Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Have I mentioned that my wife and I are avid pickleball players? Or maybe I should say “pickleball.” Our game doesn’t much resemble the official version.
If this sport hasn’t caught on in your hometown, let me tell you a little bit about it. It’s like playing ping-pong, only you’re standing on the table. A big table.
Actually it’s kind of a combination of tennis and badminton, played on a smaller court than tennis (which is good for someone with my glass knees). The ball is more like a Wiffle ball, plastic with a bunch of holes in it, and you use a paddle that’s either wood or some kind of polymer material, and then you just start whacking the ball back and forth over the net.
Of course there are rules. In fact, the official rule book is over sixty pages long.
The way my wife and I play, though, the rules are only loose guidelines, since we play not to win points but to keep our rallies going as long as we can. This means that the concept of a shot being “out” is vague, because if we can get to that ball we’re going to have a whack at it. We’re casual about our serves too, and foot faults, and any of the rules that would otherwise cramp our style.
In other words, we’ve taken pickleball and made it our own.
This is why we can’t play with other people, though, since they’re likely to be sticklers about the rules, plus the fact that their motive would be to kick our asses, and we have no interest in that. The funny thing is, at least in our area, people who play pickleball are frickin’ fanatic about it and they’re always trying to get you to come to their tourneys and pot lucks and to show up at the courts at certain times for pick-up matches. They have this wild look in their eyes. And we always say, Oh, you wouldn’t like to play with us. We play bizarro pickleball.
We also don’t like to play on the fancy courts our community put in last year (above). They’re sleek and painted blue, and they’re totally fenced in so you don’t have to chase the ball too far. Our court is just a slab of concrete in the middle of a nice pastoral field, and nobody else seems to want to play there. The maintenance guys said they re-striped our court just for us! That was cool.
What we’ve learned in playing pickleball over the last year and a half is that you can march to a different drummer and have more fun than the folks who are wed to the rule book. You can twist a thing to comply with your own requirements. You can say no to sporty competition and yes to spontaneity and goofiness and feel good about it. These seem like pretty great things to me.
We’ve improved enough now that we can both get close to the net and whack volleys back and forth at each other, laughing our fool heads off at the miraculous saves we each pull off and just about falling down when one of us actually “wins.”
Falling down laughing because the truth is, we both win every point.