The Fourth of July has always been a special holiday for me, because I remember soldiers returning from World War II when I was just a little tot. They wore terrible scars and had lost limbs. I remember proudly marching on the sidewalk alongside the same soldiers, as they marched in formation in the town Fourth of July parade. I mimicked these men as they proudly saluted the flag.
More than 400,000 American soldiers did not return, and maybe I had already figured out as a kid that the Fourth of July necessarily follows Memorial Day because freedom follows sacrifice.
Many people casually treat these as if they were National Holidays No. 5 and No. 6. No. 5, Memorial Day, was started to honor the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War, and then later they added the 100,000-plus American soldiers who died in World War I.
I have traveled extensively, and I have watched people as they looked over their shoulder before they whispered their responses to me, afraid of Big Brother and the secret police monitoring their lives. I suspect that is how we would live had it not been for our Declaration of Independence from Britain, then the strongest military power in the world.
Fourth of July should have actually been called the Second of July, because that is when the Founders finished the official separation from Britain with a vote for a Resolution of Independence. That vote would mean the deaths of 25,000 to 30,000 American soldiers. On the third and fourth days of July, the founders finished editing what we know as the Declaration of Independence, which is one of the most significant documents ever written in the history of man.
Three of the major players of that period, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, all died on subsequent Fourth of July holidays, leading to much speculation and conspiracy theories.
You ask, what does this have to do with pickleball? Well, I am working on it…
The ability to live in a society where you can play pickleball four hours or more a day is just but one reflection of these freedoms spelled out for us by our Founders, who risked the lives of their entire families and communities.
Now I speculate. If there had been pickleball courts on the green at Lexington in 1775, I think the casualty results, and the world as we know it today, would be radically different. Rather than having to send a formal declaration to England, King George would be hopping up and down, asking if he could break in line and play the next Cucumber Ball game at Lexington.
Now I fabricate. This factoid was passed along by the town gossip who heard it second-hand from a regular at a popular Philadelphia tavern. As the story goes, Jefferson, Adams and Monroe were waiting on July 2 for scribes to edit the Resolution of Independence. During those two days, the Founders played Cucumber Ball. Some years later, when these three great men all died on a Fourth of July, an enterprising sports promoter, perhaps the very first Pickleball Ambassador, suggested the name Cucumber Ball be changed to avoid the sport being connected to conspiracy theories. To avoid such a pickle, it was suggested the name be changed to Pickleball. And that could be the truth... maybe.
This year, consider your statistical downside with COVID-19, and then think of the downside for the Founders when they declared independence against the King of England and his largest army in the world. Your odds are much better!
On this Fourth of July, I propose we start each game this way: Zero-Zero-1776. Furthermore, I propose that on that day we play 13-point games in respect to the 13 stars on the first American flag, which represented the 13 states — all led of course by Delaware, the home of the First State Pickleball Club.
That is how this week I got from walking in a parade with real heroes on the Fourth of July to a special pickleball score of 0-0-1776!
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.