Pickleball's meteoric rise has had its fair share of stardom. At this point in the sport's evolution, we've seen everything from A-list movie stars like Jamie Foxx playing the sport, NBA stars mingling with top PGA pros, to Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban buying an NBA franchise. – Famous models participating in the American League Buckleball teams. We're starting to see sports names go down on TV shows (here at Apple's Shrinking or at the premiere of AMC's Bob Odenkirk's new Lucky Hank), and of course we've seen Savannah and Hoda mix them up for each other. . Colleagues at today's meeting.
And this coming weekend will see a new wrinkle in the Celebrity Pickleball show: four of the most famous names in American tennis history will take to the court for the inaugural Pickleball Slam. . ITF Hall of Famers John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Michael Chang and Andre Agassi (17 grand slam singles titles) compete for $1 million in singles and doubles with live shows broadcast on ESPN. Sunday, April 2 at noon ET.
The event is the result of a partnership between Horizon Sports & Experiences, a division of Horizon Media, one of America's largest media agencies, and InsideOutSport.com, founded by Jim Currier. Four great tennis stars.
The event takes place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, and is described as a fantasy sour camp for top sports fans. For those looking to win $1,000, there is a chance to win $10,000 on Friday night and a doubles match with two tennis legends on Saturday night. No fewer than 86 teams take part in the competition, which culminates in a banquet for the players on Saturday night, which undoubtedly helps fund the event.
Tennis stars play Pickleball for the prize, not the game.
The prize pool is the largest single event purse in the history of the sport, but it will not be awarded to the best players in the world. Instead, the prizes will be awarded to four famous names closely associated with the sport. There have been several well-crafted social media posts on Instagram this week from slam organizers interviewing each fighter, reflecting on their experiences and expressing their expectations, but this observer is concerned about the quality of the match. You will see
We've seen evidence that Agassi and Roddick have played each other before. Here's a fun video of them playing an event called Paddle Battle in March 2018 at the home of MLP creator Steve Kuhn. And the other two? Chang appeared to be in the best shape of the group, but McEnroe publicly criticized the acid ball, calling it "horrible". What changed your attitude towards this event? Maybe a guaranteed salary.
So the question is, is it a good show for sports?
The organizers are clearly taking advantage of the huge popularity of the sport. A recent survey by the Professional Pickleball Association this week paints a more accurate picture of the sport than was reported a few months ago. According to APP research, nearly 19% of adults in the United States have played acid at least once in the past 12 months. The survey also shows that the average age of a pickleball participant is just 34.8, which is younger than most people think and falls within the 18-49 demographic that advertisers crave.
With nearly 20 percent of the adult population in the United States now participating, Joe Six-Pack can be sure to be heard even if they don't play the sport. The question would be, would casual fans watch the antics of McEnroe and Roddick (who are unfamiliar with decades of tennis events lining the pockets of radish pros) and say to themselves, "Hey, come on. This is what I want."? To watch a separate Level 3.0 open-play match between top disabled athletes who do not attend? Is the strength of branded players more important than the quality of the game?
The best pickleball players have skills, but no star power (yet)
The answer is probably yes. For those who follow the sport closely, we know who the best players are and we know how exciting a good doubles match can be. Look no further than The Kitchen (Pickleball's largest online social media community) calls it "the most viral spot in Pickleball history," an impressive gathering of two of the top female pros for a major league pickleball match last weekend. Lee Waters and Lea Jansen compete to keep the ball in play with Andrea Cobb and Maggie Bracia. The skill is amazing, but with all due respect, these are not household names in the American sports lexicon.
So some old tennis legends showing our sport on national television, even if it plays poorly, can be a good thing for the sport to further develop the dictionary of American sports culture. Set your DVRs up for Sunday afternoon ET, cross your fingers that Roddick and McEnroe are taking a few lessons, and hope for the best.