I remember the day I became a ball snob.
My wife and I hadn’t been playing pickleball very long, and we were at the outdoor courts during an open play situation. We ended up playing with a couple that was far better than us, yet nurturing in a way I was too inexperienced at the time to appreciate.
Anytime a better pickleball player plays with you in a supportive way it’s a rare and beautiful gift, I’ve come to learn.
Anyway, as we began to play, I pulled out one of the balls we had received as part of the two-paddle Amazon special. And that’s when we got our first lesson.
“This is not a good ball to play with,” one of them told us. “It’s too light and soft. Use this ball.”
She tossed me a Dura Fast 40. I heeded her advice and started using them all the time. Eventually we included the less-likely-to-break, yet still comparable Franklin X-40 outdoor balls.
And now, I find myself on the other end of that open-play introduction, where my wife and I take the court with our expensive paddles to play another couple with the telltale Amazon gear, and it’s one of them who pulls out one of those bouncy, soft, and lightweight pickleballs.
I usually try to short-circuit this from happening by announcing, “I’ve got a ball we can use,” as soon as I can.
But there are times when they’re already hitting their ball around and saying something at that point becomes, well, awkward.
But I do.
“That’s not a good ball to use,” I’ll say, realizing that I’m probably sounding like a jerk.
And then, if they look hurt or confused, I’ll add: “It’s not allowed in tournaments.”
Which isn’t a winning argument directed at somebody who has yet to consider playing in a tournament, and can’t imagine that they ever will.
But I’ll keep pressing as I toss them a Dura Fast 40. “See how this feels heavier and harder?”
Once again, not always a winning argument for people who may have already come to like soft and bouncy.
But I have found a winning argument. It’s one that works better than a well-executed third shot drop on a banger.
Here’s what you do. The moment one of those inferior balls is hit to you during warmups, catch it, look at it closely, and make the following announcement, as if you just found a tick in your dog’s fur:
“Ah, you have one of those senior citizen balls.”
There really isn’t anything officially known as “a senior citizen ball.” But the people using that ball probably don’t know it.
And for some reason, whether they are senior citizens or not, once you tell them they’re using a ball designed for senior-citizen use they will be happy to use another ball instead.
I’ve been considering throwing in a little mustard on this gambit, by adding, “Yes, if you present this ball at a movie theater, they’ll take a couple bucks off the ticket price.”
But it’s not necessary. The beauty of this tactic is that you won’t even have to suggest using your ball instead. They will be the ones who suggest it.
“Oh,” they’ll say. “Then let’s use your ball.”
And for a ball snob, if you can get the job done in a less jerky way, well, that’s terrific.
MURMURS FROM THE LOSERS' BRACKET
Read past editions of Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket, including:
- The Ozempic Ad
- Ball On Court? Maybe Not
- The PPA, the APP and Monty Python
- Time to Get Help at Bangers Anonymous
- "It's an Injury Sport"
- A Pickleball Translation Guide
- What's Your Pickleball Nickname?
- Tennis the Menace
- Is There Such a Thing as "Pickleball Torture"?
Frank Cerabino is a long-time columnist for the Palm Beach Post in Florida, a pickleball addict like the rest of us, and a newly published author. Check out Frank's newly released book, I Dink, Therefore I Am: Coming to Grips with My Pickleball Addiction (available on Amazon and a great read (or gift!) for any pickleball player), for pickleball tips and laughs!