I discovered The Net Live in early 2009 and was a faithful listener ever since, right up to attending the final podcast this past Saturday.
There were some references to the show back then on Facebook and at the time I was a freelance volleyball photographer based in San Diego, and it was hard to be “in the know,” living as I did a couple of hours away from Los Angeles.
Back then, there wasn’t a ton of internet media yet, and The Net Live quickly became one of my staples. As a die-hard volleyball fanatic, I enjoyed the volleyball analysis, and came to feel that I “knew” hosts Reid Priddy and Kevin Barnett after listening to them weekly, even though I had had only a handful of brief conversations with them.
So it was with profound disappointment that I heard that The Net Live was ending its 11-year run.
The initial idea for The Net Live occurred after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when Priddy and the men’s national team returned with a gold medal. Priddy is one of the USA’s most decorated players, a four-time Olympian with gold (2008, Beijing) and bronze (2016, Rio de Janeiro) on his resume. Most recently Priddy is a beach convert, winning the last summer’s Manhattan Beach Open with Trevor Crabb.
“We had just won the gold in Beijing, Kevin had been a huge part of our team culture, but then went into the media side,” Priddy said. “I’ve always recognized that volleyball could upgrade into media that was interactive, and Kevin and I sat down one day and brainstormed. What are all the different ideas that we have that we would love to see volleyball have.
“Kevin had very practical ideas, I’m more the dreamer. Of all the ideas, we decided that podcasting was something that I could still do while I was under contract professionally in Russia. This was something that we could actually execute, so we decided to start there.
“We had envisioned this bigger thing, but we just stuck in this lane. Let’s just have a weekly show that’s handling what happening right now. Let’s get the people that are involved with the happenings on the show.”
Barnett, a former Pepperdine volleyball outside hitter, was on the 2000 and 2004 Olympic teams and parlayed his playing experience into becoming the NBC Olympics analyst in 2008.
“I needed practice hosting,” Barnett said. “I was new to broadcasting, I had been an analyst in 2008, kind of started in 2007, I had done some amateur stuff before that. I wanted to increase my role, and thought, ‘How hard can it be to host?’
“Well, I listened to my own stuff, and thought, ‘There’s some work to be done here,” Barnett said with a laugh.
The Net Live was structured, how might we say it, informally, with shows that could go anywhere from 25 minutes to two-plus hours, depending on what was going on.
“It’s more of Reid and I talking about the game. If you attended back-to-back VNL matches, you would have no idea why the roster changed, or what issues there were with the team, how they were selecting the roster, why they were selecting a roster of that type in that particular year,” Barnett said.
“The NFL only plays 16 regular weeks a year, plus playoffs, and they talk about NFL from the moment it ends on Sunday until the next game starts the next week, endlessly. And then they talk about from the end of the season until minicamp. It’s just training camp, for crying out loud.
“And nobody in volleyball had done that. We saw an area where we could not only do that, but we could aggregate some bigger things. There were some bigger ideas at the start.
“We wanted a place where we could talk about the game, expose the game and the people in it.”
The reps that Barnett got at The Net Live helped him expand his TV presence; Now he has worked with just about everybody in the sport business, including ESPN, NBC, CBS, Fox Sports West, the Olympic Channel, and the Pac-12 network. He is also one of the hosts on the Amazon Prime AVP broadcasts.
Barnett acknowledged that The Net Live was a huge part of his success.
“Just getting the reps once a week for two hours, three hours, made a huge difference in my career. Asking questions, thinking about how to make my guests look good, or address issues that ought to be addressed, all that has translated.”
For Priddy in particular, his role as The Net Live host got more difficult.
“At the 2010 World Championships, I was the captain of the national team, I was still heavily involved in the show, and The Net Live was all about truth,” Priddy recalled.
“I was saying things, and then going into practice on the national team, and having negative effects. I couldn’t be both things. I couldn’t be a leader on the national team and a friend and all of these things, leveraging personal opinions. That’s when I started to take a back seat to Kevin.”
It was about that time that Jeremy Roueche (pronounced roo-shay), perhaps best known as the 17-year veteran AVP DJ, began his stint on The Net Live, a role that would continue until the final podcast.
“I was tricked,” Roueche joked. “I was told that they wanted to bring me in just to add a music element to it, didn’t need to speak on the mic because Kevin, Reid, and Geeter were handling it, and I joke that it was a week later, but it was a few months, and Reid was playing overseas, and I ended up being a co-host on the show. I never would have joined if they told me they needed a co-host on the show. ‘No, I’m not doing that ever.’
“I learned a lot more about the indoor game for sure. Being the AVP DJ, beach was my thing.”
Roueche, the Olympics DJ, as well, was the DJ for the Los Angeles Clippers and now spins tunes for the Lakers, Pac-12 football and basketball, and satisfies his creative juices as co-founder of the band The Suicide Doors, crafting mixes with Tim Hampton.
“From a personal growth perspective, I’m now more comfortable with public speaking,” Roueche, who plays beach volleyball himself. “Kevin and I were just talking to each other, but I know people were listening, and knowing that people were listening, I practiced speaking more slowly, enunciating correctly, and if I didn’t know about the topic we were discussing, it’s OK to say, ‘I don’t know what we’re talking about, and I can’t add to that part of the conversation.’ I don’t pretend to know something that I don’t know.”
The Net Live’s guests are a virtual Who’s Who of volleyball, from Karch Kiraly to Hugh McCutcheon to Kevin Hambly to Russ Rose to Sinjin Smith.
Unusually, The Net Live has never emphasized metrics, preferring to emphasize integrity and honesty over downloads and likes.
“We don’t typically check our numbers,” Priddy said.
What are The Net Live’s most-downloaded episodes over its 11-year history?
“I would have to double-check”, Barnett said, “but I think the two most-downloaded shows are probably the AVP/Nick Lewin show (where AVP owner Nick Lewin purported went to the bathroom during the call) or the Casey Jennings show (where Jennings came in to rebut comments made during a previous episode).”
The Net Live ran for 11 years, covering all sides of indoor volleyball, all things beach, giving more coverage to men’s volleyball, and all the while were Barnett stories.
“It was fun. I really enjoyed getting to know the people. I had played for 10 years, obviously, but that’s a singular existence,” Barnett said. “On the national team, you know the players that you play with, and that’s always rotating, but here we got to talk to a lot of people from the entire game, executives, past executives, all the way back to the mid ’80 on up to the current ownership of the AVP.
“The knowledge that’s there to be had was extensive. I would love to go back and listen to some of the interviews, honestly, stuff that I’ve forgotten, Sinjin Smith discussing the collapse of the AVP in the middle of the 90’s, and how that happened, and who the personalities are. I’ve heard that story a couple of times, but I’ve forgotten that a couple of times. It’s a really compelling story about a collapse of a huge business that had a ton of income, and had the world on its feet, and then apparently had to be rebuilt from nothing.”
At the final podcast-turned-party, Priddy said he doesn’t believe that this is the end, preferring to call it halftime.
“This can’t be the end, there’s so much value that these guys bring, that we can’t let them ride off into the sunset,” Priddy said. I’m OK with giving them a year sabbatical, but we’ve got to bring them back.”
For anyone looking for back episodes of The Net Live, they can be found on BlogTalkRadio.com.