Is beach volleyball the rising star of the Olympics in America?

August 11, 2012 | Nestor Aparicio

and talk into the cameras after wins like Pete Weber on the bowling circuit.

It’s participatory…

It’s made for television…

It’s sexy…

It’s highly athletic, fast, easy to follow and even easy to keep score and quickly learn the rules…

And, dare I say it, it’s sorta better than tennis in a lot of ways with some of the same principles and flow. Tennis is almost funereal in its presentation, like it’s played in a library.

Beach volleyball is, well, played on a beach with all of the things Americans like:

Sand. Beach. Girls. Boys. Sweat. Attractive, scantily clad participants. Action. Drama. Loud music. Dancing. Crowd participation.

So can it really catch on?

I always wonder when we’ll see the first women’s sport that will really catch on beyond tennis. Could it be beach volleyball?

I don’t know. But May-Treanor & Walsh Jennings have a chance to grow their sport — and with all due respect to Michael Phelps — their sport has a far better chance to gain a real audience and grab some of the sports landscape market share than swimming does to go mainstream.

“We want to grow the sport!” May-Treanor said as she bid adieu to a teary-eyed Walsh Jennings just moments after their gold victory over fellow Americans, defeating Jennifer Kessy and April Ross 21-16, 21-16 in an all-American final on Wednesday night. Kessy and Ross also did enough to capture my attention during the week of sand action. It was almost disappointing that one set of Americans had to lose but such is the world dominance of beach volleyball from the United States.

But there’s no shame in losing to the greatest USA duo of all-time in Olympic sport. The closeness of these champions is apparent. They are truly icons of their sport. They’re the greatest team of all-time and their accomplishments, like Babe Ruth, might take half a century to replicate. Three straight Olympic runs to the gold medal and they’ve only lost one game in 48.

Nothing like going out on top to seal your fate, right?

“This is my last match,” May-Treanor said in London immediately following the gold medal win. “Beach volleyball’s not going to be my career anymore. … It’s time for me to be a wife. I want to be a mom and share time with my family. All of us as athletes sacrifice more on the family end than people realize. And it’s getting back to that. My mind says it’s time. My body says it’s time. And it’s the right time.”

And somewhere on the American landscape a new sport will take hold and May-Treanor looks to be ready to shoulder the responsibility of preaching the gospel of beach volleyball wherever she goes.

Baseball is dying. Football grew from nothing in 1940s to dominance now. Soccer and and NASCAR and golf and hockey have worked in some markets, not so well in others.

Women have had an especially tough time turning sports into dollars. Team tennis. WUSA Soccer. Plus, novelty female drivers, boxers and pro wrestlers and the WNBA all come and go.

Really, tennis and golf are the only sports to truly garner any national attention in my lifetime in America outside of Brandi Chastain’s immortal shirt pull in the Women’s World Cup. But that was THIRTEEN years ago. And we all know plenty of girls who play soccer.

But as a vocation in America or a spectator sport with a business model, it just hasn’t caught on despite having a similar icon in Mia Hamm.

But I’d give beach volleyball a puncher’s chance.

It’s not like gymnastics, ice skating or these crazy “judged” sports.

It’s sweaty, passionate, athletic and filled with music and cheers and family excitement.

And May-Treanor & Walsh Jennings have been selling it and people are buying. I know they’ve got my attention again.

Now what will they do with it?

Do you envision seeing arenas or stadia filled with folks wanting to pay money to watch team beach volleyball?

Someday a women’s sport in America will consistently pack buildings. I give beach volleyball a chance in the debate.

And it’s certainly not as far-fetched as I thought it was before the flame was lit 14 days ago in London.

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