We have started putting out a newsletter and our second one went out on Friday, February 17th – although it seems like there may have been some technical difficulties getting it out to a lot of you, which we will work to resolve. Regardless, we are incredibly humbled with how many people have already subscribed and we’re trying to put in some fresh, original content for the newsletter that has not already been posted on the blog. You can subscribe to the blog in the pop-up that comes up when you first come to the website or with the subscribe tab on the right-hand side of the site. We figured we wanted to put that fresh content on the blog in some way as well so we’re going to compile all the stuff from our newsletter in a weekly post as well. This collection of newsletter posts will likely come out a couple of days later, assuming it actually goes out at all, to ensure you all subscribe to the blog if you want the latest from NML!
Pickleball Looks Really Dumb on TV?
While pickleball is getting a lot of positive publicity these days, it is not always sunshine and roses from the cheap seats. We are not ones to typically concern ourselves with public figures who scoff at the sport of pickleball, but we felt it would be worth our while to point out that well-known sports pundit, Bill Simmons, is back on the hating pickleball bandwagon. We are regular listeners of Simmons’ podcast and regular readers of the website he founded, the Ringer, so his comments feel as though they hit closer to home, even if they shouldn’t.
Back in November, we wrote an article in response to Bill Simmons and Van Lathan’s podcast episode about pickleball. This past week, Bill Simmons once again expressed on his post-Super Bowl podcast with Cousin Sal how far out he is on pro pickleball. On Wednesday morning, Simmons tweeted out a NY Mag article headlined “Pickleball Looks Really Dumb on TV”with the caption“Been trying to tell you…”
Considering how much pro pickleball we consume here at NML, we both have to be on the low end of the spectrum when it comes to how bullish we are about pro pickleball’s prospects for mainstream consumption. With the common refrain from pickleball converts is how silly or dumb it looks before you start playing it, we shouldn’t be bothered or surprised when people question its viability as a pro sport. It is hard to change viewing habits of the general public and the relatively low (although slowly growing) live stream numbers for pro pickleball are not a great sign. Look at how beach volleyball has faded out of the semi-niche mainstream.
On the other hand, it is sometimes hard to understand why people can be so derisive about things they do not like or do not anticipate liking. It shouldn’t matter to Bill Simmons that people are trying to make pro pickleball a thing. If he doesn’t enjoy it, then so be it. It’s like the people that get mad at others for putting pineapple on their pizza. We shouldn’t be offended by things that have zero impact on our own lives. Some people might contend that Simmons should have no leg to stand on when it comes to watching dumb looking things on TV considering he’s such a fan of pro wrestling. But that’s an argument for another day.
Simmons is a classic you “should just play tennis” guy when it comes to pickleball and that’s totally fine. There are many of us who were once in Simmons’ shoes so how can we judge others for feeling the same way? Pat McAfee’s segment on how fantastic pickleball is to play is the type of sentiment that breathes hope into the legitimate potential of pro pickleball. Pickleball is amazing to play as a recreational sport and that is not going to stop. That growth on the recreational side is what could lead to mainstream-ish consumption one day far into the future.
We are not so invested in pro pickleball to the point that we are desperate for it to become a thing. We just love the game. However, it would be hilarious to see the skeptics like Simmons be proven wrong about something they really can’t be so certain of.
The Upside of Age
We talk a lot about the concepts of upside and downside as well as ceiling and floor. Consistency reigns supreme in pickleball but trying to figure out who can bring that upside/ceiling ability consistently can often be the key to unlocking a player’s true potential. We tend to glean maybe more than we should sometimes from initial impressions of players as those impressions can leave a lasting impact that clouds future assessment of a player.
One place where we have come to realize that initial judgement can be mistaken is with younger players in pickleball. We really have no precedent to go off in such a new sport where it is so unique that most of the highest level of players have picked up this sport in their adult years. With where pickleball is at right now, there is a school of thought that if you don’t show that higher end talent early, it’s never really going to come. However, it seems that is less so the case for the kids, aka players under 18 and even more so under 16.
Riley Bohnert is recent example of this for us. She’s someone who we want watch play more as we probably brushed her off previously when watching her at an APP Next Gen event. Some of her recent results suggest there may be more upside than we would have expected.
In mixed with William Sobek, they were able to beat Devidze/Medina Alvarez, Troung/Auvergne, lost 13-11 in the third to Todd/Johnson, then win in the backdraw against Bates/Yates, Fudge/DeHeart before losing to Radzikowska/Brown. In women’s, Bohnert/Arielle Butler went 1-2, but played a close one against Oshiro/Whitwell in the main draw. There’s nothing earth shattering about Bohnert’s recent Daytona results to suggest a breakout is on the horizon but, in her age 19 year, there are some signs she could be more than a JAG (just another guy/girl).
Dylan Frazier is the number 1 example of someone who we underrated as recently as a couple of years ago. There was too much emphasis by us on the fact Frazier had been playing a while without very high end results, but there’s something to this untapped racquet potential upside for those who haven’t spent their whole lives playing pickleball. This is going back a few years but if you had told us Wyatt Stone would be getting real wins in a pro draw, we would have said you were crazy. Even players like CJ Klinger and Alix Truong are pros who have worked their way up through the pro ranks in a more methodical manner than some of the adult pros that we see today.
In a sport with no real history, we are keeping more of an open mind when evaluating players through more than one lens. What may be applicable for the 28-year-old with a college tennis background is not the same for the 15-year-old who doesn’t have any high level racquet sports in their repertoire.
One of the cool things with the blog is that we have a bunch of readers who like to comment and interact with us as well as other readers. We get a lot of good comments but we had one comment the other day that really struck a chord with us, which we have shared above from “Cody” (no last name).
We both thought what Cody said was a very smart concept for pro players in response to our takeaway about the APP’s streaming issues. There is so much social media content out there, but it is true that no one is simply sharing their own matches or even extended highlight clips with the world.
There may be some limitations from the tours for players live streaming their own matches, but there does not appear to be anything stopping a player from filming their matches to post on YouTube at a later date. There are crazy people like us but, more importantly, team owners and GMs who will want to watch that footage down the road.
All pro players should consider recording their own matches. Frankly, it is surprising more of them don’t record matches for their own film study. It may seem onerous and it probably looks a little cheesy to carry your own tripod around as a pro. However, it would be really easy for players to have their own video setup if they aren’t paying for a videographer. You don’t need anything fancy. Just a tripod and your phone.
So thanks for the thoughtful comment, Cody. We’re also very curious if more players start taking things into their own hands to ensure their matches are seen by coaches, managers, owners as well as fans to build their brand and improve their stock.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media – Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!