It’s a vibe.
The PPA threatened to put together their own team event last year without any follow through. This time, it looks serious as late Friday evening, PPA Commissioner, Connor Pardoe, shared a story from a new account, Vibe Pickleball League. All it said last night was “Pickleball, with a whole new VIBE”. This morning, the Vibe Pickleball Instagram and Twitter accounts began sharing pictures of PPA contracted players who have “submitted his/her name for the 2023 Pickleball League Draft.”
It’s another clear shot across the bow from the PPA to MLP, who have been making waves over the past month with celebrity ownership groups hopping on the pickleball bandwagon. After the Tom Brady ownership group announcement, all of the information we had seemed to point to a truce on the horizon for the PPA and MLP that would allow PPA contracted players to participate in some capacity at MLP events in 2023.
It’s a common refrain these days to talk about how fast pickleball is changing and, yet again, we have another significant move in a matter of weeks. This time, at the hands of the PPA. As of the publishing of this article, the Vibe Pickleball League account has announced 7 players that have submitted their names to the Vibe draft – Ben Johns, Callie Smith, Catherine Parenteau, Lucy Kovalova, Tyler Loong, Riley Newman and Jay Devilliers. It is also in the bio of their Instagram account that there will be an announcement made on November 3, 2022.
Aside from the weirdness of the name itself and the cagey partial announcement of the new league, it is mostly speculation right now on our end in terms of what the league will be. The rumors are that there will be some owners, at least, from the Dallas area who run in PPA owner, Tom Dundon’s, circle – there is some pickleball Twitter speculation about Mark Cuban specifically.
Regardless of the rumors, it does not take a rocket scientist to put 2 and 2 together with all the public information available. The PPA had their celebrity pro-am recently at their Round Up event in Texas featuring Tony Romo, Dirk Nowitzki, Scottie Scheffler, John Isner and Jordan Speith while we know that Mark Cuban’s name has been in the news regarding pickleball, including that he’s offered to help “a friend” with the business of running a professional pickleball organization. It is notable that the Vibe Instagram account has immediately followed Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowtizki, Tony Romo, LaMarcus Aldrige, John Isner, Larry Fitzgerald, Jordan Speith, Scottie Scheffler, Sugar Ray Leonard and Dr. Phil amongst a number of other celebrities. Mark Cuban also liked a Vibe Pickleball related tweet on Twitter.
Now that it looks to be a near certainty that the PPA has created its own league to compete with MLP, what does it all mean?
It’s hard to say right now because of how little information there is out there. We’ll have to see where the chips fall in the next couple of weeks surrounding this, but what it all means depends on so many factors. How will the players respond to this? Will Vibe be able to bring in all the top players to its league? What star power can they bring beyond the Dallas area?
It doesn’t matter who came up with the idea first, it will only matter who is able to execute all of this better. It’s great for the players in the short-term as the fractured nature of pro pickleball leads to more money being thrown around than there otherwise would be. The problem is whether any of this is sustainable long-term. If neither league can secure the top players, it’s going to mean that we continue to have this divide in pro pickleball where it is very rare to get all of the best players in one place. It potentially means a watered-down product across the board because these rich people can’t figure out how to play nice.
We think it is worthwhile to mention that two of the PPAs marquee players, Anna Leigh Waters and Tyson McGuffin, have not been included in the initial announcement today. If you recall, Tyson McGuffin spoke out recently against the PPA for restricting its players from playing MLP. It was the first public announcement of discontent from a PPA player despite it being fairly common knowledge that the PPA had indicated to its players they would be able to play MLP prior to them signing exclusive contracts at the beginning of the year.
Considering that it was only 3 weeks ago that the PPA and MLP were on their way to a truce of sorts and the half announcement this weekend about Vibe, it is obvious there has not been much time for this to come together for the PPA. It indicates to us that the PPA is still trying to sort things out for the new league while trying to ensure they can get this news out to the public as soon as possible.
On the heels of a weekend where the PPA spent two days replaying live streams of old tournaments presumably to mess with the APP’s Hilton Head live stream numbers, it feels 100% on brand that the PPA would also late Friday news dump their new copycat league. We’ll probably have a lot more to say on this topic at some point but the final thing we want to say for the time being is that this feels like it could be a big fat L for pickleball fans, which is exactly how we felt at the beginning of the year. What this looks like is the PPA wanting to do things their way and not wanting to allow any other entity to be the new sheriff in town.
It will still be some time before we see how this all comes out in the wash. However, it is quite evident we will not be seeing an armistice between the tours anytime in the near future.
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