We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket (*for those new to Murmurs, this is a humorous tongue-in-cheek opinion piece - don't take us too seriously... we are trying to have fun, just like we do on the pickleball court) feel compelled to respond to the delicious rant entitled, “Thanks, I Hate It: Pickleball”.
The over-the-top screed against pickleball was written by a woman named Amy from Newport, Rhode Island. She described herself as a devoted tennis player who wants her USTA tennis ranking to be included in her obituary.
Her piece first appeared on At The Cool Table blog, and has since been making the rounds on pickleball social media sites.
As a piece of writing, it’s terrific.
She colorfully describes the sound of pickleball as “a stoned woodpecker going to town on a plastic pipe.”
Amen to that. And she points out how, in her mind, pickleball is an inferior permutation of tennis.
“Pickleball isn’t tennis,” she writes. “Tennis is a ballet that uses a racquet with strings, moving a fuzz-covered rubber ball 78 feet, baseline to baseline.
“It’s graceful and lovely,” she continues. “Now, with pickleball, you could make your own equipment using a cheeseboard, an old fishing net, and a walnut you found in the yard.
“It’s cornpone and awkward.”
She challenges the idea that municipalities need to build courts for pickleball players when they can just play in a parking lot.
“All you need is some chalk, a portable net, and three friends you met at the Republican National Convention Golden Oldies mixer.”
Yes, she spares no age reference to pigeonhole pickleballers as Medicare-eligible usurpers and unworthy beneficiaries of white privilege.
“I’m the resident pickleball grump, and while it might seem like low-stakes anger, taking over public tennis courts for pickleball points to a larger problem: older, white people feel entitled to space not meant for them. And they take it.”
Amy serves up a heaping helping of superheated invective delivered with an unmistakable smirk. But like all humor that works, it’s rooted in a kernel of truth.
Buried among the humorous pickleball put downs in the piece is the disclosure that the author’s tennis center has seen one of its courts converted to pickleball and other existing tennis courts there lined with “distracting pickleball lines.”
“That meant an immediate reduction of access to tennis,” she wrote. “You can play pickleball on a tennis court, but not vice versa.”
We’ve found the kernel. This is a humorous piece with a serious underbelly.
Pickleball is putting the squeeze on tennis. And if you’re a devoted tennis player, you surely have noticed by now that those pickleball courts at your facility – the ones where tennis courts used to be – are always crowded with people playing this other game and enjoying themselves in a loud and sometimes raucous way.
One person’s undignified behavior is another person’s good time, I guess.
I play most of my pickleball on courts at a city tennis center in South Florida. I play on one of six pickleball courts that just a year ago were two of the tennis courts at the public complex.
Night after night, you can’t help but notice that while many of the tennis courts at the center are empty and dark, the pickleball courts are bright and teeming with players.
The biggest competition there isn’t on the court; it’s on the reservation system. The courts become available to be reserved two days in advance at 1 p.m.
If you call at 1:01 p.m., you often find that it’s too late: All six pickleball courts are already reserved. The city recently approved expanding the facility’s footprint to offer a total of 18 pickleball courts there.
If pickleball is “a parasite”, as Amy writes, it’s one that is successfully swallowing its host.
Tennis may be a graceful ballet from the baseline, as Amy described. But that’s not its strength. That’s its weakness.
As I walk to the pickleball courts to play every night, I pass by several tennis courts, where the scene is the same at each one.
There are two people standing behind their respective baselines – that’s a quarter of a football field between them. They each stand there, content to trade long groundstrokes, occasionally moving laterally and making guttural groans as they return the ball in another long arc.
Over and over again. Umpff. Umpff. Umpff.
If you just play tennis, that might look graceful. But once you start playing pickleball, tennis just looks … er, um … boring and static.
It’s missing the close-quarters action of four players crammed into a relatively small pickleball court, each using a combination of guile, finesse, power and teamwork to win a point.
Maybe that’s why a lot of younger people are playing pickleball too. Consigning the sport to older, white entitled people, who are getting their way through whining, works as humor.
But it’s missing the mark. Pickleball is expanding because it’s fun to play for people of all ages.
And in the pro ranks, it's being taken over by teenagers.
This year, 19-year-old JW Johnson has reached the top of the rankings in the professional men’s division, while his 15-year-old sister, Jorja, is winning gold medals in professional women’s division.
But she’ll have to get past Anna Leigh Waters, a 15-year-old girl who is at the top of the women’s game.
So, rant on, Amy. Blame us old mediocre, Medicare-eligible players. We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket can take a good joke.
And there are certainly a lot of us out there playing.
“Pickleballers congregate and don’t respect time limits when folks are waiting because they believe in something called ‘open pickleball,’” she wrote.
“No wonder the highest rates of STD growth is also with the age group who love pickleball. They are so open!”
Make the joke while you can. Because the way things are trending, the “age group who love pickleball” is eventually going to lose its meaning.
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?
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!