RIP, paddle

It was a short, high ball, arcing toward my left shoulder.

Perfect opportunity … set the feet … cock the elbow behind me … wait, wait … lots of space … go for the spot, not the line … time to let it go … nice and easy … be sure to get on top of it.

There it is … no return … nice easy winner. Now get ready to serve with a chance to win the game.

Hold on … I’m pretty sure the handle isn’t supposed to do that.

The same way a longtime baseball glove can become an extension of your hand, so too was this paddle. I knew how it was going to feel when I grabbed it, knew what it would do when I swung it.

When I first started playing pickleball several years ago, I didn’t have my own paddle. Why would I? The last time I had played was in high school gym class, and then I basically forgot about the game for close to 30 years.

So I used one of the paddles at the tennis center where I played. My favorite was a big, heavy wooden model with a wrist strap that was more like a club.

Even today, I’m probably still considered something of a “banger” in pickleball parlance — a term that’s meant to be slightly derogatory but which I would argue both shouldn’t be and is way too simplistic for the way I play — but back then, pounding the ball as hard as possible was pretty much all I could do.

And let me tell you … I hit some rockets with that big wooden paddle. Some of them even had the added advantage of landing on the court.

However, when I realized that pickleball wouldn’t be something I tried and abandoned, I decided I wanted my own paddle. I didn’t want or need anything too fancy, so I found a $35 model on Amazon and Suzi got it for my birthday.

Ever since then, I’ve pounded not just pickleballs, but also the occasional floor, court, wall, chain-link fence and my forehead. (The competitiveness and the temper, they are problems,)

And it showed. The paint was worn off both sides of the paddle from hitting the ball, and there were also fingertip-size white spots because of the way I held it.

The edges of the frame weren’t pristine, and the rubber wrapping around the handle was starting to come loose.

But in the same way a longtime baseball glove can become an extension of your hand, so too was this paddle. I knew how it was going to feel when I grabbed it, knew what it would do when I swung it.

Until I was getting ready to serve and noticed that the handle was bent at an awkward angle.

I had always thought the end would come with the frame exploding into pieces, or at the very least disintegrating to the point where I hit what I thought was going to be a massive forehand but the ball stuck, which would have been hilarious.

Oh well, at least it died a hero, with a winner.

I would get frustrated when the group I was supposed to play with repeatedly canceled, so Suzi got the idea to buy another paddle, so she and I could at least go out and hit a few balls around.

We did that a few times, but ever since then, it has been in my bag, waiting for its chance. Every now and then, when I was playing badly, I thought about switching, but that would have disloyal.

So there it sat, until I ran over to the bleachers and pulled it out of the bag.

It felt … weird. It was too new, too smooth, and it made a funny noise. Apparently, in the course of beating my old paddle, I also beat a bass line into it. The new one made more of a “ping” sound.

It worked out fine, though. We were close to the end of the game, which my partner and I wound up winning, and it was my last game of the day.

Now, we move forward.

The paddle is dead. Long live the paddle.

Since we last got together …

I wrote about “crazy” ideas, and my lack of them.

Bruce had another interesting dining companion.

Austin asks a question for which the answer is “no.”

Graham is working on getting fit again.

Aaron wrote a Hallmark Christmas movie, but I think he spent way too much time developing the plot.

Bob ran his 24th Philadelphia Marathon.

Pepper has a Christmas dilemma.

Renata wrote something that went about 1,000 miles over my head.

Sunrise” is the answer to a question for Kristian.

Ally had fiber-optic cable installed. Of course, it was an adventure.

River got sent on an impossible mission.

Were I there, I would reward that optimism.

Lots of intensity, limited timeframe.

Like Sasha watching me work.

Savannah gets it.

I also got that reminder that to wash the laundry, one must put the laundry in the washer.

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