It’s the day after Thanksgiving and I need to get moving so I head out on my bike because my legs are too tired and toes too achy for running today. I ride as far as the town park and pass by the tennis courts where I play during the summer.
The courts are full of pickleball players. I stop and watch.
I’ve never played, but I pick up most of the tactics and rules watching the four players on the court in front of me. It’s a game of quick-reactions and volleying, a less mobile version of tennis, a more athletic ping pong.
I playing both tennis and ping pong, so I think I would like pickleball, but I’ll never like the name pickleball. It’s off-putting, as if it were a goofy game. I can see it’s not. These guys are skilled, quick with their paddles, some rallies long and intense.
I might not be as good as I think I might be, but I’d be decent and I wish I had the chance to find out.
There’s one guy that has to rotate in on one of the courts, because their group has five players. He sees me standing around and I ask him what the rule is on a let serve. This leads to another question about the line drawn near the net, which I learn denotes an area called the kitchen sink, which has some entry rules associated with it.
He says his group used to play at the Y and now they come here to play outside during the pandemic. I remember once seeing pickleball at the Y a few years ago and random players just showed up and took turns playing.
“Is that how you do it here?” I ask.
“No, we come here together. We’re a group.”
“It looks like a lot of fun. I’d love to play sometime. I’d have to get a paddle first.” Ping pong paddles I’ve got. Tennis rackets I’ve got.
“I recommend you find a group to play with. We’re all friends. If you showed up we wouldn’t let you play with us.”
“No, of course not.”
“Half of the fun of it is we just rib on each other and talk trash,” he says.
“Hey, what are friends for,” I say.
Someday I’ll play. It would be a good game for me. I still love tennis best, but some days, before or during or after playing tennis on hard courts, it’s the shoulder, or the knee, or the back. Or all three. Pickleball I could handle. If I get a chance to play.