Sports

Five Reasons Pickleball Is the Quintessential Miami Sport

Miami and pickleball go together like guys and ballcaps and grandmas and visors.
Miami and pickleball go together like guys and ballcaps and grandmas and visors. Photo via Flickr (public domain)
There's a new old sport sweeping the nation called pickleball. A sport invented in Washington in 1965, but rapidly gaining steam in 2022, and so very Miami.

Thanks to the rising popularity of the pastime, basketball courts and hockey rinks are being repurposed into pickleball courts all around South Florida. With help from an online petition created in 2021, Miamians scored even more dedicated courts to quench their pickleball thirst.

But let's back up a minute: What is pickleball? And why are so many Miamians obsessed with it?

Invented by Frustrated Dads

As the legend of pickleball is told, the sport was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island by some dads who were looking to get their kids out of the house. It was a nice day and they wanted the family to enjoy it.

Now, if that's not the most Miami thing ever, we don't know what is.

Possibly the most Miami details hidden within the lore of pickleball is that there is a debate over where the name of the sport originates. Some say it's named after a family dog named Pickles that would chase the ball into the woods. But not so fast, friends; internet sleuths uncovered evidence the dog was not yet born when the game was invented.

We need a Billy Corben documentary on this. We need to see Pickles' birth certificate.

Old People Love It

Before we get too much farther, let's address the elephant in the room: Pickleball fits older people like a glove. It's like tennis, but with less real estate to cover. It also goes well with a visor, a look you better believe your grandma has been dying to break out on a regular basis if she only has an excuse.

It's no secret South Florida is filled with retirees, so it only makes sense that pickleball would be right up their alley. Pickleball isn't just a sport for the golden oldies, but it's definitely one they've latched onto.

You Can Play Indoors

When was the last time you saw 40 people spanning 20 courts playing tennis indoors, all at the same time? Never? Probably never. That would require an airport hangar.

Unlike tennis, pickleball is much easier to squeeze into a large gym. In Miami, where it's 90 degrees on a daily basis but feels like it's 120, having the option to enjoy the sport indoors is a major draw.

Come to Miami for the weather, stay for the people doing anything to escape the weather!

Miami Is an Event Town

If something is the "in" thing or something lots of other people say is sought after, Miami loves it. It's fine to admit, really. Nobody has been going to Marlins games for two decades, but the moment the team is good again the stands will be packed. It's just how Miamians roll.

Pickleball is the hot thing, even appearing on ESPN now, where it's putting up incredible ratings for an activity most people didn't know existed three years ago.

Miamians have taken notice and want to know what the fuss is about. 

It's Golf, Without the Golf

How many times have you heard that people only play golf because it's a way to network and make deals? Much like New York and LA, Miami is the capital of deal-making, and a sport like pickleball lends itself to kicking around ideas in proximity to other humans — and without all the golf-cart nonsense and dragging gear around.

Now businessmen can head over to a repurposed basketball court, put on a ballcap, and talk shop with some fellow suits over a good sweat — all without the required 200 acres of land an 18-hole golf outing entails.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.