The long and the short of U.S. men's indoor volleyball
BEIJING -- Members of the U.S. men's indoor volleyball team are unhappy with the international volleyball federation (FIVB) mandate that established the inseam length of their shorts at merely four inches. The FIVB won't budge, but at least the American players are showing a sense of humor.
Members of the team appear in a funny Youtube video in which they say they'll pay the $10,000 FIVB fine for breaking the rule and stage stunts to raise cash to pay the bill. Among their ploys: standing on a Southern California beach -- it looks like Laguna Beach -- and at entrances to the 5 freeway holding signs that say "Help me, help my shorts get longer," and "Will trade shorts for food."
One of the players even asks beach volleyball star Misty May-Treanor for sympathy. But all she offers is a suggestion that they try laser hair removal -- adding that it's really not that bad because "you don't have to wear Speedos."
Lloy Ball, who will make his fourth Olympic appearance, said he and his teammates practice in below-the-knee-length shorts, and would feel more comfortable if they were allowed to play in the longer gear.
"The FIVB likes 'em tight and bun-huggerish," he said.
The humor shouldn't obscure the fact that the team is a medal contender and made an impressive showing in winning the World League championship. The U.S. men haven't won an Olympic volleyball medal since winning a bronze in 1992, the last in a run of three straight medals.
"Obviously, we have a rich history in volleyball and we feel we have a team that can accomplish that," Ball said.
Gabe Gardner of San Clemente, who will make his second Olympic appearance, is something of a history buff, thanks to his father, Frank, who taught history at San Clemente High. Gardner, who plays opposite, said he'd love to visit historical sites and landmarks but probably won't have the time.
"I can't, in between matches, run off to see the [Great] Wall," he said. "It's a huge bummer for me. What I think I'll do after seeing how nice it is, is come back here someday. I'll be the tourist."
Gardner will write his own version of history on his blog. So far, his experience has all been positive, so he doesn't expect to run afoul of the censorship that has prevented journalists here from accessing websites relating to China's positions on Tibet and Darfur.
"I'm absolutely flabbergasted with how nice it is here and I really don't have anything bad to say about it," he said. "The village is beautiful. The food is great. Our gyms are top-notch. The travel, the treatment by people, the friendliness."
"I'm pretty well-traveled and cultured, so I know how great the Chinese culture is and what a great history it is. You drive by and you see one of these little palaces. Stuff like that blows me away. I can't think of anything bad to say, so I can't imagine other bloggers like myself trying to find a story out of nothing. "
Should there be any political protests, he plans to ignore them.
"This isn't the stage to make your political voice known," he said. "We're not blogging for political bias or political reasons. I'm blogging to let people know our volleyball team is a great team and to let them know what China's like for us and our point of view. It's not my place at this time, to say 'This is going on here,' else I'd be a political blogger."
-- Helene Elliott
Top photo: (top) Lloy Ball, left, and Ryan Millar celebrate a victory over Brazil during FIVB play in Rio de Janeiro on July 26. Credit: Vanderlei Almeida / AFP/Getty Images.
Bottom photo: Gabe Gardner. Credit: USOC