I don’t kid myself; I know my athletic limitations. At my worst, I am indecisive and awkward. At my best, I can surprise myself with a rare moment of grace. But when it comes to my signature sport, I can be a bit confident.
Well, until eight days ago.
What happened was, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I swear. You see, my sons and I were just playing around at an impromptu “volleyball clinic” hosted by retired pro-beach stud-machine Sinjin Smith. It was during an intermission of the AVP’s pro-beach tournament in San Francisco. Spectators were simply playing “king of the court” in which everyone gets a chance to knock the other team off the court with one play. Sinjin was simply there to shake hands, pose for photos and offer basic coaching tips. But when Jack (6), Dylan (3) and Daddy (40) stepped onto the sand, Sinjin could see we’d need help.
He joined us.
My heart was pounding. Nearly 20 years ago, when I played club at Chico and spent the rest of my free time on nearby sand and grass courts, no one was bigger than Sinjin Smith. Now here I was with the genuine article. I might as well been asked to run a route for Raiders legend Jim Plunkett.
I looked around. Nancy was pointing the camera at us. Dylan and Jack were getting into position. Sinjin waited to help.
Holy shit, I can’t screw this up.
My serve cleared the net, one of the 12-year-old girls on the other side spiked the ball back over the net, I dug it up with a nice pass to the middle, Sinjin stepped up and laid down a perfect bump-set right where I love it — right where I could cream it. I approached from the left side, thinking …
Those girls are 12. I can’t kill this ball.
Dylan is running around like a crazy boy. I can’t plow into him.
The classy thing to do is just “dink” it over the net.
Oh, shit. My timing is off — way off.
Greg up in the air. .. People cheering. … Sinjin, Jack and Dylan watching. … Nancy clicking the camera. … Greg landing in the sand without touching the ball. … Greg finally reaching out and dinking the ball straight into the net. … Awkward silence ensues. … Sinjin looks at Greg like he’s wearing a tutu.
“You started way too far back off the net,” he says.
“I know, I just-”
“You gotta be much closer.”
“I know. I blew it.” Greg tries to look cool. “C’mon boys. We gotta get off the court.”
Waiting on the side was Nancy, who shows us the photo of Daddy and the boys in action with Sinjin Smith. I squint at the tiny screen and realize that I am completely out of the picture. So is the ball. “Hey, what can I say?” Nancy says. “I was focused on the boys.”
Just as well.