Remember that high we got from the success of the World Series of Beach Volleyball? Well, it appears that it's time for our inevitable buzz kill. Domestic pro beach volleyball is back. While that should be great news for fans, it brings with it a familiar companion. Infighting.
But that doesn't mean that we fans need to feel obligated to take sides. Not yet. The drama that is unfolding between the AVP and NVL, both of which are holding tournaments this weekend, is not our concern. Our concern is the good of the sport. The sport needs us to succeed so we need to do what fans do - support the events, support its players and support its sponsors. That's our job.
Our job is not to take the limited information we have - some correct and some incorrect - and run with it. Our job is not to boycott events or to demonize one tour or another in what can still be considered the early stages of the sports rebirth. If we do, it could mean the sport never returns to its former glory. That outcome is not in our best interest. It would be a shame if we were the reason that outcome became a reality.
That doesn't mean we have to like how the AVP and NVL are acting. We wouldn't be the first fans to disapprove of the decision-making of owners. Do you think NBA fans are always happy with the way their owners behave? Of course not. Neither are NFL or Major League Baseball fans always thrilled with the leadership they're stuck with.
But one thing that NFL, MLB, NBA and even NHL fans are good at is showing up and buying things. That's their job and they do it well. If we want to see beach volleyball find a way to sustainability, we need to take a page out of their fan books as we consider the events on tap for this weekend and the remainder of the season.
This weekend, both the AVP and the NVL will be holding tournaments. The AVP is in Salt Lake City and the NVL is in Hermosa Beach. Back when the schedules came out, there was a dust up over the scheduling of competing dates. The AVP knew the NVL had an event that weekend when they scheduled their own event on the same days. Some fans took that to mean that the AVP was up to its old tricks and attempting to destroy the competition.
Then there was the contract controversy. Players who wanted to play with the AVP signed contracts. At the time, the contracts were reported as "exclusive" meaning that the players could not play on other tours like the NVL. That accusation added fuel to the fire and made the AVP look like it was doing the very things that put it in jeopardy in past incarnations.
But is that the truth?
On Friday, pro beach volleyball player Ryan Doherty took to his blog to address some of the rumors. While Doherty is admittedly not a fan of the NVL, he signed one of the allegedly "exclusive" AVP contracts and says that they aren't exclusive at all. Doherty claims that if a player wanted to play in another event on the same weekend as an AVP event, they would just have to ask permission. He backs up this non-exclusivity argument with the fact that AVP players were able to compete in the WSOBV. If they could only play in AVP events, this would not have been allowed.
According to Doherty, things got weird when the NVL created its own player agreement in response. He says the NVL presented players with the contract at 9:30 PM on the night before an event and needed it signed before their first match in the morning, giving them little time to look it over. Doherty also claims that the NVL threatened the AVP with a lawsuit if any NVL players were to appear in AVP events. That then forced the AVP to respond by banning any NVL players from AVP events. The contract issue continues to evolve.
NVL CEO Al B. Hannemann has been vocal about his distaste for how the AVP is handling itself and his disappointment in the inability to work together to rebuild the sport. AVP owner Donald Sun has been silent about all matters pertaining to these issues.
What's the truth? It's difficult to know. As fans of the sport, I think we should stay out of it for now. As I see it, these kinds of conflicts between businesses trying to do the same thing are par for the course. It will shake out some kind of way. Maybe the two tours will call a truce. Maybe they won't. Maybe the players will benefit from multiple tours and events. Maybe they'll suffer monetarily. Maybe we're about to be deluged with news of lawsuits and ill will. Maybe not. Hopefully not.
The bottom line is, we as fans need to do our job and let these owners and players do theirs. As I always say, I have no problem with fans voicing their opinions. We should let the tours know what we like and don't like. And tours should care.
What we shouldn't do is use our upset as an excuse not to show up. If you live in or near Utah, go to the AVP event. Bring your signs, have a blast. If you live in or near Southern California, I'll see you in Hermosa for the NVL event and we'll do the same. No matter how this shakes out, whether we end up with one tour or two tours or no tours at all when everything is said and done, we should worry only about what we can control - butts in the seats, merchandise on the shelves, energy for television broadcasts. That, dear beach volleyball fan, is your job.
Do it well.