Pickle Overtime: So, uh, I guess I play pickleball now

Date Published: 
June 17, 2016

I had been putting it off for, let’s say, like, exactly a year or so, give or take.


Ever since last August — when that Type-1 “Z-fracture” of my shoulder’s left clavicle left it slumped, hanging in several (non-attached) fragments, and me, like, pretty comparatively lopsided and sporting some serious assumedly non-conflict metal in the form of pins, screws, large non-organic plates that typically aren’t found in human shoulders, etc., etc. — I have been putting off learning how to play pickleball for various reasons, both medical and non-medical.

First, it was the whole collarbone thing. Then winter. Spring sports. And then… while I don’t want to blame it all on El Niño, it certainly didn’t help.

All the time I’ve been kept dutiful tabs on by Vaughn “The Baron” Baker — who, from what I can gather, is sort of like the “Godfather” or, at least, the unofficial spokesperson of Sussex County pickleball, in a very different and much less parody-derivative way compared to, let’s say, like, the way that Al Sharpton is kind of the unofficial spokesperson for an entire race of people.

The Baron is, more or less, the horizontal-pinstriped “Sultan of (perhaps even more literal) Swat,” if you will. The first “King of Swing” since the Big Bad Voodoo Whatevers played the Super Bowl XXXIII Halftime Show in their zoot suits alongside Stevie Wonder and Cuba’s only non-guerilla-diplomat-type sweetheart, Gloria Estefan, back in 1999, and got that song in the movie “Swingers,” featuring a pre-“Iron Man” Jon Favreau and a then-skinny Vince Vaughn, before he and his entire IMDB-able Hollywood career went all “Adam Sandler” on us.

In other words, the dude knows his pickleball.

So, but, anyway, Vaughn’s been keeping tabs, The Baron, and finally the stars align, and so do our schedules, and it was, like, for all intents and purposes, “On.”

This was last Thursday.

I’ll admit that I was somewhat reluctant to getting finally Out There. The whole Exercise Thing has never really been a particular interest of mine. But even so, when last Thursday did turn out to actually RSVP “Yeah, I guess I kind of almost have to, then, don’t I?” I laced up my non-lace forest green Nikes (thanks, Todd), official Marshall’s of West Ocean City issue board shorts (closest thing to athletic wear owned) and official First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) issue Cool Dri® jersey (see pre-previous parenthetical), and headed Out There to the new pickleball courts at Fairway Village.

I also brought with me Point Tech Director/photographer and Infamous Eskimo Shaun M. Lambert, for reasons of both photographical evidence and moral support. Also, if there was by chance, let’s say, a polar bear attack or something.

Since I brought along Shaun instead of Point photographer and Infamous Ignoramus R. Chris Clark (JK, LOLZ, ETC.), who is currently on one of his ¿¿¿ vacations this calendar year, we actually got there at the previously agreed upon time instead of like 45 or so minutes late, because of ¿¿¿ or whatever else, and there he is, The Baron, waiting for us with water bottles and pickleball paddles and extensive abstract instructional manuals and a big floppy sun hat and wide grin, etc., etc., etc.

Shaun is not planning on playing and dressed in long black sun-soaking khakis, a non-Cool Dri® and non-FSPC-issue shirt and, in his only comparative to R. Chris Clark and oblivious tourists everywhere, socks with sandals.

For those unfamiliar with pickleball, socks with sandals are a far cry from being the ideal proper footwear choice for maximum lateral court movements, or even for, like, Harris Teeter grocery aisle perusing, or discrete potentially embarrassing CVS prescription pick-ups, or any other conceivable daily routine errand, and literally almost any other conceivable thing conceivable, for that matter — although, in his defense, for potential polar bear attacks, I’m not sure.

There’s a lot of, like, running around and quick-paced changes of direction on unforgiving non-clay court surfaces involved that require the ankle support of, let’s say, a pair of pretty sweet forest green Nikes.

Shaun will find all of this out, and more, during the heavyweight battle between his face and Newton’s First Law later on in the session — his wardrobe selection’s hazard potential, that is, after not being able to not put the camera down and join in after only like two or three “C’mon man — it’s just like hitting a snowball with snowshoes!”es.

Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert: It looks like Point reporter Tripp Colonell has a new favorite sport.Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert: It looks like Point reporter Tripp Colonell has a new favorite sport.Since the footwear thing is the case, I am, for all intents and purposes, Good To Go. Today it is hot. Let’s say somewhere in the mid-80s, which, going into this, I always assumed was probably also the median age of most pickleball players, under the assuming assumption that time is indeed linear and classifiable in pre-universally-agreed-upon units, of course, (U.S. military excluded). Sunglasses are helpful. There is a steady southwest wind.

