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‘I hate pickleball’

Rick Reilly

I’m 65 now, which means that, according to federal law, I have to start playing pickleball.

But I don’t want to play pickleball. I hate pickleball.

I’m fine with AARPers all over America loving pickleball. Great. Play until your arch supports melt. But why do you have to constantly tell me about it? Why do you insist I start playing with you? I get it. You moved less than 18 inches in each direction for two hours, hit a greenish ball a lot and beat Ed and Nancy Finkler in three games. SportsCenter will be right over.

Look, I tried it. I didn’t like it. Not as fun as ping-pong. Not as elegant as tennis. Not as pretty as golf. It was a lot of people who hadn’t played a sport in 30 years suddenly thinking they’re athletes. “Man, three hours of pickleball today,” my buddy will say. “It was epic.”

Reality check: There is no “epic” in napping, crochet or pickleball. It’s a game in which two mostly very old people (like me) whack a plastic whiffle kind of ball at two other mostly old people (like me), who defend an area the size of a rug (like the one in my bathroom).

Besides, it’s not a sport. Any game that you can take up after breakfast and be pretty good at by lunch is not a sport. And it’s not great exercise. A Canadian study last fall found that an hour of pickleball gets you only half as many steps as just walking the hour.

“No, it’s like tennis!” PicklePushers will argue. No, it’s nothing like tennis. Riding an electric bike doesn’t make you Lance Armstrong, and playing pickleball doesn’t make you Roger Federer. I’ve watched Federer run the equivalent of three New York City blocks on a single point. You could play pickleball for a month and not run that far.

And yet, somehow picklers manage to get hurt. When I call my buddies to do stuff now, half the time they’re injured. So far, they’ve had a torn Achilles’, a ripped rotator cuff, a blown-out knee, a pickleball elbow and one black eye.

Remember, kids: Every time you see a new pickleball court open, an orthopedist gets a new boat.

Those new courts, by the way, are swallowing up actual tennis and basketball courts. Closing down a hoops court for pickleball is like closing down a boxing gym for Zumba.

This is what comes of something dreamed up by a rich Seattle Republican politician (Joel Pritchard), who invented it decades ago with a couple of friends for their bored families on stuffy Bainbridge Island when – I’m not kidding here – they couldn’t find a shuttlecock for badminton. The catamaran must have been in the shop.

“But wait,” the PicklePushers wail. “It’s America’s fastest-growing sport!”

So what? The Diphyllobothrium is a fast-growing tapeworm. Doesn’t mean I want it. Worse news: More and more young people have been infested. The Flabbiest Generation seems to be putting down TikTok and actually (gasp) going outside.

They’ll learn quickly that pickleball doesn’t just hurt the eyes, it also hurts the ears.

Which is so dumb. The pwock!s can be easily fixed. All people have to do is switch from the hard paddles to the quieter “Green Zone” paddles. But so far, not nearly enough have done it.

“We tell people they need to switch, but they don’t seem to hear us,” says Anita Hobbie, president of Pickleball Enthusiasts of the World (PEW). “I think it’s more of a hearing aid problem.” (Okay, there’s no such thing as PEW, or Hobbie, but I really think there should be.)

So, to sum up, go ahead and play all the pickleball you want, but can you please just shut up about it? That would be epic.

Rick Reilly is a contributing columnist to The Washington Post.