I recently had the unadulterated joy and good fortune to watch a couple teams of 11-year old girls attempt to summon up enough physical coordination necessary to play a game of volleyball. Before any disgusting, filthy thoughts cross your mind, no, it was not my suggestion to take part in such an event. My wife's brother's girlfriend's daughter was playing her final game of the year this Saturday, and since I didn't have enough energy to say "my wife's brother's girlfriend's children" repeatedly while arguing with her, I agreed to attend.

Now let me make one thing clear: I am not a volleyball expert. My knowledge of the subject is limited to the time I attended a Kansas City Royals baseball game and watched catcher John Buck attempt to bunt and fail terribly, instead causing the ball to bounce off his forearm and fly towards the pitcher. I was quite drunk that inning, so the entire event resembled a game of volleyball to my squinting, bloodshot eyes. I was additionally convinced at the time that the Royals' center fielder was running to escape a large rhesus monkey that somehow scrambled onto the field, so perhaps my professional sports analysis capabilities are questionable at best.

The matchup between the (something) team and the (something else) team was widely predicted by somebody to be one of the most important volleyball games for children of age 10-12 in the north Kansas City area, particularly in the 1:00 PM time slot and within a 20-foot radius of the school gymnasium where it took place. I wish I could remember the name of either teams who played, or the school they represented, or the names of any of the players or coaches, or the gym where the matchup occurred, but I don't think the press box provided us seasoned reporters with such information, and frankly I was too lazy to research it on my own. From this point on, I will simply refer to the yellow team as "Team Yellow" and the red team as "Team Red." Actually, that makes far too much sense, so I will call Team Yellow "The Cheshire Squids" and Team Red "Da Big Poppa Pumpdawgs." My wife's brother's girlfriend's daughter was on Da Big Poppa Pumpdawgs team, unless of course I don't remember correctly, in which case she was actually on The Cheshire Squids. It doesn't really matter too much at this point, since the skill level of all players was pretty much equally nonexistent.


The Cheshire Squids seemed to really have their act together, taking part in all sorts of complex drills such as "running from a point to a completely different point" and the fan-favorite "jumping straight up, only to return back to the ground immediately afterwards." They had some fancy cheer where they all stuck their hands in a circle and started chanting something. I couldn't really understand what they said, but I suspect it was a Satanic spell to incapacitate their foes. I would've suspected such foul deeds from Da Big Poppa Pumpdawgs, but certainly not the Cheshire Squids! This really shows how cutthroat the world of 11-year old girls volleyball has become in this chaotic, grizzled post-9/11 world.

Speaking of Da Big Poppa Pumpdawgs, they seemed to be much less organized than their rivals, choosing to forsake warmups for something which resembled "aimlessly wandering around the court and occasionally drinking Hi-C." Did you know that's how Barry Bonds used to warm up before his games? It's true! I read it in a sports almanac, cleverly disguised as the phrase "Mark's love wand slipped into Sandy's awaiting moist melon hole." Sports magazines are always trying to trick me with their eloquent writing and $59.95 price tag. The referee showed up at this point, and she appeared to be even younger than the girls playing. It must be fairly difficult to find experienced girls' volleyball referees in this chaotic, grizzled post-9/11 world.

One of the girls on team Cheshire Squid had a mess of curly, gnarled hair growing for her head, resembling some sort of creation that escaped from a radioactive salad spinner. I dubbed this girl "Hell Hair." "Go get the ball Hell Hair!" I would shout mid-game. None of the parents seemed to mind this, perhaps under the assumption I was calling somebody "Hellaire," which is a perfectly valid and acceptable first name these days, in comparison to the parents who name their children after cell phones and domestic automobiles. Hell Hair wasn't blessed with a very coherent reflex system, often failing to extend her arms towards the ball unless she suspected it was going to directly hit her in the face. I don't understand why that would concern the girl since her hair was perfectly capable of forming a thick protective membrane able to shield her from high velocity sniper rounds in this chaotic, grizzled post-9/11 world.