The first thing we have to do, The Baron says, is to get It all out of my system. So what The Baron does is, with Shaun still sandal-shuffling around the court’s opposite side, searching for optimal optical real estate, send me a couple of lumpy meatballs right over the net’s center — me still mid-stretch and doing a lot of, like, rotative shoulder movements for no actual medically-suggested reason, but me still being Good To Go enough to register the meatballs and do my best subsequent Sammy Sosa — without the use of traceable performance enhancers of course — and making plastic-to-plastic contact in a substantial enough way to not only send it (the meatball) all the way back to the court’s would-be warning track for a surefire would-be double, but also to end up resolving a lot of the day’s, like, unresolvable issues, in this uniquely Neanderthal yet extremely satisfying type-way, found even more satisfiable when picturing, on the meatball, the source of one or more of those previously-unresolvable issues, or just any incidental irritation really, including, but not limited to: Miley Cyrus, Guy Fieri, Jeff Probst from “Survivor,” every Khardashian, every “Real House Wife,” every wannabe Kardashian and/or “Real House Wife,” the guy at McDonald’s who won’t give me a McGriddle at 10:31 a.m., the guy at Jolly Roger who busted out the ruler down to the, like, metric system measurement, when I was 12 years linear and not quite “This Tall” enough to ride the “Eye of the Hurricane” at Splash Mountain, the guy in the question-mark jacket that teaches people how to get free money from the government, when you’re pumping gas and it’s really cold out but you’ve selected one of the pumps with the broken trigger-lock, so now it’s either move pumps and do the whole card-swipe/ZIP-code input thing again or get your proverbial Eskimo on, Donald Trump supporters…

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…Donald Trump haters, when you bring a pizza home and all the cheese ended up sliding to the one side because every major-model auto’s passenger seat is on that, like, slight but unavoidable angle, and also because of centrifugal force or something, Hilary haters, when they brought back the show “Full House” but then got rid of Uncle Jesse, Uncle Joey and Bob Saget after, like, episode three, and clearly didn’t even really at least, like, try for the Olsen twins, Hillary supporters, when you’ve lost the remote and then one of those Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercials comes on with the dogs and sad singing and then there’s that all-out panic about how to make it stop and whether you’ll be able to in time or no, the possibility that at literally any point, you could possibly get stuck in a conversation with someone that phrases every phrase with the phrase “What is…” before they say what they’re going to actually say, like they’re on “Jeopardy!” or something, the ‘Git ’r dun’ guy, when you’re in one of those group text message chats and clearly not saying anything or interested in the conversation but whoever put you in the chat just keeps going on anyways, Hugh Jackman, long rants, run-on sentences, and, of course, as always, Adam Sandler/Bill Belichick/Tom Brady/birds.

So, but, anyway, after It is all out of my system [Editor’s note: It is only at this point that we realize that the above is a snapshot of what is going on in Tripp’s head during any given 45-second period, and we both apologize to our readers for having you read it and feel immensely sorry for and impressed with Tripp all at the same time.], and I knock a few more dingers — none of them quite going yard, unfortunately — we start getting into what this game is all about, and it turns out that not only is it, like, a lot of fun, but that I’m pretty good. Like “The Baron is telling me that, with a little elbow grease, I could maybe be going to The Show good,” if there was indeed a The Show to go to, for pickleball, like there is for tennis. (The Baron did not actually say this — the thing about The Show.)

I’m exhibiting a lot of megalomania and secretly comparing myself to Rodger Federer, or maybe more appropriately Johnny McEnroe, when Shaun decides that we’re probably safe from bear attacks and puts down the camera and joins in. He doesn’t get to do the whole issue-resolution home-run-derby thing to start, but he still picks it up pretty quick, and while he’s obviously not as naturally gifted, pickleball-wise, he’s still Good To Go and gets Out There, despite the sandals and the fact that I had told him “Hey, man, you wanna shoot some pickleball or…?” like five minutes before I was leaving the office.

Here’s the thing, though — is that, despite all my obvious inherent talent, The Baron still mops the floor with us, Shaun and I, without much effort, and would have even if both of us had been wearing proper footwear, because it turns out that pickleball isn’t so much about running around like an anointed Swiss warhorse or tennis’ media-appointed bad boy, so much as it’s about knowing where the ball’s going if you do X and then, in turn, doing X and getting unsuspecting Eskimos to slip right out of their sandals for an impromptu interface with the net.

The Baron ended up winning like 7-1, or some other score of equal embarrassment. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t really about winning, because… Actually, scratch that - it was totally about winning. I totally want to win next time, of which there totally will be one, a next time, because after all the broken collarbone stuff and Southern Oscillation weather, there’s no way it takes me another year to get Out There after finally getting Out There and seeing what the “big Dill” (LOL) was about pickleball. In fact, I’m playing next Friday again already. Challengers, drop me a line at trippleot@pizzaseat.com. And don’t forget your sandals.

Check out Part II of the Pickleball saga, with guest appearance by Ernest Hemingway: http://www.coastalpoint.com/content/tripple-overtime-so-uh-i-guess-i-pla...