POSTED: August 21, 2023 | 8/21/23 Authors: Alex Hamner and Jennifer Lucore
So … about Seattle. The last weekend of July held the first professional tour tournament in Washington State, hosted by the PPA. While certainly not even close to the first time a tournament has been held in Washington – there’s been tournaments in the Seattle area for more than 50 years – because, of course (in case you live under a rock), pickleball was invented near Seattle back in 1965, is Washington’s state sport, and tournaments started happening shortly thereafter.
But I digress. Many of the top-level pros played in the Seattle tournament, as expected. There were one or two notable upsets on the court which received a lot of attention, but otherwise, most everything else played out as per usual. At least on the tournament court …
There’s another court that also got quite a bit of attention. A very special court, not a part of any tournament, that has a historical marker next to it, court one. A court on Bainbridge Island; a short ferry ride away from Seattle. Yes, the court where Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and their families (including the Bill Bell family at the beginning) hashed out, over time, the foundation of a game that all ages, genders, and capabilities could love. Hashed out things like the paddle, size of the kitchen (known at the time as the “penalty zone”), and the height of the net. Details like the double bounce rule and how to keep score. Ways to make the game competitive and nuanced, yet easy, fun, and relatively level for all. You know, things that make pickleball, PICKLEBALL.
This incredibly historically significant court resides on PRIVATE property at the home of PRIVATE citizens. Private citizens who are part of one of the founding families. Up through the end of July, they remained respectful, and indeed generous, about the occasional visitors to the court because they understand the importance of the site to many people. Then things changed. People took advantage, and some went too far.
The saying “the few ruin it for the masses” rings very true here. Some decided it’s okay to run a business regularly taking their customers to the original court… without paying the court owners. Other individuals decided they just deserved access to this private property. Some went even further than that.
Near the end of July, before the PPA tournament, certain PPA professionals, employees, and media personnel (including an owner) thought it was okay to trespass on the property while filming everything. Their justification was that they would “be quiet” and “keep it on the down low”… as if repeating (bragging) about said trespassing on a podcast is keeping it on the down low!
This occurred despite monetizing (via social media) the visit to the original court with, again, no remuneration – or respect – to the sanctity of the owner’s home. Sure, there *may* have been a signed card with some chocolate chip cookies involved, but really? After trespassing, filming, and broadcasting the visit? Trespassing is not cool (or legal) anywhere, and it should not be advertised as such if it occurs. While it could be argued “no hurt was caused” it does have a direct impact on the privacy, safety, and peace of mind of the residents (did I mention it’s illegal?!)
One separate, particularly brash and embarrassing, visit that has directly contributed to the end of unwanted visitors occurred involving a top 5 men’s and mixed doubles sponsored PPA player and his sister. This was, at least, a visit that had been requested and granted to the player and his sister. They, however, made their visit while the owners were not home, created a video of the visit to showcase how big a deal the player is to get to play on the original court and showboat to all the players who aren’t special enough to go.
The shocking part was that these high profile big shot players could only muster a thank you in the form of a card with a 15% off coupon for his signature paddle; you can’t make this stuff up! Taking into consideration their intent to monetize the visit through building their brand and posting on social media, one would perhaps go above and beyond to show respect to the owners and to the sport, right? I guess the residents should really just be thankful he didn’t leave his “gift” at court one by keeping them up all night before peeing in a planter box – as he did at poor Donna’s.
And now, due to all that, there will basically be no more visitors to pickleball’s historic court number one. Unclear on the concept of “no visitors”, one unsolicited solution for the unwanted/unscheduled visitors was proposed: Have someone schedule limited days and times to visit the court, for a fee of course, with proceeds to go to the USAP Foundation (where the mastermind of this solution works).