Upon hearing the name “pickleball” for the first time, most people laugh in a mixture of amusement and confusion.
Why is it called that when the game has nothing to do with pickles? Don’t people care if it’s taken seriously? Shouldn’t we all have more dignity?
We’ve discussed the name here, and founder Barney McCallum is clearly in favor of keeping it despite some protest. We all know the majority of people who actually try the game after their initial shock fall in love with it, odd name or no. And indeed, we find a certain amount of joy in the fact that our favorite sport has a name that’s both playful and memorable.
Having a name like pickleball is a good reminder that players shouldn’t take things too seriously. Certainly there are high level players who approach the sport with a certain amount of reverence, especially if they make their living through it or play at pro tournaments.
But just because pickleball may be some people’s livelihoods doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have a bit of fun with it. This is true with anything in life—if we stop taking the opportunity to smile or laugh about something, even in serious times, then finding a spark of joy in other areas becomes that much harder.
This is all ten times truer when it comes to games. Sports are not only intended to promote fitness and friendly competition, but fun! “Pickleball” lets us know we should never lose sight of that.
We also think that pickleball might be unfairly picked on now and then due to its rising star. There are many sports with funny names that are still treated with respect and even represented in the Olympics.
Take, for example, luge. Particularly doubles luge. This is admittedly one of the most difficult and dangerous sports in the world. People go hurtling over ice at speeds of over 90 mph. The name comes from a word in a French dialect meaning “small coasting sled.”
That’s all well and good, but let’s face it… in the U.S. at least, the pronunciation sounds a bit like the much less flattering “loogie.” Add that to the fact that when lugers get in position, it’s somewhat reminiscent of an uncomfortable, double-stacked human hamburger patty.
Did people poke fun at luge, a sport many had never even heard of until the Winter Olympics? Sure! Yet no one was denying the athleticism and skill required to steer sleds at such intense speeds. Indeed, the seeming absurdity of luge became a bit of a “thing” as viewers tuned in first out of curiosity, then became honest fans as they admired the daring feats these athletes accomplished.
Why shouldn’t pickleball embrace its inherent silliness in the same way? If the sport’s name is just one other way to capture newcomers’ attention and get them wondering about the game, then we couldn’t care less how unusual it comes across at first blush.
We’re not hesitant to indulge in the sport’s goofy side, and at our original PickleballCentral location, we even had one of our Yodeling Pickles out front to greet customers.
Do you enjoy the sillier aspects of pickleball? What was your first reaction when you heard the infamous name? Any particular memories surrounding it that stand out? Let us know in the comments!