My dad is not a volleyball guy. He’s a Steelers fan. He roots passively for the Penguins. The Pirates are as tortuous to him as the Angels are to Anaheim fans. Outside of the summer Olympics, I’m not sure he’s ever cared too much for beach volleyball. But he reads my volleyball stories and listens to my volleyball podcasts because I’m his son and he’s a good dad. Most recently, he listened to parts one and two of April Ross’s appearance on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.
He’s now an April Ross fan.
I had told him, of course, what a fun interview it was — almost all beach volleyball interviews are fun, for they’re beach volleyball players, talking about the beach and sports over beer or, in this case, some red wine. The atmosphere is light and jovial, and Tri being there seems to help players be comfortable, as it’s no longer a media-to-player interaction, just a conversation between players while a quasi-journalist hangs out, too. April was one of my favorite interviews to date, and not just in my short time doing SANDCAST, but ever.
I wrote once, for the Northwest Florida Daily News, how interviewing elite athletes is actually quite a bore. They’re too practiced, too smart to say anything notable or interesting that might be viewed as controversial. I wrote this after interviewing Pete Rose. I had a five minute time window. I was surrounded by his — what to call them? Handlers? Either way, it was a shit interview, because let’s be honest, what’s Pete Rose going to tell a local nobody journalist that he wouldn’t tell, say, ESPN instead? What news could I break? What deep insight could I dig up?
Nothing, is the answer. But Pete Rose was in town so I had to interview Pete Rose — you’re not gonna not interview Pete Rose, was basically the dictum from my editors — and when I posted the story on Twitter and Facebook, everybody thought it was the coolest thing ever — the Hit King! Charlie Hustle!
It was actually kinda boring, even if it was cool to have met Pete Rose.
Ross is better at her sport than Rose was at his, and her interview was deep, enlightening, fun, personal — everything a journalist could dream of, and everything my interview with Rose (and any other elite athlete I’ve sat down with) was not. And I’m not really a journalist, not on SANDCAST, anyway. Tri and I don’t consider these podcasts to be interviews, rather conversations. I might steer it, but I don’t prod and poke the way I was taught in journalism school. I even ask the athletes if there’s anything they don’t want to talk about, and I make sure to avoid that topic. It’s an opportunity for them to have an audible platform as much as it is a chance for us to gather insight.
We avoided what few topics Ross didn’t want to discuss, and in return we had a fun night — no surprise questions from an intrusive journalist. We laughed, got introspective, and sort of accidentally broke news that she would be playing with Alix Klineman in the chase for Tokyo 2020. I’m not sure Ross meant to let that slip, but hey! SANDCAST is breaking news now, even though that’s far from the intent of the show.
So the cat’s out of the bag🙈 @AlixKlineman & I are going for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics together! 🎉 And surprise- @JenniferKessy will be the brains to this operation 🙌🏼 We need help with a team hashtag tho! Winner gets a @TheWilsonVB signed by the 3 of us! Go! 🙏🏼 #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/i6DegEaZmv
— April Ross (@AprilRossBeach) December 1, 2017
The intent is to get a peek into the lives of these players, what makes them tick, why they wake up at 5:30 in the morning, go through a brutal 2-hour beach workout, supplement with another hour in the gym, forgo material pleasures for meager winnings, fly economy, stay in crappy hotels, live the glorious, remarkably deceiving, Instagram-friendly life of a beach volleyball player. With Ross, and every athlete we’ve had thus far, Tri and I have had more than a glimpse — we’ve had far more than we could have asked.