, our photographer, and the games are already underway. I head to the Coors Light beer tent not just for a drink but for its proximity to the sand courts where the intermediate and competitive games are played. I settle down on the grass beside the beach courts with my beer while Huy snaps some action shots. I notice Cabbie, from The Score’s Cabbie on the Street, interviewing a team wearing Winnipeg Jet’s jerseys and hockey gear. On closer inspection the jerseys are blue body paint, Huy takes some pictures of them with Cabbie while I overcome my fan boy urge to go up and introduce myself.
While the competitive play is entertaining I plan on coming back to watch the final matches so I figure I may as well make a tour of the grass courts where the rec games are played. One thing you’ll find if you go to Super-Spike is that whether you knew it or not you have some friends playing in the tournament. This rule holds true for me and after running into a team of friends I used to play poker with. The first game is one of those losses where keeping score becomes superfluous, but good exchanges are met with calls of “nice rally!” followed closely by “don’t jinx it!” by players from both sides.
This is the best part of the tournament, at the rec or competitive level, the emphasis on sportsmanship and just enjoying the game is unspoken but implicit. More implicit at the rec level than any other is the rule of being buzzed when you step out on the court. My friends’ team follows their embarrassing loss with refreshments at the beer tent where someone has thoughtfully set up a streaming broadcast of the Bomber game on a huge TV.
I check my phone and its 8:30; perfect time to go back up to the sand and see how the competitive players are doing. At this point the wheat has been suitably sifted from the chaff. While I like to praise Super-Spike for being accessible to everyone, make no mistake, in the competitive division if you can’t ball, you don’t play.
The finals get underway and I settle in behind the court. Team Whiskey Dix in their matching red vs a miss mash of youths calling themselves Mutha Uckers. Immediately I notice there is no way anyone from Whiskey Dix has ever been employed there, or likely even set foot there because they are all way past bar-hopping age. They’re organization is their asset but they have trouble coping when some of the young hot shots of Mutha Uckers are in the front row. “This is pretty much the classic youth vs experience match-up,” I say out loud to no one in particular. A few people around chuckle and one woman says “Naw, ya think?” with a grin. I look around and realize based on median age I’m clearly standing among the supporters of experience.
At the side of the court, I notice my friend Nate Toews, a giant by any definition of the word and at 6’8”, even sitting down I’m surprised I didn’t see him there earlier. Nate’s the man to ask if you want a whose-who discussion of volleyball so I move across and sit on the grass next to him and his friends. I ask him to break down the match for me and he points at each Whiskey Dix member one after the other.”That guy is the head coach of the women’s national team, he just came from Germany just this year. The guy serving, I used to play with him on the national team. The girls are sisters, they both played national team…” he lists nonchalantly.
So clearly Whiskey Dix spared no expense to put together the all stars for their team. Across the court, he tells me, most of these young Motha Uckas are high level volleyball players from Red River. As he says it, one of them takes out his invisible rope, climbs it to impossible elevation, and spikes the ball down with the authority and booming pow of a gunshot. This kid is good, I’m thinking. “Jump a little higher next time buddy,” Nate heckles and he laughs as he gets a wave of acknowledgement, clearly they’ve played together in the past.
The crowd is into the action and why not, in terms of entertainment its honestly on par with any beach volleyball I’ve ever seen. One of those games where the appreciative “ooh”s from a vicious spike are punctuated by rowdy cheering for another unbelievable dig to keep the ball alive. Games are played until the buzzer sounds, not after a set score, and Whiskey Dix are ahead when the horn blows. Friends of both sides swarm out on the court to congratulate the players while others make their way to the stage on the other side of the beer tent to grab good seats for Default.
A few songs into Default’s set Huy and I walk back to the courts to see the transformation of the sand into the “Red Bull Beach Party”. The sand is covered with flecks of red and green light and a pretty impressive Red Bull DJ booth is erected on the sand. I notice the guy manning it is Winnipeg’s own Dow Jones. For anyone who doesn’t know Dow Jones is probably the best example of the term “work horse” among Winnipeg’s night life entertainment. He spins at just about every big party as well as several weekly sets at bars and clubs around the city, so I know the party will do fine in his capable hands. Which is good because even before Default finishes the beer tent is swelling to maximum capacity and party-ers are already starting to spill out onto the sand, anxious to dance and really get the evening going.
Check out our pictures from the event and ask yourself, is there room in your life next year for a little co-ed volleyball?
Super-Spike Day 1
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Super-Spike Day 2
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