by Greg Schwem
“Get off my pickleball court!”
I know, I know. That phrase may never reach pop culture status like, “Get off my lawn,” which curmudgeonly Clint Eastwood famously uttered in “Gran Torino” and, ultimately, became an ode to petulance and turf wars.
But, come on, when did these “kids” start playing the sport that was supposed to be reserved for old farts like me? Former “athletes” with knees that now creak, feet that swell and elbows that throb after completing simple tasks? Like getting out of bed. We took up pickleball because it’s the only sport left that, at our age, produces sweat but not a potential 911 call. If we’re too infirm for pickleball, all that’s left is bowling.
For a while, we were happy. We knew the one or two pickleball courts in our subdivisions would be empty when we rolled up with our posse of fellow retirees and snowbirds. Meanwhile, the Gen Z crowd jogged by, not even trying to hide their snickers and guffaws as they watched four guys flailing at a wiffleball, occasionally yelling, “KITCHEN” or “THREE TWO ON THE ONE” before launching a serve — an UNDERHAND serve. We didn’t care; we’d found our happy place, and, even better, knew it was created exclusively for us. Sort of like early bird dinner at Denny’s.
Or so we thought.
Now we fight for court space with those same Gen Zers, the ones who eventually stopped jogging, picked up paddles and decided to give America’s fastest growing sport a try. Oh, and they did more than try. While our medicated ointment was drying on our aching muscles, they were silently taking over. (STORY CONTINUES BELOW)
On a recent Friday evening at a suburban Chicago tennis club, it was hard to find any actual tennis players. Instead, more than 80 people, me included, converged for open play on tennis courts that had hastily been converted into pickleball courts via brightly colored tape that doubled as boundary lines.
As I waited for a court to open, I scanned the area and estimated at least half the players were younger than 35. The figure was probably higher; my deteriorating eyesight made it difficult to make out shapes on the outer courts.
What’s worse is that, in between drop spins and stacks (OK, I’ll stop with the terminology), they were discussing post-pickleball plans. Some talked of going out for drinks. Or dinner. At 9 p.m.!
After pickleball, the only thing I go out for is Advil.
Thankfully, in pickleball, younger does not necessarily mean better when it comes to skill. I have found the Gen Z set lacking in patience during an extended rally of cross-court dinks, preferring a smash when the ball is nowhere near at “smash level.” Gen Zers, if that sentence befuddles but also intrigues you, grab a paddle and join the fun.
But consider this your warning. “Fun” to grizzled pickleball veterans means you will most likely be on the receiving end of a pickleball hit with full force and aimed directly at your midsection.
It’s not that we hate you personally; rather, we are angry that our sport, almost overnight, doubled in popularity because a younger demographic wanted to be part of our playdates. And what are we supposed to do to exact revenge? Crash your MMOGs? (Massively Multiplayer Online Games). We don’t own Xboxes; we buy them for our grandchildren.
So, we’ll take out our frustrations on the pickleball court, specifically against you, bro with the backward baseball cap, baggy shorts and “Lollapalooza ’22” T-shirt, who took up pickleball because the courts were walking distance to his favorite karaoke bar. We’ll apologize when the point’s over.
Or maybe we won’t. Maybe we’ll do the snickering. Or maybe we’ll high-five our partners as we return to the baseline and get ready for the next point.
On second thought, it’s probably not a good idea if we high-five.
We might sprain something.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: “Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad” and the recently released “The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian,” available at Amazon.com. Visit Greg on the web at www.gregschwem.com.
You’ve enjoyed reading, and laughing at, Greg Schwem’s monthly humor columns in Senior Living News. But did you know Greg is also a nationally touring stand-up comedian? And he loves to make audiences laugh about the joys, and frustrations, of growing older. Watch the clip and, if you’d like Greg to perform at your senior center or senior event, contact him through his website at www.gregschwem.com)