Tom Feuer passes in 1981 as Pat Powers looks on/Victoria Pride photo

The Mexico International Volleyball Tournament takes place this week in Rosarito, Mexico.

And I need to come clean and apologize for something I did 42 years ago at this event.

In 1981, I was guilty of perhaps the most unscrupulous, egregious act in the history of that or any other tournament.

Now I am coming clean for the first time.

About a mile and a half south of Rosarito lies the quaint town Quinta del Mar, the site of the 1981 version of the Rosarito tournament known at the time as the Cuervo International Volleyball Championship. Many of the same principles apply today as in yesteryear. A weighted blind draw, except in 1981 players would self-rate as an “A” or a “B.”

I just have to tell you this: So, there we were in tiny Quinta del Mar, in the summer of 1981, on the same sand, the actor Larry Hagman, Olympian Pat Powers and …Tom Feuer?!?

Let’s say you can bet on it.

Starting with a six-man tourney at State Beach

The origin of this story begins at a six-man tournament that I stumbled upon at State Beach in Pacific Palisades, California, on a “June Gloom” typical early summer day in 1976.

I had not yet started playing myself, but I marveled at the athleticism on display. The two players who made the biggest impression on me that day were Gary Sato and Pat Powers. Sato was this whirling dervish, just 5-foot-10, who Hoovered up every free ball around. Powers, was a gangly 18-year-old, fresh out of Santa Monica High School, who, at 6-5, towered over most everyone, but was coordinated and had a hitting and blocking game to match.

Five years later our paths would cross in an unlikely way in Quinta del Mar.

In the intervening time between that 1976 State Beach six-man and the 1981 Cuervo International Championship, Powers, the “Peeper” as he was known back in the day, emerged as first, an elite indoor college player, then one of the top players, period, nationally and then internationally, as well. The ark of his progression was swift and stunning. Within five years that gangly kid had become a fearsome presence in the gym. He won an NCAA Championship in 1980 with USC and was a two-time NCAA all-tournament selection.

Powers would loom large in my volleyball future.

But for yours truly, the intervening five years were, shall we say, far less noteworthy.

My future prospects were expressed by one of my teachers at Palisades High School, Bud Ware, who said to me in a fit of pique one time, “you will never amount to anything in life.”

In actuality, he ended up being quite prescient, but I do digress.

I ran track and cross country at Pali. There was no way I was going out for volleyball. I mean, our Dolphins teams had eventual AVP professionals like Ricci Luyties, Roger Clark, and Wally Goodrick, among others, as well as a great supporting cast in the All-City middle blocker Jim Ragan, the late David Gyepes, Michael Goldstein, Billy and Jim Robison, and on and on and on.

But I LOVED the beach game and I started to play it a fair amount in that summer of 1981. I would split time between Muscle and State Beaches in Santa Monica. The cast of characters that played at those locales included guys with the nicknames Kunta Kinte, the Fetus, Larvae, Pupa, Mongoose and Nipper. Obviously, these were less “PC” times if you will. And all of these guys were as colorful as their appellations.

I also did get some sand time with future superstars Liz Masakyan who was still at SamoHi, and her trusty sidekick Liane Sato. Jeff Schwartz, the greatest to never play an AVP event, deigned to play with us though while kicking our asses all over the court.

I was now ready to get some tournament action under my belt.

So, Gyepes took pity on me and agreed to play in the State Beach Novice a couple of months before Quinta del Mar. We got into a groove from the start. We beat some pretty good players like Rob Mitchell and Jim Waddington and one of the high-flying Ribarich brothers. Gyepes and I advanced, won the winners bracket and made the tourney finals. Gene Selznick, and his tournament-running sidekick Lenny, were ready to hand us, the State Beach locals, the spoils that go to the champions: A trophy and the gift certificate to Gladstone’s.

After all, the team we were to face in the final we beat 15-3 in the second round without breaking a sweat.

But, alas, those tempestuous late afternoon on-shore winds started to kick up and Gyepes and I (mostly me) were both spraying balls all over State Beach Court One. In those days, a double final was required where the losers-bracket team had to not only win the sideout two-out-of-three game-to-11 match, but also a subsequent game to 15. It was rare for the losers bracket team to win a double final.

Even rarer for a team to make it to that point after losing in the second round.


To the team they were playing now in the final.

As Chick Hearn used to say, “Slam Dunk!”

We lost the double final.

And then I got a staph infection in my throat, which added injury to insult. I was hospitalized, briefly, and sidelined for a month, left to lick my emotional and physical wounds.

The summer of ’81 wasn’t so great to Powers either. He became a member of the USA national team preparing for the 1984 Olympics, training down in San Diego. This is the very same team that many have called the greatest collection of talent in the history of the sport. Almost everyone on that squad was so iconic they were known by one or two names: Karch, Dusty, Big Red, The Big Sy, Sundy, The Hov and Sinjin (the latter two soon to leave the national team). And of course, the Peeper, Pat Powers, a creature unto himself.

