Monday, March 24, 2014

PICKLEBALL

In the summer of 1995, my family became a charter member at the Highland Swim Club. Nobody would ever confuse our little summer retreat with country club living but it served our purpose well. “The Pool,” was only a couple of miles from home, offered a relaxing way to beat the heat, swimming, other activities and a social outlet.

My wife Sue and I, measure our son Andrew’s progression from infancy, to splashing around the kiddie pool with a diaper under his swimsuit, to graduating to the "big boy pool," (learning to swim) and the after dark, adolescent mixer parties.
(1998), MY BOY ANDREW, AT THE HIGHLAND SWIM CLUB.  JUST OFF-CAMERA IS THE KIDDIE POOL (RIGHT), SHUFFLEBOARD, BASKETBALL AND VOLLEYBALL COURTS, (FURTHER BACK) AND THE ADMINISTRATION BUILDING WITH A SNACK BAR AND LOCKERS (LEFT). 

The Pool, was such a valuable asset that many times we included Andrew’s non-member friends or families as our guest.

In the gung-ho early years, volunteer committees organized special events which sparked great enthusiasm. Among others, there was the Fourth of July Party, an adult only nighttime blast and a Labor Day sendoff, marking the season’s end.

During the 2000 Fourth of July party, I turned Sue down to play bingo, (I'm not saying I'm too sophisticated for it...but maybe I am)?  Later, Sue was adamant when we were recruited to be in the “Couples Shuffleboard Tournament.” I was reluctant because I knew I sucked, but Sue embarrassed me in to it. I soon learned that my wife’s expert talent had been honed from a gazillion visits to her grandparent's retirement facility.

I remember few details except, we won the first match and were walking away when the scorekeeper/social director announced, “Next up against the Edelblum’s are the Strom’s.” These old-timers, in matching white Bermuda shorts, the same orthopedic, navy knee socks and Hawaiian shirts, looked like ringers who flew in from Miami Beach...just to kick our ass, (which was fine by me).

This seventy-five year old gentleman set down the golf putter he was carrying and started examining each shuffleboard pole. Behind me, I overheard some scuttlebutt from the gallery that tabbed Sue and I as prohibitive underdogs.

The Strom's must have been doing Geritol shots.  Their swagger was extraordinary as they jitterbugged to imaginary music after winning the first round of the best, two-out-of-three format. Mr. Strom removed his dark blue captain’s hat (revealing a nineteen-dollar toupee), and took a deep bow to the approval of the audience, (which had swelled to over ten people and a stray dog).
GERITOL IS A DIETARY SUPPLEMENT WITH IRON AND OTHER MINERALS.  FIFTY YEARS AGO, IT WAS THE SPONSOR OF, "TED MACK'S AMATEUR HOUR," WHICH I WATCHED ON TV WITH MY PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER.  AIMED AT SENIORS WITH "IRON POOR BLOOD," MY GRANNY WAS APPARENTLY IN THE MARKET FOR RENEWED VIM AND VIGOR.  IN MY RESEARCH, I WAS SHOCKED THAT IT'S STILL SOLD, (UNDER A DIFFERENT FORMULA).

The writing was on the proverbial shuffleboard wall. I was ready to retire to our umbrella table and hit my own bottle, (I was heavily into Pepsi-One back then). But Sue laughed in the face of adversity and rattled-off some incredible shots, including a rare ten-pointer. 
AROUND 2002, PEPSI-ONE CHANGED ITS RECIPE.  I DIDN'T LIKE THE NEW TASTE AND SWITCHED TO DIET WILD CHERRY PEPSI.  NOW, TWELVE YEARS LATER, I'M DRINKING ONE RIGHT NOW, AHHHHHHH !

The stunned Strom's “shuffled” off in disgust.  Mr. Strom was so ashamed to lose to "such upstarts" (us) that he left his golf putter behind.  Sue and I temporarily basked in the glory of the championship until the scorekeeper announced, “Next up for the Edelblum’s are the Dover's.” Through mutual friends, Sue and I were acquainted Eileen and Ben. Their relationship was so dysfunctional that I was shocked that they were appearing together at all. Between witnessing them bicker over a missing ten-dollar bill from his wallet, Ben drank (alcohol was strictly verboten on the property) from a paper bag. I was a good judge of character so I knew that wasn’t Pepsi he was pounding, (after murderizing them, I saw it was twenty-ounce can of generic malt liquor).
IN MY TEENS, COLT 45 WAS THE KING OF MALT LIQUOR.  I TRIED IT ONCE AND THOUGHT IT TASTED LIKE *WD-40 WITH SAND IN IT.  SO I CAN'T IMAGE HOW AWFUL "BRAND-X" MALT LIQUOR MUST BE...   * THE TIME  I DRANK WD-40 WITH SAND IN IT, IS ANOTHER STORY...

Amazingly, Sue and I beat seven straight couples. She did all the major scoring but winning is contagious, so I got into it too.  However, towards the end, I was engulfed by boredom.  When the social director announced, “In the final game, for the Highland Swim Club shuffleboard championship of 2000, it’s the Edelblum's versus the Winnegar’s!” I was thinking; The Winnegars?...A family with a name like that doesn’t lose…the Edelblum dynasty ends here.

While shaking Mr. Winnegar’s hand, I felt like I was looking into a mirror, (he was, extremely good-looking, about my age, fat and bald). The scorekeeper added, “Due to an emergency, Doris (Mrs. Winnegar) had to rush home.” I was thinking: Cool, we won by forfeit.  Then he continued, “If it’s okay with the Edelblum’s, the Winnegar's daughter Allyssia will take her mom's place.”

