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The Great Pickleball Gold Rush

Hi, welcome to your Weekend.

Not everyone can be Josh Harris, the private equity mogul who just dropped $6 billion to purchase the NFL’s Washington Commanders. Most people who want a piece of a pro sports franchise have to start a little lower. 

Enter pickleball. A sport you probably hadn’t heard of before it became a thing around five years ago is now the premier arena for celebrities and billionaires who want to cosplay as Jerry Jones. Maybe rich people just know a good deal when they see it. As Abe writes in this week’s cover story, Major League Pickleball teams can now be bought for around $5 million, roughly what it cost to purchase a Major League Soccer franchise in the 1990s. Today, those MLS teams run a half-billion dollars. 

Deep-pocketed celebs and financiers see nothing but upside in the rising racquet sport, in part because they too now play the game. And you probably do as well. Pickleball participation in the U.S. doubled from 2021 to 2022, and the sport’s promoters expect to see a quadrupling by 2030, as new courts pop up everywhere imaginable. 

New York now has an enormous CityPickle complex in Central Park. San Franciscans are fighting, as usual, over where to allow more courts. And according to SFGate, pickleballs are now flying around abandoned big box-store locations and atop shopping malls everywhere from Stamford, Conn., to Lake Saint Louis, Miss., to San Diego, Calif.

Face it: We’re a pickleball country now. Harris might’ve bet on the wrong sport. 

the big read

The Hot New Trophy Asset: A Pro Pickleball Team 

What do Mark Cuban, David Dobrik, LeBron James and Kate Upton have in common? Aside from fame and fortune, they all play patron to Major League Pickleball teams. Abe takes stock of the A-list cast of billionaires and celebrities hungrily snapping up stakes in the nation’s fastest growing sport.

the 1:1

The Software CEO Spending Millions On Offices That Double As Luxury Bars

San Francisco’s three-week-old Expensify Lounge—a free office-cafe-bar hybrid for employees and customers of the expense management firm—is one part co-working space, one part Soho House. Jon speaks with Expensify founder David Barrett, who makes the business case for his upscale salon—while also shrugging off his sagging stock.

scene and heard

How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love AI

This week, visual effects pro gathered in L.A. for a daylong summit devoted to the promise of AI. It was a much different vibe down the road at Netflix, where picketing screenwriters fretted about the impact AI will have on their careers. The VFX artists’ message to their colleagues: Adapt to the new reality, or start working on your novels. 

Reading: A VC firm’s AI guide 
Everyone in tech seems to have gotten an overnight master’s degree in artificial intelligence sometime in the past year. But for those humble enough to admit they’re not yet experts, consider this excellent reading list from Lightspeed Venture Partners. The VC firm, which has invested in AI companies like Stability AI, put out the primer this week, covering a variety of AI-related topics—from the industry’s history to its increasingly profound impact on finance, medicine, education and, yes, VC. The compendium has both long reads (like “Gödel, Escher, Bach,” a tome about computers and cognitive science) and short ones (like this Twitter thread about using ChatGPT as a personal trainer). The varying lengths are perfect for a self-directed education—whether you envision yourself as the next Sam Altman or just want a little prep for the possible AI-pocalypse he keeps mentioning. —Arielle

Following: The Secret Service’s Reddit AMA 
Before the Secret Service became best known as the president’s bodyguards, the group was initially started in 1865 to catch currency counterfeiters. A century and a half later, they’re still trying to nab financial fraudsters—as some Secret Service agents explained in a surprise recent “ask me anything” conversation on Reddit. Officials from the organization’s San Francisco office dropped into a cryptocurrency subreddit this past week for a wide-ranging AMA with the group’s members about tracking stolen funds, how crypto scammers prey on the elderly and whether the agency knows the true identity of bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto (“It’s classified!”). Of course, Redditors took the opportunity to troll the crypto beat cops, with one asking them to identify the most untraceable cryptocurrency. The Secret Service’s answer? “Use cash.” —Margaux 

Reading: Confessions of a terrible typist
An embarrassing admission: I type with two fingers. Yes, I am a professional writer who spends most of her day on a computer pecking away with index fingers, sometimes looking down at the keys, occasionally reaching phalanges to the delete button. In Kate Lindsay’s recent post on the Embedded Substack, I realized I’m not the only one “sp bad at typign.” (In fact, MIT Technology Review was worrying about the decline of keyboarding education way back in 2011.) While Lindsay’s downfall is accuracy, mine is speed. She blames a waning stigma surrounding typos (we all know what you mean when you say “ducking”). I blame a bad “computer class” in fourth grade—and the fact that, like many of my Gen Z peers, much of my typing is done with two thumbs on a tiny screen. At this point, my best hope may be that years down the line, the fact that anyone ever typed on keys will be simply quaint. —Annie 

Makes You Think

Tim Cook wishes he had this much rizz. 

Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.


Weekend Editor, The Information

Jon Steinberg is the Weekend Editor at The Information. He is a former editor-in-chief of San Francisco magazine and senior editor at New York magazine, where his work won many National Magazine Awards.
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