I’m guessing like most people, I know a handful of people (mostly colleagues) who have gotten bitten by the latest fitness trend, pickleball. Even though it’s apparently been around in some form since the 1960s, the past 5 years or so have really seen the sport rise in popularity. I’ve never played, and am not terribly interested in joining a league, but I was a little curious, and I’d hoped that Pickleball is Life might be informative. I have not learned much; I don’t understand the rules and I’m pretty sure I’ve read somewhere that there is some controversy over who/what the official governing body is, a fact not discussed much. I’m guessing this book would make a lot more sense if I already had the bug and thus the knowledge.
For a book subtitled “The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Obsession”, this feels distinctly random. It says that the audience is anyone, from the most devoted fan who might appreciate the “warmhearted tribute” to someone looking to learn a bit more about something new. For example, on the one hand apparently you don’t want the ball to bounce and it’s designed not to, but you can’t hit it in return until it does bounce once? There’s also a no-go area called ‘kitchen’ that can only be legally entered under certain circumstances, and serve form is apparently super restricted in terms of allowable form (must be underhand, can’t have the paddle about or beyond certain areas of your body, etc.). The descriptions of certain types of shots and other jargon also seems like it might make more sense if I had any idea of how the game was supposed to work.
The chapters on “types of players” are fairly common to a lot of sports, and recipes for post-game socializing are largely basic. Naturally most which involve pickles, although I’m noticing a distinct prejudice towards the dill; not that I’d mind, I love dill pickles, but most of the applications are pretty common, and there are plenty of other pickle options that might be more interesting. Again, the entertainment is likely in recognizing your fellow devotees among the various categories, and if you don’t have an actual basis for application, it’s just generic sporty fluff. The “etiquette” section is also kind of generic and slightly contradictory; trash talk is acceptable but only certain, non-mean-spirited forms, but also, no apologizing (for mistakes in play probably intended). The bits on when it’s permissible to cancel, and excuses that are valid and not really so seem just like generic comedy bits (“dinking is as dinking does”). The emphasis on friendly inclusivity is nice, but it’s also contradicted by the heavy presence of high levels of competition, and apparently plenty of places for arguments.
To be fair, Pickleball is Life does not pretend to be a full-scale manual of any sort, but it definitely lets the attempt at comedy, which is mostly cliché, get in the way of actual information. I’m not convinced by this one. I’m not saying never will I ever, but if I do, probably no thanks to this book.