Deep down, I really didn’t care but I didn’t like the way we were put in the awkward position of NOT being able to say no. Until that point, I had taken an easy-going approach but this gum-cracking, twelve-year old brat’s cockiness annoyed me to the core.

Outwardly, I maintained a dignified smile as this impudent, pest in pigtails talked trash, derisively grinned and stuck her tongue out at me, while single-handedly dominating the first game. In the second game, while I bordered on intense physical and mental exhaustion, I reached inside myself, found an unknown (to me) source of inspiration and played my best to help tie the series.

I heard someone say in was 4:35. I was shocked how late it was. I needed to go home, take a nap and get ready for work. So it pissed me off that the deciding game was a nail-biter that went into the tedium of overtime. It was too bad, here we were at crunch time and the once crazed crowd (that for a short time had numbered twenty), was now reduced to six. Even my son Andrew abandoned us when we needed all the support we could muster, in favor of a Pokemon battle with another five-year old, (which I'm told out drew us, by five spectators) . All looked bleak for Team Edelblum until the little girl’s last shot failed to block our slim chance for a comeback victory.

She examined all the angles as she prepared for the last shot.  There was no room for error.  Her window of opportunity rested on a sliver of room to knock-out two of the Winnegar’s scoring rocks, (to produce a scoreless round and prolong my agony). But to avoid another overtime, if she could manage this difficult feat and score herself, we’d win. Sue’s competitiveness was never keener. She looked at me and silently got her point across…I got this!

Like a gold medal-winning Olympic curler, my girl's deft touch skittered her rock between the tiny space between barrier rocks.  She banged her rock into their eight-pointer and sent it flying off the court. Her rock then careened towards their seven-pointer. She skinned it enough to back it onto the “minus-ten box” while her rock safely nestled to a stop in the victorious confines of the seven-point area.
IN THE EARLY GOING, WHEN SUE TIED THE STROM MATCH WITH A COLOSSAL (AND RARE) TEN-POINTER. THEY WERE SO INTIMIDATED THAT THEY BARELY "SHOWED-UP" FOR THE DECISIVE THIRD GAME.  BUT WHEN SHE SLITHERED THROUGH A TINY CRACK IN THE WINNEGAR'S ARMOR, SHE NOT ONLY TOOK FIFTEEN POINTS OFF THEIR TOTAL, SCORED SEVEN HERSELF...BUT TO PUT AN EXCLAIMATION POINT ON OUR CHAMPIONSHIP, SHE DUMPED ONE OF THEIR ROCKS INTO THE "TEN POINTS OFF" ZONE. 

I couldn’t believe my eyes, nobody could've done it better. I looked at my twin and dumbfounded Mr. Winnegar’s jaw dropped. His weasel of a daughter complained to the scorekeeper, “No fair! That lady’s foot was on the line.” He ignored her protest and congratulated Sue and I...and walked away. I hadn’t cared the whole time but now I was pissed…that’s it?  No coronation, no plaque on the wall, no "we're heading to Disney World speech?"  What a chintzy outfit!

Indeed, there was no trophy, no announcement or recognition of our feat on the activity bulletin board. I shouldn’t have been disappointed because the champs of horseshoes, volleyball, cup-stacking and ping-pong weren’t acknowledged either.

Now, fourteen years later, Sue and I haven’t competed as a team since. However, with the reality of retirement a few years away, I think I have found a solution to our feisty nature…it’s a game called Pickelball.

Pickelball was invented in Bainbridge Washington (1965) by Joel Pritchard, (a State Representative).  This politician used his creativity to entertain his children...but the game blossomed into a sport. Since then, Pickleball enjoyed modest success with people of all ages and skill levels.  But recently, its popularity has gone viral, primarily among senior citizens.

My friend HOBOKENKID lives in a Florida retirement community. She says that even though there are twenty Pickleball courts on the grounds, people have to sign-up for time slots in advance…and there’s still long waiting lines.  She also mentioned that one of their top players is a ninety-one year old Adonis.
PICKLEBALL, FOR TWO OR FOUR PLAYERS, IS AN INDOOR OR OUTDOOR RACQUET SPORT.  IT USES A BADMINTON-SIZED COURT, PADDLE-BALL RACQUETS AND A WIFFLE BALL.  THE GAME FEATURES RULES THAT ARE SIMILAR TO TENNIS AND THE SAME NET.  BECAUSE OF THE SMALLER DIMENSIONS, THE GAME HAS BECOME ESPECIALLY FASHIONABLE FOR ATHLETIC SENIORS.
The game is already trendy in the USA, Canada and India. Plus, Pickleball clothing and equipment are hot items on the Internet.   The only controversy regards how the seemingly silly name "Pickleball" originated.  Some people feel it was a tribute to the Pritchard family dog, "Pickles." Others are confident it refers to the phrase used for a fisherman's last catch of the day.  But according to the TV news report I saw, the term refers to a mixed bag of participants in a sculling boat.  Me, I like the dog named Pickles.
SCULLING (a.k.a. COMPETITIVE ROWING OR CREW), IS OVERWHELMINGLY AGE AND/OR GENDER SPECIFIC.  SO A MIXTURE OF PARTICIPANTS IS FREQUENTLY CALLED , "PICKLE BOAT."
In a few years, Sue and I must decide where we enjoy our golden years.  That decision seems even more controversial than how Pickleball got its name.  But the three main destinations are, Florida, Arizona or Las Vegas.  Either way, I still have time before I need to kick my Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi habit and switch to Geritol, as well as getting fitted for my Bermuda shorts, orthopedic knee socks, nineteen dollar toupee and captain's hat.

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