Beach volleyball is a sport perfectly suited for Brazil – Los Angeles Times
Outside the beach volleyball venue Saturday, Brazilians and tourists danced on the boardwalk, munched on grilled shrimp, scanned racks of cheap jewelry and played futevolei — soccer on a volleyball court.
If you want to feel alive, you come to Copacabana Beach on a glistening, 85-degree day.
And if you want to feel good about the Olympics and fall in love with a new sport, you go to a venue that is brand new and yet one that Brazilian volleyball star Barbara called “so traditional, so classic.”
It’s right on the beach, touching the Atlantic Ocean.
This is baseball at Dodger Stadium, football at the Rose Bowl, college hoops at Pauley Pavilion.
But there’s a modern touch in this game — a DJ mixing music and an announcer named Luke Van Valin firing up the crowd between points.
“Hey . . . ho . . . hey . . . ho,” the spectators hollered, following Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray.”
American Casey Patterson, who teamed with Jake Gibb on Saturday to take out a team from Qatar, hollered into a mic after his match: “What’s up, everybody? Thanks for coming out! You guys are amazing! We love Brazil!”
Patterson is a 36-year-old father of three who probably still gets carded thanks to his Mohawk. A veteran of international play nicknamed “Mr. Boom” and the “6-6 Ninja,” he knows the importance of catering to the crowd when he plays in Brazil. Which is part of why he danced during his team’s 21-16, 21-16 victory.
“I’m trying to win them over,” he said, “trying to be the hotter girl on the dance floor.
“I want them to enjoy themselves. We’re playing for medals and for pride for our country but at the same time, there’s a reason beach volleyball is so popular here. They love it, and if you show them how much you love it, then it’s a great relationship.”
Brazilian volleyball fans are passionate and knowledgeable, straddling the line between supportive and mean. Czech competitor Marketa Slukova took offense at the crowd’s jeering during her and teammate Barbora Hermannova’s match against Brazil’s Barbara and Agatha.
“I’ve played for 10 years and I’ve never, ever experienced that,” Slukova said. “You call it . . . patriotism? I think this was nothing personally against us. They just don’t know the borderline between what is appropriate at the moment and what is not. They want so much to help their team, they don’t really realize that we are also human beings.”
The crowd went wild after a point that featured two diving digs by Barbara and a soft-tap finish by Agatha. The two embraced as chants of “BRA-SIL! BRA-SIL!” rained down from the steep grandstand.
There is an etiquette to this sport, though, evidenced when Barbara spiked a ball that smacked Slukova’s shoulder. Barbara raised her hand in apology, as tennis players do after inadvertently hitting an opponent or winning a point on a net cord.
The heavily favored Brazilians needed three sets to win, 19-21, 21-17, 15-11.
“If they were bothered by the boos, I didn’t realize because they played very well,” Barbara said. “The crowd did not want to offend them. Maybe they don’t know the exact way to do that sometimes, but I believe they are just trying to support the home team.”
Barbara raved about the venue, making for a perfect start to the 2016 Rio Games.
“Nothing compares to playing at home,” she said. “This energy.”
And hosting the Games, she hopes, will unify Brazil and expose young athletes to a range of sports.
“Brazil is so big,” she said. “This is hope for those who want to be great athletes someday.”
Follow Teddy Greenstein on Twitter @TeddyGreenstein
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