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Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: The Lesson McDonald’s French Fries Have for Pickleball

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket Frank Cerabino 06-13-2022

News update: The window for USA Pickleball members to propose rule changes to the game will end on June 30. This is the last chance this year for members to lobby the USA Pickleball’s Rules Committee for new pickleball rules.

Dear Rules Committee:

We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket represent millions of pickleball players, albeit mostly the ones that never seem to get to 11.

We are writing today in reference to your call for suggestions on how to change the way the game of pickleball is played.

But before I get to that, please indulge me for a moment. I would like to begin by recounting to you a brief history of McDonald’s french fries.

Unless you bought those french fries before 1990, you have no idea how terrific they used to be. They were special because somebody came up with a winning formula and stuck to it.

Ray Kroc, the businessman behind this global fast-food franchise, had a lot to say about french fries in his book, “Grinding it out – the history of McDonald’s.”

“Now, to most people, a french-fried potato is a pretty uninspiring object,” Kroc wrote. “It’s fodder, something to kill time chewing between bites of hamburger and swallows of milk shake.

“That’s your ordinary french fry,” he continued. “The McDonald’s french fry was in an entirely different league … The french fry would become almost sacrosanct for me, its preparations a ritual to be followed religiously.”

Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: The Lesson McDonald’s French Fries Have for Pickleball | Pickler Pickleball

The McDonald’s french fries started with whole potatoes that were delivered to the stores, where they were peeled, cut into pieces, then soaked in cold water to remove the starch.

They were then placed in wire baskets, and when it was time, they were lowered into hot oil that was used to cook nothing else but the fries. Most importantly, the oil was made of beef tallow.

The process yielded fried potato slivers that were crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and flavorful. They were perfect: a star on the menu, not an also-ran.

And then McDonald’s abandoned its winning formula.

Yielding to public pressure from a campaign against saturated foods, McDonald’s stopped using beef tallow to cook its fries. The chain switched to a mixture of canola, corn and soybean oil to cook the fries.

Because it was a leader in the industry, the rest of the fast-food chains followed suit.

The potatoes, arriving at the stores frozen and already slivered, were never cooked in beef tallow again.

Today’s McDonald’s french fry is a poor imitation of its former self. If you don’t believe me, you should listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s comprehensive “Revisionist History” episode entitled “McDonalds Broke My Heart.”

Here’s the link:

To make matters worse, the supposed health benefits of cooking french fries in vegetable oil was less than envisioned too. That’s because when vegetable oil is used in deep fat frying, its saturated fat level increases, food scientists noted.

And not only that. McDonald’s went from selling the tastier fries in small 2.4- ounce bags to the waxy, uninspiring fries in large 5.9 ounce cartons.

“More than twice as big as it used to be,” Gladwell noted. “So, we went from the McDonald’s brothers’ original product, which gave us a modest amount of something sublime, to a large amount of something that tastes like cardboard.”

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, dear rules committee members, I’m already talking about pickleball. Like those early McDonald’s french fries, pickleball was created with a winning formula.

For decades now, players have found it sublime. Let it be. Nothing to fix here.

Don’t be the one messing with the fry oil.

When the dozens of suggestions for “improving” pickleball ring your doorbell, don’t answer the door. Let those suggestions to institute rally scoring or make  big changes in the serve rules fall on deaf ears.

That’s because you ought to consider yourselves to be guardians of something that’s already great and doesn’t need fixing.

It would be a shame if pickleball went the way of the McDonald’s french fry.


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

Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: The PPA, the APP and Monty Python | Pickler Pickleball

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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