One Word After Another – James A. Autry

Pickleball for Everyone

There are golf widows and tennis widows, but I am a pickleball widower. My wife, a former accomplished tennis player, has now joined what seems to be a national addiction to pickleball, and disappears for a couple of hours at a time to play. Two years ago, I hadn’t even heard of pickleball.

How did it come to be? From my observation, someone must have crossed ping pong with tennis. That could explain part of it, but where did pickle come from? Nothing about the game, as far as I can tell, has anything to do with pickles.

Yet pickleball has swept the country.

Google it. You’ll find a pickleball superstore, pickleball shoes, pickleball clothing of all kinds, pickleball tournaments, and of course pickleball equipment in every price range.

All this is what makes it an American sport. What I mean is that we don’t seem to think a sport or game is something we play or compete in unless we have to dress for it and spend a lot of money doing it.

So pickleball could not have qualified as legitimate until it met those requirements. Think of a sport, any sport.

Tennis? Racquet, shoes, socks, shorts, shirts, hat or headband—and those are only the essentials.

And don’t get me started on golf. Clubs, bag, balls, tees, shoes, golf cart, membership in a golf club, and scads of accoutrements such as shorts, shirts, very loud trousers, neckties, drinking glasses, posters with so-called amusing cartoons of dogs playing poker (you know the ones I mean), and so on.

Of course I’m leaving out a lot of sports that are equally expensive like skiing, sailing and so on.

Compared to most of those, pickleball is relatively undemanding of time and money. But it’s relatively new. Give it time and I predict it will attract its share of merchandizers and perhaps even gamblers. I’ll bet that someone somewhere is already coming up with various schemes to “monetize” (a very popular word these days) the game.

This is not my field of expertise, but I’ll be very surprised if there are not already plans for pickleball cruises. That of course would be only the first step. Then comes pickleball cruises for lovers, leading perhaps to pickleball honeymoons, followed by pickleball family cruises. And let’s not overlook pickleball cruises for active seniors, an ever-growing segment of the consumer marketplace.

When you get to thinking about it, the possibilities are just endless.


James A. Autry of Des Moines is a well-known author, poet, musician and business consultant who has written 15 books on such topics as gratitude, servant leadership and his Southern boyhood. His newest book, “The White Man Who Stayed,” was published in September by Ice Cube Press.

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