In December of 2017, the AVP made a landmark announcement: It would be partnering with Amazon Prime for the upcoming season, and several seasons after that. The partnership would include a much-improved livestream experience, with viewers able to watch on one of the most rapidly growing platforms, with a professional announcing team and a camera crew and interviews and features and everything one might expect when an athletic league teams up with one of the country’s most popular businesses.
It was a widely lauded move, and it has since been met with enthusiasm and approval -- and the occasional critique, an inevitable side effect of launching a new platform -- from the beach fans that be.
Yet here’s what hasn’t been announced in any official capacity, since the individual in question does not operate under any official capacity anyway: the launching of Brian Cook’s wildly popular Instagram stories, in which he follows and posts about the AVP from his apartment in Manhattan Beach, creating a character that is at once overtly sarcastic and deeply knowledgeable, hilarious yet also sort of correct in his analysis, and the best brand ambassador Michelob Ultra never knew it wanted.
“The whole thing started with the first tournament in Austin,” said Cook, who isn’t playing because of a series of surgeries required after years of playing indoor in college at Stanford and overseas in Italy and Greece. “I was just watching the livestream, and that one was kind of a negative story, it wasn’t the nicest story, but I had no bad intentions and still don’t have any bad intentions for anyone. But I gained a little following because a lot of people were frustrated with the Amazon Prime stream. It was their first time, it was understandable, and I just wanted to let them know – look, you gotta make it a little better.”
And, uh, you know, he had just undergone hip surgery, so “I was also on a lot of Percocet and was a lot more vocal.”
Indeed, the sarcasm, and brutal honesty, is strong with this one.
It has become something of a phenomenon, though. At most AVP events, a good number of the players closely follow Cook’s stories, some of which contain legitimate, if not barbed, feedback… and some of which just contain hysterical, mostly nonsensical posts about Michelob Ultra.
He’s here to make you laugh. And he’s very good at it – so long as you don’t take him too seriously. And besides, he doesn’t mean most of what he says. Like all jokes, only a kernel of it is true, the rest is exaggeration, entertainment for the masses.
“Let’s give [Amazon Prime] some credit: What they’re doing is hard,” said Cook, whose sister, Karissa, made the semifinals with Katie Spieler in Austin. “They’re going eight-hour days on stream? That’s insane. That’s really hard. But when you’re watching every single second of the coverage, you’re going to catch some bloopers, and I’ve documented them.”
And it’s not only Amazon that is on the receiving end of Cook’s jokes. He pokes fun at April Ross and Alix Klineman, who hug between each point, whether it’s an error or an ace.
“I’m all about Team Hugs,” he said. “They’re great sports about me counting how many times they hug. In two matches I think they eclipsed 300. It’s exciting if you’re not at the event. You can definitely catch the livestream and count the hugs yourself.”
Sometimes the jokes go well. Sometimes, as it goes in comedy, they don’t.
Cook couldn’t resist the opportunity to lean into Reid Priddy’s struggles at the score freeze, posting a picture of a frozen man stuck in a freeze.
“Little did I know he’d get a little mad,” Cook said, “and block me on Instagram.”
He said this after acknowledging that Priddy has long been one of Cook’s idols, someone he looked up to throughout his prolific indoor career.
“He’s one of the best players of all time,” Cook said.
Sometimes sarcasm gets you laughs. Sometimes it gets you blocked on Instagram.
In any event: Cook has picked up quite the following from his satirical stories, a fun way to bide his time while he recovers from surgery before he can get back out on the beach himself.
In the meantime, "There is,” he said, “an absolute revolution going on.”