The Computer rebooted and the U.S. pulled away. But Japan again rallied, and Kiraly bounced a fist off his temple. "He calls that the Brain Scrambler," said Janna. Just as Kiraly seemed on the verge of completely losing his head, an ace by Craig Buck gave the U.S. a 15-10 victory.
From then on, the taller, more powerful Americans simply overwhelmed Japan, 15-2 and 15-3. The Japanese, Olympic gold medalists in 1972, have not beaten the U.S. in their last 27 tries. Timmons blames their decline on a rock-star mentality. "The Japanese used to have a never-say-die attitude and dive for every ball," he says. "Now they seem more interested in how their hair is done and whether they look cute. Instead of worrying about making shots, they stand around posing for their film crews."
All three visiting teams spent Thursday afternoon at Disneyland. Some of the Soviet players got stranded atop Space Mountain. "We were stuck between Venus and Mars," said middle blocker Yuri Panchenko, the only gold medalist left from the 1980 team. "It was very scary." But apparently not quite as scary as playing the U.S. team.
On Friday night Parchin redefined "Eastern bloc" by benching all but two of his regulars and inserting what Kiraly called the Russian Goon Squad—five players 6'6" or taller. U.S. coach Marv Dunphy started 6'6" Doug Partie at middle blocker and moved the 6'5" Timmons to the outside. As Partie jammed up front, his wired teammates shook their fists, flexed their muscles and shouted encouragement to one another. The cool, clunky Soviets never got anything going, and they fell 15-9, 15-11, 15-7.
"The Soviets are a little too stoical on the court," observed Timmons. "They don't want to be excited, just efficient." Parchin said he envies the passionate intensity that the Americans bring to the court. "It worries me most that my team is so young and emotionally ravnodushen—what you call laid back," he said. "The Americans burn on the field: They have fire in their work."
No American was more fiery than Timmons, whose flaming flattop makes him look like a cross between Eraserhead and the Great Pumpkin. "Technically, he's an incredibly strong player," said Parchin. "He sets the mood of the whole American team. He alone can really decide the fate of the game.
"If we only had to contend with Timmons, it wouldn't be a problem. But with the Americans, every name is a problem. They have saturated themselves in the very best volleyball of the world: the excellent defense of some of the Asian teams, the powerful attack of the Europeans. They repeat the same simple combinations over and over, but with such speed and consistency that it is virtually impossible to defend against. We had no chance. They have weaknesses, but my players are incapable of exploiting them. So all my wonderful plans remain on paper....
"We were once the teacher and they the students," Parchin added wistfully. "Now we're the students and they are the teachers."
Perhaps because its game is so much like that of the U.S., France was able to extend the Americans last week in L. A. (The French upset the U.S. in a match last summer during the Savvin Cup in the Soviet Union, but the Americans came back to win the tournament.) The French are quick, explosive and thoroughly unpredictable, relying as much on deception as on brute force. Their net game is suspect, and they can't match the talent of the Americans, but they try. The French neutralized Timmons and Kiraly in the early going on Saturday evening. After dropping the first game, 15-7, France barely lost the next, 16-14, twice having the U.S. at game point. Then the French crushed the Americans 15-5 in the third, with a complex offense that had more options than a Hollywood producer. The histrionic Kiraly showed his frustration by tugging at the legs of his shorts. Happily, he managed to keep his pants on: Last year, after a disputed call during a televised club match, Kiraly yanked so hard that he wound up mooning the referee.
The U.S. copped the clincher 15-5 as Timmons killed them softly with feathery dinks, and setter Jeff Stork made better digs than Don Rickles at a celebrity roast. "The Americans have the best team in the world," said French coach Eric Daniel. "To defeat them, you've got to play perfectly."