Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pickle Ball

About five years ago a buddy of mine tore my ear off talking about a game I'd never heard of. The fellow is prone to exaggeration, so I listened, more amused at what I assumed was hyperbole than intrigued. Then two years back someone else mentioned pickle ball and how it was becoming a popular sport.  Then last year, March of 2017, I came to the condo in Florida and two of the tennis courts had been converted to pickle ball courts.  I thought to give it a try sometime down the road. Today I found myself at that place on the road.  While the folks up north are getting walloped with yet another storm, I arrived yesterday to see some spring training games and, apparently, learn how to play pickle ball.

I had not planned on playing when I did. I drove toward my breakfast spot early this morning and saw the courts were occupied. I gave a look. Next thing I knew I was recruited.

If you read the book, The Accidental Tourist, you remember how quirky the main character's family was and how they played a bizarre card game. Only the family members knew the rules and whenever an in-law tried to get it, the outsider became confused initially, and then exasperated.  Well, I did not become exasperated today, but the scoring and rules are unfamiliar.  By the third match (games go to nine) I think I got the scoring. (1-4-2 is a score. It refers to the score of the server, the opponent, and the person serving).  The rules I am less certain about. Here is an example of a strange one. You must serve into a box and while typically you can hit the ball on a fly, you cannot hit it on a fly after the serve has been returned, and you cannot get into "the kitchen" (essentially close to the net) unless the ball bounces.  Double partners switch sides sometimes but not others.

Really, I was just playing simon sez out there--following the regulars.  I know I will get the rules, but it seemed like the card game in the Accidental Tourist in this my first outing.

You play with a paddle that is not as big as a paddle racket, but bigger than a ping pong racket. The ball is something akin to a whiffle ball. It does not bounce. Couple that fact with the size of the racket and someone, like me, who always was good on half volleys, will whiff on more than one humbling occasion.

Can you break a sweat?

Just by learning the scoring you can break a sweat.  But seriously I did and only played three games. Each game lasted less than 20 minutes.  Of course I am in Florida not in Boston where I hear there will be much snow for me to shovel when I return.  So perhaps I would not have perspired so much in the northeast, but I can see how you can get a workout. Also, we played doubles. Singles I could definitely see making you sweat. Not a lot of running, but quick movements are key. The whiffle balls do not go far so there are nearly no breaks between points except when someone is contesting the score.

The best news of the day is that my bionic hip which has not been tested really in anything approaching a competition since 2014, and my achilles tendon ripped exactly 51 weeks ago on St. Patty's Day 2017, both held up.  I'm looking forward to going out tomorrow and giving the whiffle ball a whack.

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