It was Ben Johns who wisely noted that pickleball is still an “unsolved sport.”
That means that unlike other sports that have had lifetimes to evolve and fine tune what works and what doesn’t, pickleball is still in its relative infancy. Somebody could figure out the next Erne, or a new tactic that makes the third shot drop less effective.
“That’s what makes it a lot of fun,” Johns said.
And it’s not only tactics. The game’s rules and customs are still often challenged and in flux. Everything from spin serves to rally scoring to how and when to announce scores during games are still being hashed out on a yearly basis.
We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket mention this because there’s one aspect of professional pickleball that we hope is part of that “unsolved” universe that will one day get fixed. (*For those new to Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket, this is a (mostly) humorous tongue-in-cheek opinion piece - don't take us too seriously).
I’m talking about the size of the trophies at pro tournaments.
They’re way too big. Make that comically way too big. You can almost hear circus music playing when the winning trophy comes out.
It usually resembles an oversized urn that seems better designed to hold the cremated remains of a dear, departed elephant.
There’s a hilarious photo of Simone Jardim and Andrea Koop both lifting the enormous trophy for winning the pro women’s doubles event in the Franklin New York APP Open in June.
The two women are both showing lots of teeth in the photo, but it’s not clear whether they’re smiling or grimacing while lifting that giant nicknack, which appears to be about five feet tall, when you count the lid.
And why exactly does the trophy have a lid? Is it supposed to eventually be used as a garbage can or clothes hamper?
It’s not hard to imagine Andrea popping the lid off the trophy, allowing little Simone to climb inside and disappear.
And that’s not an anomaly. Most pro pickleball trophies are comically large.
I don’t know why, but I’m sure you can find some psychologists who can opine about the root causes of overcompensation. I’m pretty sure that’s why there’s a market for Lamborghinis.
I have a hunch that if women ran pickleball instead of men, there wouldn’t be this proliferation of tumescent trophies.
Whatever the reason, these trophy whales are not a good look for pickleball. And not necessary.
The greatest sports competition on the planet is widely regarded to be the World Cup soccer tournament, an international competition among 32 nations. The last World Cup drew a global TV audience of 3.57 billion people – that’s half the population of the planet, age 4 and older.
The trophy for the World Cup is an iconic design that appears to be a ball rising out of the trophy’s base. It’s just 14.4 inches tall, 5.1 inches wide and weighs 13 pounds.
You don’t need a big trophy to be a big sport.
Like many avid pickleball fans, I watched pickleball’s debut on network television on August 13 with the Skechers Invitational Summer Championships, a PPA tour event in Los Angeles.
The pickleball play on the court that day was terrific. Anyone casually tuning into CBS that afternoon had to be impressed with the athleticism of the players.
But then, oh, no! After the match, the broadcast continued with the presentation of the trophy to the winners.
“Please, stop the broadcast!” I wished I could have shouted to CBS network bosses. “Put on some commercials, any commercials. I’ll even watch a repeated loop of that heart-breaking animal charity spot that shows videos of all those abused dogs. Anything but the trophy presentation.”
But no, there it was. The winners of the women’s match, Anna Leigh Waters and her mother, Leigh Waters, stood there on the court while PPA tour CEO Connor Pardoe walked out bearing – what else? – a way-too-big goblet-sized trophy.
At least this one wasn’t big enough to use as a dumpster.
Oh, well. Like Ben Johns said, it’s an unsolved sport.
We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket have a gentle suggestion. Consider it a baby step in the right direction.
New rule: Pro tournament trophies need to be small enough so that they don’t require their own seats on commercial airline flights.
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"?
- How to Be an Effective Pickleball Snob
- All You Need Is Glove
- The Lesson McDonald’s French Fries Have for Pickleball
- Tunes on the Court
- The Poetry of Empty Courts
- “Head Targeting” Rule Change Not a Brainy Idea
- Getting Beyond "Good Game"
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!