Volleyball Stops in Hermosa Beach

22 July 2020

At the time of this writing, the United States is breaking records in coronavirus cases, with California eclipsing the previous record held by New York. Given the critical nature and exponential community spread of the virus, the state is taking drastic action; an Los Angeles County Health Order forbids group sports, which filters down to stopping beach volleyball in Hermosa Beach. Many of the professional (and aspiring professional) beach volleyball players congregate to practice at Hermosa, and word of enforcement of the Health Order has raised an outcry online, including an open call from the president of the California Beach Volleyball Association to send letters of objection to the local government. Travis Merwhirter, volleyball player and professional writer, posted his open letter to the LA County government on his site.

As a writer, Merwhirter is usually more coherent than your stereotypical athlete, but this letter is a jumble of complaints, a stream of consciousness tirade speaking for the self proclaimed unjustly wronged. He admits to not being an expert on the disease yet proceeds to claim that the policy has “no reasoning, no scientific backing, no logical explanation”. He takes a swipe at political protesters as having been allowed (a constitutionally protected act) in contrast to four volleyball players “making a living”. The tone is one decrying being unfairly treated.

Picture a child being told that due to extenuating circumstances, we can’t go to play today, and that child throwing a tantrum, declaring “It’s not fair!”. That’s how it reads to me.

But the situation is fair. From the perspective of county government, the densely populated Los Angeles area is an ignited forest fire of coronavirus activity. The government has relatively few tools to manage it at this stage, and every day infection spreads exponentially. The Health Policy blocks all group sports, not just beach volleyball, so seeking an exception for it is the unfair thing to do. Instead of airing complaints, I suspect you’d get more done by:

  1. Acknowledging the challenges faced by county and city government in this situation (this requires actually understanding some of the science rather than just declaring that no science supports it).
  2. Detailing what changes beach volleyball players plan to implement to effectively curtail transmission.

Testing negative is insufficient for an exemption – it doesn’t prove immunity. Our common goal is to slow down or halt the spread. An athlete may not share the comorbidities but they can contribute to the community spread. Beach volleyball has not produced a favorable image of stopping the spread – most players seem to be lax about social distancing, hand washing, and are downright opposed to face masking in play. And that sentiment places personal convenience above putting others in danger.

While I personally love the game, I cannot stand with this barrage of complaints. Stop, think, and understand. Demonstrate a concern for reducing infection for everyone, and maybe you’ll earn the exemption. It just won’t be beach volleyball as you are used to for a while.

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