Publisher’s blog: The volleyball scene from top gun

By popular demand, re-posting this blow-by-blow recap of two of the more traumatic moments in my life … this one’s for you, Tyrel.

column by Brad Brown originally appeared in the June 8, 2017, edition of The Forum


I was originally going to file this column under “Confession Time.”

After watching the movie Top Gun for the first time on Saturday, I changed course, knowing full well that all along there was no shame to be felt in having not seen it at any time in the first 30 years since its release.

It also became clear that I could not in good conscience review the movie in its entirety without mentioning the volleyball scene, and that this scene alone would require a full column’s worth of words. (See also: A one-way trip down the highway to the danger zone.)

But where this story actually starts is back in the early spring of 2012 or 2013. I’d been part of an annual regular-season NHL draft for a few years. There were always a few token dollars involved just to make things interesting, but over the years the real grand prize came to involve naming rights for the next season’s draft.

So that spring, a Vancouver Canucks fan of questionable morals (as though there is any other kind??) — let’s call him “Tyrel” — caught lightning in a bottle over the last few weeks of the season and won the whole thing. His request, complete with a seven-pixel screen grab to represent our group chat, was that we name our next draft “The Volleyball Scene from Top Gun Hockey Draft.”

Now I like awful ’80s movies as much as the next guy. (Seriously, show me someone who doesn’t include both Robocop and Roadhouse on their Mount Rushmore of all-time greats — any genre — and I’ll show you a damn liar.) But I’ll never be confused for a fan of Tom Cruise and his smug, stilted delivery, so I confessed I’d never seen the movie, offered a sympathy laugh at the reference, and dutifully obliged with the name selection for the next year’s draft.

Five-ish years later, I finally discovered what all the hype was about. Not regarding the movie, which was about as awful as I’d hoped and expected.

The volleyball scene, on the other hand … wow. Just wow.

We all know you can’t have an action movie without a training montage, and for those of you who’ve ever dreamed of becoming an elite fighter pilot, this is pretty much the definitive how-to.

Step 1: Take off your shirt.
Step 2: Attempt to drown yourself in baby oil.
Step 3: Crank up the Kenny Loggins. (This is actually the only life scenario in which it is acceptable to listen to Kenny Loggins, at any volume.)
Step 4: Trade in your shorts for skinny jeans. (Because if you can not only play but win a game of beach volleyball in slim-fit denim, you can do ANYTHING.)
Step 5: Shirk your responsibilities and bail on the obligatory rematch because you’re trying to get some from one of your attractive (really??) superiors.

Actual flying experience? Not required. (The rest of the movie was truly just filler that did nothing to advance the story. Move over, Rocky.)

The big question left unanswered by the scene is whether or not this approach can be applied to other career paths as well. We may be at war with science and facts and other inconveniences at this point in our history, but this is one subject that is absolutely begging to be studied.

Race you to the lab.