The other day, my wife and I were out having lunch at the Yardhouse after a little shopping expedition, and there, in the background, as is usually the case at a sports bar, were about 12 different …
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The other day, my wife and I were out having lunch at the Yardhouse after a little shopping expedition, and there, in the background, as is usually the case at a sports bar, were about 12 different televisions tuned to sports. Especially fun for me, since one of those sporting events was the U.S. Open.
Not so much for my wife.
But also, on one of the TVs in the corner, was this event that featured what looked a glorified ping-pong table court thing. And, on this court, seemingly close enough that they could hit each other with a good swing of their arms, were four people, each holding “rackets” that resemble overgrown ping-pong paddles (without the rubber) to hit what appears to be a sort of whiffle ball.
This is pickleball. Pickleball is, from what I understand, a really fun activity for people who don’t have the wherewithal or desire to be running around a tennis court. I have several friends who play, and there’s a big set of courts up at the Apex Center North Annex. I even once met the guy who describes himself as the “evangelist of pickleball,“ who claimed responsibility for the growth of the game around Arvada. I think it’s really a clever adaptation of a couple of different sports into one game.
But, to be clear, I think the intent of pickleball was simply to give people who no longer can or want to play tennis an opportunity to still play a competitive game that they can have fun with their friends. That is to say, it’s a great “old person” game.
And, yes, I definitely count myself among the “old person” set. I would love to still play tennis, but, running around the court with my son a couple years ago one day convinced me that my best days of tennis were behind me. And that’s massively stretching the context of the term “best days.”
So, I’m watching pickleball on television. And there’s a play-by-play announcer, and a color commentator. There’s even the obligatory pretty girl “courtside reporter.” And the players are mostly twenty-somethings who appear to be in plenty good shape, but who barely move their feet during rather lengthy volleys.
And you know what I think to myself? I think, “Do we have to suck the fun out of absolutely everything these days?
Back in the day, my brothers and I and my buddies would play a game we called “Home Run,” which is like baseball for two people. In its most “advanced” form, we used a nerf baseball (because you can make a curve ball break about four feet with it), and the idea was, if you hit it over the fence that’s a home run, with various shorter hits counting as different values. It was fun, and turned out to be a really useful training device for making contact.
We never dreamed of making it a profession. It was just fun — a way to pass the time. Like playing “Around the World” or “Horse” during basketball season.
Is this the dark side of Americans’ hyper-competitiveness? That we have lost the ability to just do things for fun and leave it alone? I’ve ranted before about how absurd it is that kids don’t know how to play “pick up games” anymore—is this just the next iteration of that phenomenon?
By the way, more power to these professional pickleball players—if some network is willing to sponsor it and get you on television, then Godspeed. And, for what it’s worth, it definitely requires crazy good reaction times and hand-eye coordination.
I suppose I would just feel bad if the people who the game is intended for aren’t able to get their times on the pickleball courts because the Major League club has them tied up all day.
Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at michaeljalcorn.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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