Why Pickleball Doesn’t Translate to Must-See TV

Why Pickleball Doesn’t Translate to Must-See TV

Pickleball is taking over many communities. What once were empty tennis courts have become pickleball courts that people flock to. With the meteoric growth of the game, one would think that people would love to watch it on television—but that hasn’t been the case. Let’s explore why pickleball doesn’t translate to must-see TV to see if there’s a primary culprit.

It’s Too Casual

Perhaps the best thing about watching pickleball in person is what hurts it on television: it’s very casual. People of all ages and skill levels enjoy playing pickleball, leading to its massive popularity. However, the level of play between the top players in the world and the neighborhood pro is negligible to most of the viewing public. Surely the best players on the pro circuit are better than Billy from down the street, but it’s nowhere near as noticeable as in other sports.

Let’s look at golf, for instance. Golf is undoubtedly one of the most casual sports to play and watch. But Rory McIlroy bombing it 330 yards off the tee is something you’ll never see at your local country club, making these guys must-see TV. You don’t have that with pickleball.

It’s Repetitive

Watching pickleball can be painfully repetitive. Let’s use golf as an example again to bring this point home. In golf, someone might hole out from 100 yards or sink a 45-foot putt to excite the crowd and the viewing audience. Even with tennis, you’ll get occasional rallies that leave people’s jaws on the floor. With pickleball, you’ll rarely see something that wows you. You won’t see anyone running around to keep a point alive with multiple backhands.

It Happens at a Snail’s Pace

Another benefit of playing pickleball is a problem for viewership: the game is slow. There are no 100-mile-per-hour serves or furious forehands in pickleball. The game’s rules muzzle strength and speed to level the playing field. Even if someone could smash the ball with precision, the rules don’t permit it.

The Sound Is Wicked

Some sports sound pleasant to the ear: the bat’s crack, the net’s swoosh, or a well-struck golf ball. The sound a pickleball makes off a paddle is not something you want to hear for hours. Imagine bouncing a wiffleball off a wall for an hour—you wouldn’t even make it 10 minutes before losing your patience.

Lack of Star Power

It’s safe to say that the most popular sports in the world have star players driving interest in them. There’s no question that someone like Anna Leigh Waters is one of the best female pickleball players in the world, but sadly, no casual observers know who she is. These stars will fail to garner mass appeal until pickleball gets its LeBron or Mahomes.

The pickleball leagues will need to figure out why pickleball doesn’t translate to must-see TV before anything changes. Otherwise, it will continue to be the most popular sport everyone is talking about—but nobody will be watching.