Pat would probably admit he could be a bit of a “free spirit,” if you will. And so, in the summer of 1981, Powers had done just enough to get himself kicked right off the national team. So, he headed to Mexico shortly thereafter, perhaps to clear his head.

Meanwhile, I had spent my freshman year playing indoors at UCSD, even though I never had any experience in high school because I stuck to running rather than getting cut from the volleyball team. Our Tritons team that year beat Long Beach State to win our conference and featured some really good players including Hal Jacobs (equally adept at about a half dozen other sports as well), now a part-owner of the Sacramento Kings, and Monty Frankel, an eventual AAA beach player. Our coach was San Diego legend Steve Upp, who had some of the finest set of hands on the West Coast. Later he too would be a AAA and the impresario of San Diego area beach tournaments.

Finding Powers at the 1981 Cuervo

So, back to Quinta del Mar.

The draw took place for the 1981 Cuervo International Championship. I think I was listed as a “B” player but my blind draw partner was what I would term a very low “A.” Oh, and he was injured too. So, day one was not pleasant. He couldn’t move and I got frustrated. We got our heads handed to us in the two or three matches we played. I was not having a good time. And I was doing very little to impress my more accomplished volleyball playing girlfriend, Victoria Pride, who was fresh off winning a Division III national indoor championship at UC San Diego.

To this day, I cannot really remember what even possessed me to want go down to Mexico for that tournament in the first place. After all, I was still licking my wounds from the loss in the finals of the State Beach Novice and had the pesky staph infection. And now this first day disappointment. Wasn’t all bad though. I had the most scrumptious lobster dinner that set me back about five dollars.

Tom Feuer attacks/Victoria Pride photo

So Sunday dawned, day two of the tourney. I found my partner was down — and out –and wasn’t going to play.

What to do?

I took the slow walk to the lip of the ocean to assess how I should spend the rest of my day. And it was only 8 a.m. As I got closer to the water I saw something it looked like a dead whale. A very large one. It was not moving. I came in for a closer look to make sure what it was. I misjudged. It was a human being, not a whale, and it was breathing, fortunately. I took a few tentative steps closer and I could not believe my eyes. What had they put in that lobster last night? I shook my head opened and closed my eyes.

It was PAT POWERS!!!

Are you kidding me?

Pat squinted up and looked up at me as if I was a brother from another planet. I had never met the man, but I thought I would try to strike up a conversation. I introduced myself, and said to him by coincidence, there was a volleyball tournament going on just up the beach.

Oh, and I kinda need a partner.

Well, as it turned out Pat was on the backside of a bender, drowning out his post-national team dismissal with a bottle of mescal, worm included. Fell asleep on the beach. Woke up on the beach. Yikes.

Now, back in those days, I had a lot more chutzpah than I do now. One would think the last thing Powers would want to do that day was play volleyball, on the beach no less, when he had been playing indoors almost exclusively.

In the hot sun.

With a hangover.

As I was tip-toeing my way around trying to coax him to play with me, it was last call for my first match of the day. It was now or never.

Understand, for very ordinary athletes/people like me, the opportunity to play with a great is a thrill like no other. Forget about skydiving, cliff jumping or anything else. The opportunity to play on a volleyball court with greatness is unsurpassed. Due to my job, I have been blessed with the privilege to play two-man with Karch, Sinjin, Mike Dodd, Jose Loiola, Steve Obradovich and Casey Jennings (although I had to play the left side with Casey). Kevin Wong set me on Olympic Center Court in Rio in 2016 while everyone else around was at Opening Ceremonies. Boy, those sets were high. I thought they would come down wet.

Two of the greatest days of my life were playing with Karch and OB at Emerald Bay in around 2010, and with Jose Loiola at Cedar Hills in Beaverton, Oregon, close to the Nike campus in 1997. Sinjin was always generous with his time, and Dodd, ever the coach, could see right away how tight and anxious I would get on defense. The preciseness of their games is what is so appealing to me. Perfect passing, sets consistently where you want them. Covering your faux pas on defense and making plays. Nothing like it. Trust me.

So there was the Powers, not a whale, but …

I did something unethical, egregious.

I cheated.

I asked Powers to play with me in circumvention of the rules. Nobody stopped us.

Pat Powers, right, watches Tom Feuer close his eyes and pass/Victoria Pride

Powers and Feuer and … winning

At first Pat was woozy and not really into it. Who could blame him? He was trading Dusty Dvorak’s sets for mine! But then we started winning. In game two or three on that Sunday we played one of the Featherstones, either John or Fred. We won. Next up, the best player at that time in San Diego, Scott Bailey, and his partner.

I was not really intimated, surprisingly. Bobby Rhodes, a very skilled ex-UCSD player, and I played Bailey and his regular partner, Bobby Dean to practically a draw in a sideout battle royale earlier that summer in Ocean Beach. In fairness, they served Rhodes every time or the game would have been a whole helluva lot shorter.