Da Big Poppa Pumpdawgs won the coin toss, which surprised me because I don't even remember there being a coin toss. I love coin tosses and am thinking about starting a website dedicated solely to documenting each and every coin toss result from each and every sporting event in the history of the world. I will name it "THIS WEBSITE SUCKS."

One of the more experienced Pumpdawgs, a girl who was easily seven feet tall and weighed more than an adult SUV, began the game by serving the ball into the upper stratosphere. She must've racked up 12 straight points during her reign of terror, sending white screaming banshees of pain across the net and into enemy territory. The Cheshire Squids had no idea how to respond, futilely swinging their limbs in the general direction of the ball like a drunk scarecrow hurling through a tsunami.

Eventually, after the 12th point or so, team Cheshire Squid somehow managed to get the ball back over the net, perhaps by having it ricochet off somebody's knee. Since the longest rally ever recorded in a 12-year old girl's volleyball tournament is currently tied at "one," Da Big Poppa Pumpdawgs were unable to reach the ball in time, watching it fall to the floor and cause the proverbial tables to turn. The Cheshire Squids were on the board, earning one point and tying the score at 1-12, if somehow the number 1 was equal to 12.

Like the prophecy featured in the hit Hollywood movie "The Prophecy," the Cheshire Squids began to fight back and reclaim their throne atop the early teenage girl volleyball circuit, serving up fireballs of white-hot athletic justice. Ball after ball began to fall, racking up an additional 20 points while Da Big Poppa Pumpdawgs repeatedly failed to respond. Their coach, a tremendously middle aged woman sporting facial wrinkles wide enough to conceal military all-terrain vehicles, called a time out in an attempt to slow down her team's demise into failure. The girls crowded around her and she gave some pep talk which I didn't personally hear, but I like to imagine involved repeated veiled threats to murder each and every girls' pets unless they agreed to actually hit the ball over the net once in her lifetime. Unfortunately, this plan failed and Da Big Poppa Pumpdawgs lost by four points, 25-21. The Las Vegas odds makers really cleaned house this match.


After five minutes and three points into this game, I still failed to realize that the teams had switched sides. Seriously, I was looking on the same side of the net and wondering where the big fat girl and Hell Hair had went, looking around to see if they simply decided to quit the game and take up a professional trucking career. It finally dawned on me that, after each game, the teams rotate sides, perhaps to make the game even if they are playing on a minefield or in a swamp where a rabid mummy rises from the ground every five minutes to pull a screaming, hapless victim to her early grave. Somehow my mind was able to look past the whole "one team is colored red and one team is colored yellow" aspect of the match, possibly due to lack of sufficient oxygen.

Unlike the previous game, Da Big Poppa Pumpdawgs decided to cut to the chase and begin losing early on, perhaps because by this point they had perfected the skill of not winning. In a stunning post-game interview I conducted with somebody named something from this team, I asked if they had ever won a game. "Yes, we won once," she replied in a tone of voice too oblivious to be insulted. "It was against a really bad team."

"Even worse than your team?" I asked.

"Yeah," she replied. "But not much worse." I tend to believe this claim since the only way a group of individuals could be considered "much worse" than this team would be if they had no arms or legs or heads and their entire body was composed of bubble wrap. Da Big Poppa Pumpdawgs continued to stink the joint up, occasionally lucking out and blindly connecting one of their limbs with the ball, only to watch it careen harmlessly off the wall or bleachers.

My wife's brother randomly shouted, "CALL THE BALL, GUYS!" despite the fact that nobody on team Big Poppa Pumpdawgs would ever, ever, ever under any circumstances call the ball unless there was a chance doing so would cause it to magically deflate and end the game so they could all go home and watch "Finding Nemo" for the gazillionth time. There was really no point to them calling it anyway; nine times out of ten the players just watched the ball slam into the ground in between each of them, every girl refusing to move close to it or approach in any way. Perhaps team Cheshire Squid spread a rumor before the game claiming the ball was infected with AIDS or, worse yet, cooties.

