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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: The Great Pickleball Incident

A tale from Lori Duff:

I went to the Jewish homeland (south Florida) Christmas week so I could eat Chinese food and go to the movies with my parents and allow them to coo over and spoil my children rotten. My parents, as I’ve described before, live in a resort-style 55 or better community my father, Fred, refers to lovingly as “Club Fred.” One of the newest amenities is a set of pickleball courts. It replaced the basketball court that once stood in its place that I never once saw an actual resident using.

Apparently, no one north of Orlando (and 50 percent of those south of Orlando) knows what pickleball is, so I will explain. In a nutshell, pickleball is tennis for little kids and older folks. But, apparently, not for middle-aged folks with coordination issues. The court looks like a miniature tennis court. I’m told it is the same size as a badminton court, but telling me something is the size of a badminton court is as useful to me as a tail would be. Or maybe less, since at least I could use a tail to swat away flies. The rules for serving and scoring in pickleball are more like ping pong. The net is low, maybe waist high. The rackets look like oversized ping pong paddles, and you play with relatively slow-moving, hard, softball sized wiffle balls.

We were playing doubles. Me and my son on one side, my mother and daughter on the other. My father and uncle were watching us and making fun of our inability to volley. My daughter hit the ball in my general direction. It was short and low, so I leaned down and ran forwards in an attempt to get it. I missed the ball, but had a lot of forward and downward momentum. I couldn’t figure out how to stop without falling on my face. The court is small, maybe only three or four running strides across, and I really hadn’t planned well. I kept running, trying to slow myself down without a spectacular America’s Funniest Videos worthy crash. I figured worst case scenario was that the net would catch me. And so, still bent over from my ill-conceived notion that I might actually hit the ball, I slammed into the net.

I don’t have a personal recollection of what happened in the next few seconds, but my son does. He can’t tell the story without laughing, and then apologizing for laughing, but it seems accurate enough, so I will use his version. I bounced off the net, and the sudden shift in momentum from forwards and down to backwards and up made my feet slide out from under me. I landed hard on my rear, using another example of my poor physical instincts to reach out my left (non-paddle) hand to break the fall. What made my brain think that landing on my palm would be more comfortable than landing on my well-padded backside I will never know.

I do remember my mother shouting, “What are you? An idiot?”

The next thing I knew the feelings of pure embarrassment and excruciating pain were competing for space in my brain. I am no stranger to injuring myself in humiliating ways in public places, and I know that if I keep calm, don’t overreact, and practice my deep breathing for a minute the pain usually subsides and I have a funny story to tell later. So I sat on the pickleball court and focused on slowly filling my lungs and waited for the throbbing to stop.

It didn’t. My family surrounded me and fussed over me. Eventually, I managed to stand up and get myself into my parents’ golf court, the main source of transportation at Club Fred. Someone thrust a small towel filled with ice at me, and I put it on my wrist, directing my father to take my place in the game while I rested. My uncle, who was himself hobbling on a cane due to his recent hip replacement surgery, told me stories of other people injuring themselves in embarrassing sports related ways to cheer me up.

It did work a bit, as laughing at the misfortunes and injuries of others is a Great American Pasttime. This explains the popularity of tv shows like AFV and Fear Factor and ice hockey games. After about five minutes, I peeked under the ice. My hand was swelling rapidly, and there was an odd lump near where my thumb meets my wrist. “I think I’d better go to the emergency room,” I said. My uncle peeked over and agreed and announced the good news to my parents.

What happened at the ER is a story unto itself, so you’ll just have to wait until next week to find out. Let’s just say that for now, having had some time to reflect I will just have to focus on the fact that if no athletic gifts have shown up in my physical makeup in 43 years, they probably aren’t going to ever make an appearance. My ability to cook, type quickly, talk, schedule an appointment, and handle three conversations at once will have to do.

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