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A Disgrunted Response to the Latest Pickleball Noise Complaint 

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket Frank Cerabino 05-29-2024

Oh, no. Another broadside from the world of tennis has been fired upon our beloved game of pickleball. 

It’s understandable. Pickleball is spreading like a virus, and in the process, swallowing up some tennis courts, or at least forcing tennis enthusiasts to play in the vicinity of newly commissioned pickleball courts. 

Once that happens, it’s clear to see which sport is growing in popularity. Some tennis players accept this new recreational landscape and make room for the pickleball courts without complaint. 

But others can’t help taking swipes at pickleball by preaching a kind of resistance that’s probably something akin to the way the horse-and-buggy industry reacted to the dawn of the automobile. 

We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket have taken notice of one of these swipes – a rather erudite effort – that was published recently in The Wall Street Journal, of all places. 

The piece, entitled, “Why pickleball sounds are so annoying?” is a scientific explanation about why the “tock” of a pickleball hitting a paddle is allegedly so intolerable to human ears.

At least, some human ears. 

The author, Eugenia Chang, acknowledges her own personal disappointment with losing tennis courts to pickleball. Then she goes into a college-level explanation about why the “pleasant ringing sound” of a tennis ball striking a stringed racket is so much better than the “waveform of sound” that comes from those pickleball ball-paddle interactions. 

“Pickleball sounds aren’t louder or particularly higher overall than other sounds of balls being struck, but they have some high-pitched frequencies that crucially contribute to the timbre,” she writes. 

“The sounds have been analyzed to have a spike in overtone frequencies around 1000 Hertz, about two octaves above middle C, toward the top end of a soprano range,” she continues. “Those frequencies don’t carry further across the air, but human ears are more sensitive to them so we hear them more clearly at a distance and, perhaps, find them more aggravating.” 

If you’d like to read the whole article, here’s a link: 

I don’t doubt that some people find that the sounds coming from a pickleball court can be aggravating at times. But to be fair, so do the sounds coming from a basketball court, a children’s playground, a baseball field, a public swimming pool, yes, even a tennis court. 

And given the option, nobody would want to have their home right next to any of those recreation areas where, let’s face it, the most reliably frequent annoying sounds come not from the equipment, but from the mouths of the people playing their games. 

And if we’re talking about people sounds, there’s nothing “pleasant” coming from a tennis court. 

Tennis players are often prone to grunting when hitting the ball. It started off with women players, but men are doing it now too. 

And it’s not just a gentle little exhalation of air. I’m talking about a lung-emptying sound that starts in the diaphragm and sometimes ends in a second higher pitch at the conclusion of the grunt. 

Something like, “Huughhhh-ieaaaahhh” 

I frequently play pickleball in a facility that has adjacent tennis courts, and the sounds of grunting tennis players frequently drifts into the pickleball courts. 

I don’t know if there are overtones of high-C involved, but it’s audible and constant. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think some poor hapless animal was being tortured on the other side of the opaque windscreen. 

Say what you will about pickleball, but it’s a grunt-free game. There are no grunt-generating overhead serves involved. And the court’s just not big enough during a doubles match to warrant any vocal theatrics from players who have to move usually not more than two steps. If you hear somebody grunting on a pickleball court, call 911. He or she may be trying to pass a kidney stone.


Read past editions of Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket, including:

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!

I Dink, Therefore I Am | Frank Cerabino


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