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Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: “Going Ham” Over Pickleball’s Generational Divide

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket Frank Cerabino 07-10-2023

We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket have detected a new force field in pickleball-related animosity.

Step aside Tennis vs. Pickleball, there’s a new beef making its run these days.

I’m talking about the entrenching battle lines between what might best be described as Young Pickleball vs. O.G. Pickleball. 

As the game grows, it is getting younger. And these backward-ballcap-wearing 20-somethings are finding their clear paths to the courts are being blocked by Baby Boomers – the O.G. (old gangsta) pickleballers – who are their parents’ age … and beyond.

And way craftier than they look.

Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: “Going Ham” Over Pickleball’s Generational Divide | Pickler Pickleball

As young and old vie for the same limited court space, they are sometimes forced to mingle in ways that tend to create friction.

This is especially the case when a pair of seemingly harmless Baby Boomers easily vanquish their young adult competitors – who, being in the physical prime of their lives, foolishly assumed they could beat the older pair.

Or sometimes it works the other way, when Medicare-age doubles partners are traumatized during an open play game when their youthful competitors pelt them with no-mercy, full-throttled athletic slams from the non-volley-zone line.

There has been a new development in this war, one that brings hope to the younger players. It’s a viral news story about how health insurance companies are reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in increased emergency room visits from hip, knee, shoulder, wrist and lower-leg injuries – and attributing this explosion of injuries to older pickleball players.

I’ve written about that here.

The contention that pickleball is a hazardous sport to older players was the topic recently on veteran sportswriter Dan LeBatard’s Miami-based podcast. Sportswriter Jessica Smetana called it a “national health crisis.”

And in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek monologue, she explained why this was good news for 20-something pickleball players like her.

“The last time we talked about pickleball on this show, I declared that I renounced it because the old people at the Miami pickleball courts were too mean to me,” Smetana said.

She acknowledged that her resentment might also be attributed to losing 11-1 to those older people.

“But the joke is on them because a study came out last week that apparently pickleball injuries will account for over $400 million in health care related costs this past year because the people who are playing pickleball are predominantly over 60 and they’re all dropping like flies now.”

As one of those “flies” who have yet to drop, I take exception to the word “all.” But that’s a minor nit. Please, go on. I like a good rant.

“They’re tearing their Achilles, they’re injuring their knees, their shoulders, their hips. They all need surgery. They’re all taking breaks from pickleball.”

She’s right about that. I played pickleball this morning. And now I am taking a break from playing pickleball by writing this before I play pickleball again tonight.

One of the other people on the podcast, David Samson, the former president of the Miami Marlins, interjected at this point.

“So, you’d rather they stay docile?” he asked Smetana. “Like don’t leave the house when you’re 60.”

“Yes,” she answered. “The two options for when you’re old is play pickleball or stay in your house forever. That’s all you get, one or the other. You’ve got to pick one, guys.”

That led to a suggestion that older picklers should play a safer, modified game that puts them seated in chairs on the court.

“No, it’s an easy solution,” Smetana countered. “Just relax, just settle down. These old people go ham at the pickleball courts.”

“Go ham?” Time out: I have to look up the meaning of “going ham.” It’s not something we Baby Boomers generally have in our vocabulary…

Hmm. Ah, here it is. The expression “going ham” comes from the rap world and is popular among video gamers. It means doing something with reckless abandon. The “ham” is an acronym for “hard as a m—–f—–”

Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: “Going Ham” Over Pickleball’s Generational Divide | Pickler Pickleball

OK, back to Smetana.

“They’re going crazy every single time I’m out there. They’re beating my a–. You should not be beating my a–,” she said.

“I work out. I’m in shape. I play pickleball. I run. I jog. I do Pilates,” she continued. “And these old people are taking it more seriously than me? But here’s the thing. The joke is on them. You should not be going harder at a sport than someone in their 20s. You just should not be.”

“You’re 70. It should be a leisurely dink and over, dink and over,” she said. “They’re trying to do things that they’re not equipped to do. They haven’t played sports in 50 years, and they think they can go out there, and suddenly be cutting back and forth.”

“And guess what?” she said. “Their knees are going one way and their foot’s going another because they’re not conditioned for it.”

Sampson, who is 55, disagreed.

“I’m listening to what she’s saying, but if I was on the pickleball court I’d be trying to beat every 20-year-old, because I’m still active, and I don’t want to be old. I don’t want to be that guy.”

Smetana interjected: “Enjoy the herniated disc.”

LeBatard theorized that these pickleball injuries are happening because “most people think they’re younger than they actually are.”

Here’s a video recording of that conversation:

It’s an entertaining discussion. And you’ve got to admit, pickleball players criticizing each other is certainly a welcomed pause from the ongoing war against tennis players.


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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