Opinion Columns & Blogs

Pickleball latest trend for those of certain age

Suzanne Davis
Suzanne Davis

Before we get started this morning, I’d like to share my “Space Age Fact of the Month.” This is the first of a series, the frequency of which depends upon how many cool things I read and whether I think you need to know them. I believe this particular bit of trivia was from our very own Tribune.

The article said, “The sudden disappearance of a bright spot on a methane sea on Titan could add more proof that Saturn’s largest moon is a lot like Earth — just colder and gassier.” I always try to relate space facts to my own life, so naturally I thought of an analogy: Titan is to Earth as geezers are to young people. I just love the universe.

Speaking of seniors, I was able to cross another item off my bucket list a couple of weeks ago: No. 49: Learn to play pickleball. My friend Louise and I have played at two different South County venues, met some charming people and discovered that the rules were most likely written by a couple of old guys after a few beers.

If you haven’t had your finger on the pulse of older Americans’ activities lately, let me take a moment to explain this new sporting sensation that has, in fact, been around since the early ’70s. The word on the senior circuit is that the name came from the inventor’s pet — a dog named Pickles who kept running off with the ball. The game is played with paddles, a whiffle ball and a net on a badminton-sized court. The section right next to the net is called the kitchen and you’re supposed to stay out of it, which is the part I like best because I have already spent several years getting that perfected.

One can play singles or doubles and I’ve tried both.

I’ve come to the conclusion that singles sucks because one must spend way too much time running back and forth across the court. Singles is also hard on my butt, which is normally on the couch — and besides, Louise is a tennis player so she kicks mine every time we play. Ergo, I want Louise on my side in a doubles match.

I’ve become so enamored with pickleball that I’ve spread the good news to everyone I see, and I even convinced Rob, my son-the-younger, and his girlfriend, Sarah, to try it. When he mentioned to a friend that he was going to play pickleball, the friend responded, “Isn’t that an old people’s game?”

I imagine Rob replied, “Damn straight! I like to win!”

Because Louise and I had played four times previously, I figured we could easily beat them. What I neglected to take into consideration was that young people’s bodies actually listen to the advice their brains are giving them.

“Run after that ball, slacker!” has much more influence on a brain younger than 60, and it’s because old people are not going to let anyone or anything boss them around. Nevertheless, I’m proud to say that we won the first game. In hindsight, it might have been because Louise and I kept forgetting the rules and therefore changing them.

One of my favorite incidents in the past two weeks is the story of Louise’s pickleball discussion with her granddaughter. During the conversation, said grandchild had the ubiquitous electronic device in hand and, of course, Googled the game. Her eyes got very big and she looked at Louise with unabashed horror. Turns out the first item that came up was a video of nude, geezer pickleballers playing their little hearts out. Louise tried to explain that it was not the way she participated, but I know that poor child will always have a mental image of grandma that she just can’t shake!

Finally, I’d like to say that pickleball is a game of skill and tactics and in no way limited to people over 60, but I won’t, because there aren’t that many places to play, and I don’t want the courts to get too crowded!

Besides, young people wouldn’t be interested — the courts are similar to Saturn’s moon Titan, there’s a sea of methane out there.

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