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Attention Pickleballers: Be on the Lookout for “Ball Blowers”

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket Frank Cerabino 06-27-2024

We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket are concerned that pickleball players are running out of bad ideas to amend the game.

Every year, USA Pickleball entertains a slew of new rule-change requests. What’s impressive about these is that there never seems to be an end to them. 

You’d think there’s no way somebody can imagine a silly new rule that hasn’t been considered before, and then, lo and behold, somebody comes up with a silly new rule that hasn’t been considered before. 

There’s a doozy on the list of 2025 proposed rule changes that slipped in a day before the proposals closed out in May. 

“One area of concern that has arisen is the practice of blowing on the ball during a rally,” the rule request states. “Especially when the ball is touching the net upper border, the player can blow the ball back to win the rally.”

Really? Players blow on balls to win rallies? And this is a legitimate “area of concern”?

Please tell me where. I’d love to watch those games. 

If only I knew! I could be winning more dink battles with a well-timed mighty puff at the net. 

Under the proposed rule change, if you blow on the ball to influence its flight you lose the rally. 

“This is an unfair advantage by blowing on the ball to change its movement, and undermines the spirit of sportsmanship,” the proposal’s author asserts. “It is also harmful for health and hygiene.”

I guess we’ll have to add “ball blowers” to the list of annoying players, which already include ruthless bangers, chronic lobbers to senior citizens, line-call cheaters, tournament sandbaggers, and unrepentant body baggers.

If this ball-blowing rule is enacted, I predict the proposed rule changes for 2026 will include one that bans sneezing on the ball, or even worse, sneezing on the paddle.

After all, a sneezed-on paddle, especially one in the hand of a player experiencing a juicy, productive head cold – can potentially produce a sticky deposit on the paddle surface that can impart spin.

If you think a Joola Gen 3 paddle generates excessive spin, you ought to see what a sneezy Selkirk can do.

But for this year, we’re only considering blowing on the ball with or without any chest congestion. 

The first question to be asked is how often has this ever occurred? Have you ever seen a player blow a ball across the net or out of bounds during a rally? I haven’t. 

There’s one YouTube video I’ve found of a player who goes through the motion of blowing on a ball that teeters on the top of the net during a rally. But it’s not evident that the blowing influenced the path of the ball, which seemed to be already falling over the net when the player was blowing on it. 

You can decide for yourselves. Here’s the video:

The official rules of pickleball speak to hitting the ball with the paddle. Balls that make contact with anything but the paddle hand of the player returning the ball are dead balls and a lost rally for that player.

So, the question is: Is your breath considered “contact” with the ball? And if so, wouldn’t it be a non-volley-zone infraction to be standing at the net, inside the NVZ, and directing a live ball teetering on the net cord to your opponent’s side with your breath?

Wouldn’t you have to be standing outside the NVZ to “air volley” the ball back to the other side of the net if the ball hasn’t already bounced on your side? And who has that kind of lung power to deliver a well-placed concentrated blow from seven feet away?

Other situations that involve blowing on the ball to affect its flight path as it skirts near the sideline and baseline are just too challenging to consider, no matter how fun it might be to imagine it happening.

As for the hygiene concern, please, spare us the concern. Players blowing on balls are small potatoes compared to the common practice of players to keep extra balls in the front pockets of their shorts during games. 

And then when a ball is needed, they fish the balls out of their shorts and toss you a over-heated ball fully moistened by groin sweat.

I’d take a blown-on ball before a groin-marinated one any day. 

So, we here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket advise the rules committee to ignore the request to ban players from blowing on the ball.

(In fact, I’m thinking of blowing on the ball now as part of my pre-serve ritual. Just as a psych factor.)

As for blowing on the ball during a rally, well, there’s really no good evidence that it is an effective strategy to win points, although it would be very entertaining to see more players trying to do it. 

Rather than ban it, USA Pickleball should consider taking this “area of concern” under consideration for further review. 

And pickleballers should be advised to help the sport by being alert and ready to document this rare, illusive and possibly imaginary breed of player. We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket would be happy to help in compiling the data.

So, If you see any ball blowers out there, let us know.

MURMURS FROM THE LOSERS’ BRACKET

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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