The pros and cons of shuffleboard

Two fans of St. Pete Shuffle get into a friendly debate about the game.

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click to enlarge SENDING THE BISCUIT: A St. Pete Shuffle sharp-shooter. -
SENDING THE BISCUIT: A St. Pete Shuffle sharp-shooter.

My pal Amanda Brown and I have very different takes on the all-the-rage pastime of shuffleboard — featured weekly at the St. Pete Shuffle in the ’Burg. She attends with fervent frequency. I myself don’t understand the fuss; seems like a bunch of hipsters playing an old-folks sport. That said, I do enjoy the celebrations around it, the family-friendly, local-music-promoting fun and camaraderie.

So I approached Amanda for her devil’s advocacy, and we engaged in an email debate.

Julie Garisto: When I go to the St. Pete Shuffle, I see all the families and young folks playing. They look happy. Picture-perfect, slow-motion laughing and skirts gently blowing in the breeze. As soon as I try, I embarrass myself completely with my inability “to send the biscuit.” I shoot too far or too short. … I can’t even compete. I don’t feel like I’m part of a game. I feel like a dumb reject they just let have a courtesy turn, so I tend to shuffle away and watch the bands.

Amanda Brown: How many times have you gone out to play?

JG: Maybe four or five.

AB: I think you’re being silly. No one is looking over at you laughing and criticizing your game. But, just like bowling or darts, shuffleboard takes a bit of skill. The game also requires a bit of strategy. I say keep plugging at it. Turn the game into a competition with yourself. You also have to keep in mind that most of the courts at St. Pete shuffle are over 60 years old, they aren’t perfectly even. I find that on one side of a court I may be overshooting, but when I move to the other side I will be undershooting. So, if all else fails, blame it on the court and move to another.

JG: Apart from sucking at it, why do you think I get bored with it and you don’t? I enjoy bowling, bocce, rollerskating. I think maybe there’s a lack of kinetic, visceral element to shuffleboard to keep me interested (no heavy ball to maneuver, no challenge staying on your feet and moving fast, no throwing). To me, it truly feels like an old fart sport.

AB: Oh, here we go with the “old fart” references. Just because no advanced movements are required, doesn’t mean it’s a game only for the infirm. In fact, that just makes it that much more accessible. Although I must say that I’ve been struck by an out-of-control “puck” a few times and it isn’t very pleasant. Also, I find that a large fluid movement when pushing the puck helps me control the aim and velocity of my shot. So I find your “lack of kinetic, visceral element” argument invalid. Sure, shuffleboard may seem like a slow and un-dynamic sport, but that is part of the beauty of it. What other game allows you to interact with friends in the beautiful night air while holding a stick in one hand and a beer in the other?

JG: You know, my concerns were more of a personal preference than a wholesale argument. I love the genteel view you have of shuffleboard. Nicely done. High five. I promise not to give up on it yet.

AB: High five. … Wait, genteel? I take this bloodsport seriously, and I didn’t get to call you out for being un-Floridian!

St. Pete Shuffle, 7 p.m. Fridays at the shuffleboard courts at 559 Mirror Lake Drive N, St. Petersburg. 727-822-2083, Send emails to [email protected]

You wanna dance, baby?

Don’t mind if I do.

Unfortunately, I’m flat broke.

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