I don't remember the score at the end of game two, but I know the Cheshire Squids won by an overwhelming majority, perhaps as high as 400 to 2. There was one point in time where the Big Poppa Pumpdawgs seemed like they were going to catch up and overtake the Cheshire Squids, but I think that only occurred in Coach Divot Face's dream the night before. Ha ha, do you see what I did there? I insinuated the only time anybody thought the team was going to win was in her dreams. Team Rich Kyanka: 1, Team 12-Year Old Girls' Volleyball Team: 0.


The final game lasted approximately three minutes and was highlighted by a skinny girl falling over after her legs failed to support her attempt to move forward. Upon witnessing such a dramatic event, some of the people in the crowd produced a noise which resembled a cow giving birth, which is somewhat appropriate considering the fact that half the folks in the stands physically resembled pregnant cows.

After one serve from team Cheshire Squid, a player from Big Poppa Pumpdawg thrust her arms out and somehow successfully made contact with the ball, launching it back into the air and over the net. The rest of her team seemed so awestruck and amazed that they didn't know what to do. A short girl whose hair was cut by a monkey with garden shears looked at her coach as if to psychically ask, "what now?" The coach shouted something back along the lines of "CALL THE BALL!" and the girl seemed to innately know what her coach meant by such a cryptic phrase; she was commanding her to stare up at the ceiling and attempt to count the number of spider webs clinging from the rafters. This shrewd move allowed the Cheshire Squids to rack up about 10 additional points, although I don't think anybody even noticed it because half the people watching the game were talking to each other, and the other half left 10 minutes earlier, mistakenly convinced the game was already over.

Some really scary lady sitting in front of me began messing with one of those "20 Questions" portable jobs which pretends to read your mind and guess whatever you're thinking of, just as long as you make sure to think of something that it can guess. It's pretty neat in a "boy look what technology can do" kind of way, but also pretty depressing in a "boy look what technology is actually doing" kind of way. I think the scary woman fell victim to the machine's diabolical scheme, as after pressing either the "YES" or "NO" button 19 times, her mustache ruffled up into the air as wind whistled out from the cavernous gaps between her rotting, shattered teeth. The woman beside her, a beautiful tattoo reading "Ginger" in a really curly font on her neck, howled with glee as she realized the device accurately read her friend's cholesterol-packed mind. I personally could've invented a toy which accomplished the same thing; it'd be a rock with a piece of paper reading "DINNER" taped onto the bottom of it.

Eventually team Big Poppa Pumpdawg invariably lost, as they always do, thus ending the cycle of shame and disgust perpetuated every game they participate in. The Cheshire Squids grouped together in a tiny circle and laid their hands on top of each other and shouted something asinine like "YAY TEAMWORK!" or "HIP HIP HOORAY FOR THINGS!" at the top of their lungs, shortly before forming a line and giving high fives to the losing team. Youth sports encourage children to learn important things like teamwork and being a gracious winner to properly prepare them for the real world, where important things like teamwork and being a gracious winner will reward them with a long, wonderful life of stunning mediocrity.

The kids flocked outside the gym where they began eating Twizzlers and chocolate snack cakes, drinking Sunny Delight, and generally ingesting an entire convenience store full of crap. Hooray, congratulations on losing the game, girls! Here, eat some crap which has more calories than a pound of butter and will decrease your life span by at least a decade! Next time, if you win, we'll feed each and every one of you an entire wedding cake made out of lard and bacon!

All in all, it was a very thrilling game and a very fitting end to a year where the yellow team (or red team, I get them confused) failed to win a majority of their games against non-decomposing teams. I eagerly anticipate next year's incantation of the Big Poppa Pumpdawgs, who will undoubtedly sweep whatever league they're in, perhaps by mastering the arcane Chinese art of "calling the ball" or even "remembering to use your arms to hit the volleyball when it approaches you." Look for my next column on ESPN, featuring special commentary from my wife's brother's girlfriend's daughter. CALL THE BALL!

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– Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka (@TwitterHasBannedAllMyAccountsEver)

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