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THE HOT TAKE | Niagara needs less pickleball, more squash

Now that it’s an Olympic sport, let’s invest more in squash, writes James Culic
Mmm, smells like teen spirit.

Real men don’t cry. At least not where anyone can see them. I know that’s an unpopular opinion these days, and men are supposed to be free to blubber like children, but that’s just not how I see it.

When faced with a tough or tragic situation, a man should be strong enough to strangle his emotions and appear outwardly stable because breaking down and ugly crying isn’t helping overcome whatever tragedy you’re faced with.

In the past 20 years, I’ve cried exactly three times: when I got the phone call informing me that my mom had died, when my cat ran away, and when Aunt May died in that new Spider-Man movie.

This week, however, brought tears to my eyes for a fourth time. But it doesn’t really count.

Okay, so on Monday I grabbed my racquet and went to the EJ Freeland Community Centre here in Fort Erie to play some squash, as I’ve done a hundred times before. Only this time, when I got to the squash courts, I was unable to play because the entire court was filled end-to-end, wall-to-wall, with hockey bags and hockey equipment.

The tragic sight of a perfectly good squash court being used as a dumping ground for hockey supplies brought tears to my eyes. Not because I was emotionally overwhelmed (though the site was certainly tragic enough to induce near-tears), no, it was because of the smell.

My god. The smell. I can’t even begin to describe it, but I’m not lying when I say it was so bad the sting from the stench made my eyes well up and overflow.

I marched to the front desk and was informed that the high school hockey team was renting the squash court as a storage area for their rancid, disgusting, putrid hockey gear.

Unbelievable. There is only one squash court for the entirety of Fort Erie, and it’s being used to hold some crummy hockey team’s junk. Junior hockey is a scourge on Canada. Junior hockey should not exist. Junior hockey turns otherwise good young men into pompous jerkwads (my nephew excluded, he’s a good kid still, despite the hockey).

The only thing worse than junior hockey is pickleball. Every old dude whose knees gave out and can’t play tennis or squash anymore pretends like pickleball is a sport, even though, athletically speaking, it’s about on the same level as checkers.

Don’t get me wrong though, pickleball is fun. I’ve played a ton of pickleball, it’s a perfectly enjoyable way to spend an hour or two. But so is playing Pokemon, or watching Cowboy Bebop, or going for a nice drive along the Niagara Parkway, and none of those are sports either.

If pickleball was a sport that required actual physical fitness, then your out-of-shape uncle with the beer gut and the bad back wouldn’t be playing it three times a week.

If pickleball was a sport that required actual physical fitness, then your out-of-shape uncle with the beer gut and the bad back wouldn’t be playing it three times a week

But I digress; actually I’ve digressed from my digress. Back to squash. The Olympics announced last week that squash is now an Olympic sport and will make its debut at the Los Angeles games in 2028. Squash already should have been at the Olympics a long time ago, but better late than never I suppose.

Now that it’s headed for the Olympics, hopefully Canada can start putting some proper resources and funding into the sport, because unfortunately, access to squash courts is dwindling fast.

When I first moved to Niagara back in 2011, there were tons of options for places to play squash. Today, nearly all of those courts have been shuttered—either knocked down to make room for condo projects, or converted to children’s play spaces. Yuck and yuck.

Not only are squash courts dropping like flies, but recent community centre projects haven’t had the foresight to even include squash courts. Port Colborne built a fancy new community centre with a beautiful pool and hockey pads and a generous sized gym that regularly hosts pickleball, but no squash court. Same thing in Pelham, where they spent, I dunno, like a billion dollars or something to build a community centre, which again, lotsa pickleball, no squash.

And now Fort Erie decides that the one remaining squash court they do have should be used to store radioactive hockey stench. Shameful stuff.

The worst part of all of this is, as I sat there looking at the court in disbelief, stink-tears blotting my eyes, there was the telltale clatter of pickleball paddles ringing out behind me as some old folks trundled around playing their fake sport in the adjacent gym.

And please don’t send me angry emails this week about how great pickleball is, and how it’s actually great for fitness or whatever. If you’re really upset about this week’s column, just do the manly thing and go cry about it.

James Culic can beat you at pickleball. Find out how to yell at him at the bottom of the page.