Pat and I had no problem with Bailey and his partner. After the match was over, Scott, not used to losing south of the Orange County line, kicked the ball in disgust and it traveled further than I had ever seen a volleyball fly … before or since. Sportsmanship was not a big thing back then in beach volleyball.

Next up was the aforementioned Bobby Dean and his partner, as we got the best of San Diego players in back-to-back skirmishes. At this point, a previously somewhat indifferent Powers was post-hangover and starting to feel the mojo. This wasn’t for shits and giggles anymore. HE WAS INTO IT! We crushed Dean and his sidekick.

We were in the final.

Pat and I had very little to eat or drink to that point. Remember he started the day off practically unconscious on the  beach and I had very low expectations that my original partner and I would get very far in the single elimination Sunday format, so I did not pack any food at all. Pat and I were getting hungry. There were not a lot of options for fine dining in 1981 in Quinta del Mar. So Snickers bars and soda pop became our fuel for the day.

By then, there were a fair number of murmurs on the beach from rightfully disgruntled players and organizers.

Who let Powers in?

Where did he come from?

He did not play Saturday.

How come he is playing Sunday?

Dude never even signed up.

Feuer is not really a “B” player.

So, as we were introduced on center court, we were getting booed and heckled. Moreover, the crowd was absolutely enormous. Some pegged it later as around 5,000. This was Cuervo’s BIG event in Mexico, and there were a lot of majordomos around.  And who was hovering front and center surrounded by Baywatch-like beauties, none other than the late Larry Hagman!

Hagman was big time. He was J.R. Ewing on Dallas. Just eight months earlier, the “Who Shot J.R.?” episode on CBS in prime time was watched by 83 million Americans! Nowadays, if a program gets over 10 million viewers it is considered a huge deal.

By the time the final started it was getting dark. My girlfriend’s club volleyball coach and his partner were the opponents across the net. But I had Pat Powers. What could possibly go wrong? We beat a Featherstone, a Bailey and a Dean. These guys in the finals should be NUHTHING!

Well, remember that State Beach novice finals gag from a couple months before?

The yips got to me again. I had never played before five people, much less 5,000. The booing got to me. We got behind somehow and I started to press. Lubed up by Cuervo Gold, the crowd really were giving Powers and me the business. It was only one game to 15. Our opponents’ strategy was to serve Powers. It worked like a charm.


Because I was setting him like 20 feet off the net.

Tom Feuer still has the second-place trophy

Game, set, match to the other team. I had rousted Pat Powers from a catatonic state, only to gag at the moment I needed to be at my best. I did not stay around long enough to find out how Pat was feeling. Once I got my trophy from Hagman, I was headed back to America with my tail firmly between my legs.

Powers-Feuer? You could bet on it.

Powers became an icon in the sport. One of the greatest combination indoor/beach players in history. Three years later he was on the USA team that won Olympics gold in Los Angeles. He also was on the team that won gold in the 1985 FIVB World Cup and in 1986 he led Team USA to its first and only World Championships gold medal. The Peeper then turned his attention to the beach full-time the following year and won his first AVP tournament in Wildwood with Leif Hanson. He would end up capturing 12 total tourneys in a beach career that ran the better part of 10 years.

Pat Powers

In 2009 he was elected to the CBVA Hall of Fame. He was the head men’s coach at USC from 1996-2002 and today runs volleyball camps over the country.


Not much to see in volleyball. Cheaters never prosper. I am living proof. But there is an interesting postscript of sorts: I ran into Pat in April 1995 for the first time since that fateful day 14 years prior at the Cuervo (apropos isn’t it) Clearwater Open, where he was playing with David Swatik.

And this is the best part of the whole story, trust me.

Powers, in a kind of “oh by the way” moment, left me that day with an anecdote:

A few years earlier, Pat told me he was in San Diego and a gentleman asked if he could buy Powers a drink. For that matter, Powers recalled, he said he HAD to buy the Peeper a drink.

Pat, naturally curious, asked why. To which the man replied:

“Well, Pat, a few years ago you played in Mexico in a tournament. Do you remember?

“Everyone thought you would win. A foregone conclusion.

“I didn’t.

“I made a $5,000 bet that you would lose in the final. That’s why I need to buy you a drink. So thank you!”

Indeed, thank you Pat Powers.

*** contributor Tom Feuer is a five-time national Emmy Award winner and veteran volleyball writer. He has worked 14 Olympics for NBC Sports.
Feuer has also worked for Prime Ticket/Fox Sports West as an executive producer where he produced AVP broadcasts in 1989-1990, and later, pioneered the popular “AVP Classics.”
While at Nik4 in 1997, he was event director for the first FIVB World Championships of Beach Volleyball. Feuer has also won 15 regional Emmy Awards and is a past AVCA Grant Burger Media Award winner.
He dedicated this story to Dr. David Gyepes, who died of AML on May 30, 2020, and left behind a wife and three daughters. One of them, 13-year-old Sarah, plays beach volleyball.


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