Pickleball

During a recent July golf get together, three of my university classmates, Winnipeggers all (but now relocated to Lotus Land), suggested I write something about pickleball. And there was the further suggestion from one of the three (he shall go nameless) that I incorporate lots of pictures, with fewer things that have to be read. So here it is … well, maybe not yet, as I must digress.

That is Jimmy Buffett below. Jimmy is famous for his song “Margaritaville” – which he combined with a lot of business savvy that has propelled his net worth into the $600 million ozone level.

Jimmy founded Margaritaville Holdings, which among other things owns restaurants, hotels, and retirement communities. For example, Margaritaville Holdings has partnered with a real estate development company to create Latitude Margaritaville, a retirement community in Daytona Beach, FL., that is proposed to have 6000 homes on completion. Homes range in price from $200,000 to $400,000.

You could pick up this little gem below for just over $300,000. It is the aptly named “Parrot Model,” keeping in mind Jimmy’s fondness for parrots and the Parrotheads who attend his concerts. The house includes 2 beds and 2 baths and 1900 air-conditioned square feet. And with a covered lanai to keep the bugs out.

Then there is the Latitude lifestyle. Here, for example, might be some of your new best friends. The one lady must have just told a “Dad’ joke. “What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot!” Just too funny. And I am 100 percent certain they are socking back margaritas.

OK. It turns out that Jimmy had the temerity to have his Margarita Holdings sponsor the U. S. national pickleball championships to be held this November in Indian Wells, CA. While pickleball is embraced by all ages, it is particularly appealing to an older demographic – those who might want to live in Latitude communities (more are planned), and those who believe that a salt-rimmed, quart-sized glass of margarita is nirvana. From November 2 through 11 the United States Pickleball Association (USPBA) will present the Margaritaville United States National Pickleball Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. (The Garden each March hosts the BNP Paribas Open, which many tennis aficionados consider the 5th Grand Slam tennis event). There will be 49 pickleball courts set up for the November event, which will attract more than 2500 pickleball enthusiasts. The Tennis Garden in the following. The Garden is owned by Larry Ellison. More on Larry later.

This photo was taken at the 2018 Championships, and I am starting to see some of the benefits of pickleball. On the one hand, if you are playing mixed doubles, you may get a really nice hug. And secondly, as a spectator, there are plenty of good seats available.

Pickleball seems to have had its origins in 1965. The story goes this way: After a Saturday game of golf, a U.S. congressman from Washington state, Bill Pritchard, returned home with his playing partner, Bill Bell, to find their families at a loss for something to do. The gentlemen sought out some badminton equipment, but finding none, they used some table tennis paddles and a perforated plastic ball and set up the badminton net at 60 inches; soon lowered to 36 inches. The following weekend, a neighbour, Barney McCallum, joined his two friends to formulate the rules of the game. Two years later, another neighbour created the first permanent pickleball court.

And in 1976 the first pickleball tournament was held in Tukwila, WA.
Today, according to the USPBA, which was formed in 1984, there are more than 4,000 pickleball locations in the U.S., along with more than 3 million players. And the game is spreading internationally.

An interesting name, pickleball, and like the racket sport, squash, pickle-ball has nothing to do with food. There are a couple of versions as to the origin of the name, but the one I like is confirmed by Barney McCallum, who recalled that the Prichard’s dog, Pickles, would, during the course of a game, run off with the ball.

One of the young ladies at my gym remarked that she plays pickleball when wintering in Mexico. Because of the noise the game creates the locals refer to pickleball players as “Woodypeckers.” Gotta like that.

Pickleball is an ideal sport for any age, but has caught on with those of us who are considered mature, at least in age. It is affordable; all one needs is a paddle and a supply of balls. That’s maybe a hundred bucks. Running shoes are a good idea. Knee braces might help, but are not mandatory. And there are courts everywhere – many of which are public. I don’t know of any Pickleball Country Clubs.

Of course, in the States, as the game grows, so do the stakes. And now there are professional pickleball players. That’s Kyle Yates below, a pro, and yes, I can do without the fist pump. It’s only pickleball!

We have a pretty active pickleball community here in the Qualicum Beach area. I have to admit to trying my hand at pickleball a couple of years ago. How difficult could it be? I was a decent racquetball, squash and tennis player (in descending order); and pickleball doubles seemed so easy by contrast. But after my playing partner and I were drubbed by a couple of octogenarian ladies, I went back to the golf course. Fewer witnesses.

Pickleball to me is a game for all ages that should be the domain of the ageless. The photo following captures what I mean. This could easily have been taken here in Qualicum. The guy on the right looks like he just climbed off his combine.

I almost forgot about Larry Ellison. Larry bought the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in 2009 for about $100 million. With a stratospheric fortune of some $60 billion, $100 million would seem to him like a rounding error. Larry was born in 1944 and in a rags-to-riches story he went from his birthplace in the Bronx to co-found Oracle, the database management behemoth. That’s Larry below. Seems happy enough …