We here at Murmurs from the Loser’s Bracket feel it’s necessary to sound the alarm about a trend developing on the pickleball courts. The young have discovered pickleball.
Children are playing!
And by “children”, I mean young adults who are unfamiliar with the pain relief afforded by Voltaren gel.
Month by month, the courts seem to be increasingly inhabited by a number of spry young adults who wear backwards ball caps, refer to everyone as “brah” and have no idea that Paul McCartney used to be in a band before his solo career.
I know. I know. Some of you will be saying this is a great development, a sign that pickleball is exploding beyond its Baby Boomer roots to appeal to a new generation of players.
Sean Bollettieri-Abdali, the owner of the famed Tennis and Pickleball Club of Newport Beach, told me that the average age of pickleball players at his California club gets 10 years younger every year.
“If we’re still talking about pickleball in 2030 as a game primarily for Baby Boomers, we have killed the game,” he said.
Sounds a bit dramatic. But he’s got nothing to worry about. It doesn’t appear that pickleball is heading for that kind of extinction.
These younger players represent a virus of vitality that is transforming the way the game is played, even on a recreational level.
Speed. Power. And the ability to return my balls that I had foolishly watched to admire as obvious winners that weren’t.
I arrive at the open-play courts these days, and the first order of business is to survey courts. I’m evaluating the people already playing, and doing a kind of age census.
Maybe when you look out and see people who were born post-Monica Lewinsky scandal, you imagine a lot of opportunities to play with a caliber of younger players who will improve your games.
But I see a lot of pickleballers with homework who are going to beat me 11-3.
On a rare occasion, my wife and I will play against a couple of young “brahs” who underestimate the craftiness that comes with getting bombarded with Medicare-related junk mail.
And we will surprise the youngsters by winning 11-9 in a game leaning heavily on our ability to play soft – something as foreign to them as a rotary telephone.
“We should never agree to a rematch,” my wife wisely says.
Because, invariably, we will play them again, thinking we could replicate that first-game performance. And it will quickly become obvious that:
(a) They went easy on us during that first game due to our less-than-fearsome appearance, and …
(b) Now they’re wise to our dinking game as evidenced by the newfound competence on the NVZ line.
We’re cooked. It’s all shaking and baking now. Slamming at close range. Making deadly accurate passing shots to our backhands.
Beating them that first game just gave them permission not to treat us like doddering pre-boarders on commercial airline flights. And now we get the game they would be giving their frat brothers, a fast, high-flying test of our eye-hand coordination.
The only course of action for us now is to call for a timeout to show them a photo of our little granddaughter.
That might evoke a moment of pity, we hope, but the die has been cast. The inevitable triumph of youth can’t be denied.
“That’s life,” as Frank Sinatra once sang.
(For any young readers out there, Sinatra was not in McCartney’s band.)
Oh well, we’ll always have canasta.