Working at TODAY isn’t all fun and games, but at least part of it is.
The TODAY team recently got together to play pickleball, a sport with a funny name that has been around since the 1960s, but has really come into its own in the past few years, with the number of courts in America tripling over the last decade.
Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker, Carson Daly, Sheinelle Jones and Jenna Bush Hager played in a TODAY tournament to see what all the fuss is about, with the gang getting a crash course in the game they don’t exactly play with any regularity.
“I like a sport where you could do it barefoot while holding a rosé,” Savannah said. “That’s my kind of sport.”
“The closest thing to pickleball that I’ve ever done is when I’m done making my bloody mary, I put a pickle right on in the middle there,” Carson said.
“I have never played pickleball, but I think I would love it because it has all the things I love,” Hoda said before taking the court. “I love tennis. I love pingpong. It’s right in between.”
Her assessment hit the nail right on the head, as pickleball incorporates elements from those other sports. Played with a whiffle ball on a court that is smaller than a tennis court, players must serve underhand and avoid what is known as "the kitchen," or the area close to the net.
“It’s just sort of an easy, accessible, fun, lighthearted sport to play, and you can play it at any age,” Savannah said.
“I always love a sport where they say, ‘Oh, and you know? You nice, little old person. You can play this. You’ll barely know that you’re moving,’” Al joked.
Older people have indeed taken to it, since it’s enjoyable, lowers blood pressure and strengthens agility. It has also won over people of all ages, too. Pickleball magazine publisher Wayne Dollard — yes, there’s a magazine devoted to it — says the sport continues to soar.
“There’s a huge pickleball boom going on,” said Dollard, who also runs camps around the country. “Last year the numbers came in at 4.5 million now.”
The TODAY family gave it a go in a round-robin doubles tournament.
Pickleball takeover! Anchors play in a game on the plazaJuly 29, 201905:14
Carson and Sheinelle dispatched Al and Savannah in the first game, setting up a showdown with Hoda and Jenna, who cruised to victory. Jenna and Hoda then squared off against Savannah and Carson, who proved they had the right formula as they won.
“That’s a PopStart Plus, baby!” Carson shouted before he and his TODAY colleagues unwound with well-earned glasses of wine.
"Let’s have a dink!" he quipped as they toasted their glasses, referring to the dink shot used in pickleball, while showing off a sense of wit that's almost as dominating as a good forehand.