“This column isn’t just about the powers of pickleball, though, but rather friendly competitive sports of most kinds.”
One thing that a lot of people who play pickleball have in common is that we like to proselytize about the game. We are like evangelicals and yogis in that way; this awesome sport—think of it as giant pingpong or miniature tennis—changes lives in how it can turn a schlub like me into someone who jumps out of bed to exercise, and we’re constantly in search of new recruits.
This column isn’t just about the powers of pickleball, though, but rather friendly competitive sports of most kinds—disc golf, fishing, schoolyard basketball, whatever. The vignette starts with a guy I’ll call Carl, who actually put a paddle in my hand for the first time. He worked at the YMCA where I used to swim, and he started a pickleball program there about three years ago.
In time, I started to seek out more advanced games, leaving the Y behind. One of those weekly meetups is at a park on the water, and prior to the pandemic, I was there one Sunday morning hanging on the sidelines when across the street I saw none other than … Carl, the guy who introduced me to the sport. It turns out that he lives across the street, but when I shouted Hello, he just turned around and slammed his front door.
As the regulars informed me, Carl of all people had been lodging complaints about early morning pickleball. The tap-tap-tap can be annoying; still, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that the same guy who showed me how to swing a few years prior was now clashing with fellow players.
As the weeks went on, I would see Carl on occasion, always asking him to join in. He was reluctant; then came COVID. But a few weeks ago, with the gang back out on Sunday, I was thrilled to hear that Carl, who still lives right across the street, had walked over earlier and extended an olive branch to his former adversaries. “Would you guys mind if I joined you sometime?”
You know where this is going. When I showed up the following week, Carl was out there swinging.
I know most conflicts are a lot more complicated than the pickle I described above, but at the risk of extracting more meaning than the situation warrants, I’ll just say, and I think Carl would agree, that a hatchet buried beats a hatchet brandished any day.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF