Damn you Don Draper and Swin Cash. I did things the old-fashioned, Ebersolian way for most of the day on Wednesday.
I wanted to watch the All-American women’s beach volleyball final in NBC’s primetime without knowing if April Ross and Jen Kessy had spoiled the fairy tale ending for the queens of the beach, Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings. The pair was looking to conclude their 12-year run together with a third Olympic gold medal draped around their necks at Horse Guards Parade.
So I worked from home, writing up a story about Spanish-language soccer networks and kept clear of all news sites and NBCOlympics.com. Late in the afternoon, though, I went to the dentist and returned home to find my wife catching up on the third season of Mad Men on Netflix. At that point, I wanted to see if the men’s basketball team was putting the Aussies down under in the quarterfinals, so I squinted my way through the loading of LiveExtra to find Coach K’s crew only up 56-53 in the third. Settling in as the current Dream Team pushed ahead and as Draper waited outside the delivery room while Betty struggled to do the same with their child, my peripheral vision did me in: to the left of LeBron was the tweeter feed where Cash, one of six of Geno Auriemma’s former UConners on the women’s national team, congratulated Misty and Kerry.
No doubt much to the delight of NBCU executives in London and Stateside, I fell in line with the rest of the millions who have been making 2012 the top non-U.S. Summer Games with the Nielsens since ABC’s coverage of the 1976 Montreal Games, and watched — even as my inalienable right to screen the DVR-proof excitement of live sports had been abrogated.
For the final time, I was able to witness the smarts, tenacity, skills, commitment and talents of Kerry — whose sliding, coffin-corner dropper against China’s Xue Chen and Zhang Xi late in the second-set of the semis was the play of the tourney– and especially Misty. Her ability to read the play and dig and tap or put balls away are all the more amazing considering she rebounded from an Achilles injury sustained while practicing for ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. The ladies — the only distaff duo to earn three beach volleyball Olympic medals, much less of the gilded variety — once put together a Dimaggio-like 112-match win streak that ended shortly after their triumph in Beijing. Reforming for a last journey to golden glory, they finished their tri-Olympic run — albeit anticlimactically when Ross’s served sailed long to finish the three-peat 21-16, 21-16 — at 21-0 in matches, 42-1 in sets, the only blemish coming at the hands of Austria’s Schwaiger sisters in pool play.
Walsh Jennings, the mother of two with AVP star Casey Jennings, has talked about playing in a fifth Games at Rio in 2016 — she was on the USA indoor volleyball team in Sydney, where May finished fifth on the beach with Holly McPeak. For her part, Misty reiterated during interviews courtside with Heather Cox and in the studio with Bob Costas that’s she going home to support her teammate in future personal and beach endeavors, and start a family with husband, Matt Treanor. The Los Angeles Dodgers catcher received more than a few on-air shout-outs during his wife’s post-match messaging throughout the tourney.
By all accounts, the 15,000-seat volleyball stadium in Horse Guards Parade was the place to be at the 2012 Games. That should come as no surprise to those who have attended the sand sport in person, whether the action emanates from London, Belmar, Seaside Heights, Coney Island or Manhattan Beach, Calif. It’s the right mix of sun, fun, partying, beefcake, cheesecake, athleticism and up-close-and-personal with the players. (I can remember swimming in the surf at the Jersey Shore with Mike Dodd, the silver medalist with the late Mike Whitmarsh during the inaugural beach competition at the 1996 Atlanta Games, after a local match, as well as steering well clear of Karch Kiraly and his pink hat in a VIP tent in 2005 after he and partner Mike Lambert flamed out in trying to defend their Manhattan Beach crown, the sport’s Wimbledon, from the year before.)
The men’s final on Thursday between Brazil’s Emanuel-Alison and Germany’s Julius Brink-Jonas Reckermann may be the final event at Horse Guards Parade, but the Kerry-Misty moment closes the door on beach volleyball’s greatest squad — with all due homage to the kings-of-the-beach reigns of Sinjin Smith-Randy Stoklos and Karily-Kent Steffes, who teamed for sand gold in Atlanta.
Holding hands on the medal stand and during their interview with Costas, Kerry as the host said, got a whole lot of Misty on the podium as the national anthem sounded. Rest assured, the golden girls weren’t alone.