Tennis Menace Long Le on the Pickleball vs. Tennis Debate

At Long Le’s house, the sound of sports on TV hums in the background as consistently as the refrigerator. Basketball, football, tennis—you name it, he’s watching it. Televised pickleball, though? No thanks.

“Pickleball is so boring to watch,” he says. “The plays are all the same: they dink, they doink.” And while the Wasatch Hills tennis coach says he approves of anything that involves a racket and gets people moving, he insists not all sports are made for spectators. “The ball moves so slowly and the kitchen [the no-volley zone near the net] makes it hard for players to move too much. I don’t find that fun to watch.”

Long’s view is broadly represented in the sports marketing industry, as analysts debate the sport’s viability as a media product. While the popularity of playing pickleball isn’t in question, whether people will sit down and watch it is. Market researchers wonder if Ben Johns has the same screensaver potential as Naomi Osaka and if Catherine Parenteau’s fans will buy her Selkirk Power Air paddle the way fans of Novak Djokovic buy up his weapon of choice: the Head Speed racket.

Long has his doubts. While he enjoys a night out “dabbling” in pickleball with friends, he says it doesn’t hold the same appeal as tennis because it demands so much less physically. 

“Golf isn’t physically demanding and people still like to watch it,” he admits. “But there’s not some heightened, more athletic version of golf that people would constantly be comparing it to.” 

Whether Long can ever be convinced to watch the National Pickleball Championships or not, he says he’s unlikely to make the switch from tennis player to pickleball player any time soon. 

His love affair with tennis began 20 years ago as a sophomore on the West Jordan High School tennis team and has grown ever since. His wide-eyed enthusiasm for the game plays out every day on the court, where he instructs adults and kids and conducts competition-based workouts for players at every level. 

“You call that a volley?” he jests to a radiologist who has shanked her shot during a Monday morning tennis workout. She squawks with laughter. When another guy’s lob—with seemingly no chance of landing inside the baseline—somehow knicks the edge, Long whoops as if watching his favorite NFL team kick the winning field goal during Sunday Night Football.

Now that’s love.

See what else tennis and pickleball players have to say about their court-side feud.

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Heather Hayes
Heather Hayes
A Salt Lake native, Heather Hayes has been a voice for Utah’s arts and culture scene for well over a decade, covering music, dance and theater Salt Lake magazine. Heather loves a good yarn, no matter the genre. From seatmates on ski lifts to line-dwellers in a grocery store, no one is safe as she chats up strangers for story ideas. When she’s not badgering her teenagers to pick up their dirty socks or spending quality time with her laptop, you can find Heather worshiping the Wasatch range on her bike, skis or in a pair of running shoes.

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