Stephen A. feels satisfied about his scrotox procedure at Sports Gras because his balls won’t sweat anymore.
But the ESPN analyst has soured on the 3.17 million people at Sports Gras in downtown New Orleans.
“Let’s go play some damn pickleball, Chuck,” he says to Charles Barkley. “My balls need some fresh air.”
“Pickleball?” asked Chuck. “What the hell’s that?”
“Come with me, damnit,” says Stephen A. “Gotta get away from Sports Gras or I’m gonna sock Sammy Sportface in the face. He got way too many suckers to come to Sports Gras. Too many truckers, 262 of them, I mean my goodness, I ain’t kiddin’ round with nobody. Sports Gras sucks.”
Off they go to the Gernow Brown Recreation Center in the suburbs of New Orleans. In a barrel the size you’d cram in to fly over Niagara Falls are dozens of white pickleballs, looking like miniature hole-filled whiffle balls, marinating like crawfish in teriyaki sauce.
On two square card tables at courtside next to each side of the net rest pretzel jars. They’re packed with six-inch-long, forest green pickles, some straight but mostly crooked, standing like soldiers.
“When we switch sides every two games, we each have to eat a pickle in one bite, no kiddin’ round, those are the damn rules,” says Stephen A.
“I hate pickles,” says Charles.
“You’re gonna eat the damn pickles, Chuck,” says Stephen. “Those are the damn rules…not messin’ ‘round. Two bites, six inches of pickle. No excuses, every two games.”
Chuck sees on the table a book titled The Art of Pickleball: Techniques and Strategies for Everyone.
Opening to page 27 (by chance), he studies this paragraph: “Although not widely used, pickleball legend Pat Kane developed a signature position at the net that inverts the normal grip: he turns the paddle over 180 degrees so his fingers face forward. This allows him a quick shift to a forehand grip for overheads and a fast move to the forehand position.”
“Gonna use that grip on you, Stephen A.” says Chuck. “You’re gonna lose to Sir Charles in pickleball today. I got my boy Pat Kane tellin’ me what to do. Dude’s a pickleball legend.”
Then he skips to page 57 where he reads about a nuance for finessing the dink shot: “The most common problem encountered with dinking is when your shot travels too high and your opponent smashes the ball back at your face. Of course, you’re hoping your opponent will dink so you can smash the ball back at his face.”
“Try a dink on me and I’ll smash the pickleball in your big mouth,” says Chuck. “You’ll swallow the pickleball.”
“Shut your big mouth,” says Stephen A. “I came to play pickleball, damnit, not read The Art of Pickleball. “Stop foolin’ around. I’m serious.”
The contest between the two media personalities begins. A few games in Chuck’s balls get sweaty.
“Shoulda finished my scrotox yesterday,” he says. “Balls gettin’ soggier than a turtle in the ocean.”
The match continues. It’s a welcome respite from the pressure to party hard at Sports Gras like during Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale. A moment of tranquility away from the Sports Gras pandemonium.
Stephen A. outplays him and wins the match. “Shoulda finished getting’ your scrotox, Chuck. Mighta beat my scrotum off. But my balls are as dry as Brett Favre’s Tommie Copper torso belt.”
According to Pickleball Central (www.pickleballcentral.com), the loser of each match has to eat an all-pickle sandwich on poppyseed bread.
“Hate pickle sandwiches,” says Chuck well into his second one. “They’re turrible. Needs mayonnaise. Gimme another one.”
The rulebook stipulates that the winner gets a 3-foot hurricane glass filled to the gills with “The Pistol,” a concoction of sour pickle juice, vodka, and Red Bull. The winner washes the beverage down with pickle cotton candy.
“Pistol juice is ahrite,” says Stephen A. “That’s the taste of winning. Pickleball sure beats Sports Gras. Can’t take that anymore, really really can’t.”
Back on Bourbon Street, the throngs of people pump down Pistols. They eat turtle soup packed with pickle juice courtesy of George Foreman Senior.
At the pickleball court, some eight miles from the epicenter of Sports Gras, Chuck and Stephen hear music.
“My balls be diggin’ this fresh air and the Fez from far-away,” says Stephen A. “The Fez ain’t playin’ at the half-time show of the Super Bowl. That boy Sammy Sportface is full of s—.”
“Don’t underestimate Sportface,” says Chuck. “He’s a better athlete than Katie Ledecky. Went to Little Flower. Got a bust of his noggin in the school lunchroom. He and Ledecky are the only ones in the school’s history with busts in the lunchroom. Read it in a Sportface blog. It’s true.”
To be continued…
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