October 5-8, 2023

“It’s the Sport of Today and the Future”: How The Hype Guys Entered the Political Sphere 

Author: Will Daughton | November 29, 2023

When you imagine things ‘not going to plan’ in Las Vegas, you’re usually not thinking of anything good.

It’s a good thing, then, that The Hype Guys aren’t your usual duo.

After a summer spent creating their brand by exciting pickleball crowds around the country, Erik Iverson (aka Nighthawk) and Canton O’Donnell (aka Dragon) joined the PPA as crowd engagement specialists in September.  

Their first tournament in this new role was the Guaranteed Rate PPA Championships in Las Vegas.

And The Hype Guys’ preparation for the event did not go to plan.

Canton and Erik arrived in Las Vegas a few days beforehand, and they had planned to go around to local courts to drum up excitement for the tournament.

They caught wind of some rooftop courts at the Plaza Hotel and decided to check them out.

“We were stoked,” O’Donnell revealed. “We were thinking, ‘It’s a rooftop court. It’s at a hotel. It’s gonna be packed.”

Well, the courts were on a rooftop at a hotel, but they weren’t packed when O’Donnell and Iverson showed up. In fact, there were just two people there.

But those two people ended up being instrumental in The Hype Guys’ Las Vegas experience.

First, of course, they bested the neon-clad duo on court to earn two four-day Championship Court passes for the tournament.

In a conversation afterwards, they also mentioned that they had met the hotel’s owner and CEO, Jonathan Jossel, earlier that day.

They passed his information along to Canton and Erik, and later that afternoon, The Hype Guys returned to the hotel to meet Jossel for a potential interview.

He had told them that he was at Oscar’s Steakhouse on the property with some hotel guests, so that’s where they went.

And who did they see when they walked in? None other than the restaurant’s namesake and former Las Vegas Mayor, Oscar Goodman.

And who else was right there standing next to him? None other than Oscar’s wife and current Las Vegas mayor, Carolyn Goodman.

Dawning matching black jackets, Canton and Erik entered into a conversation with Jossel when they were presented with a unique opportunity.

“We chatted a little bit and then [Jossel] said, ‘You know the mayor’s here. Would you want to chat with her real quick,” O’Donnell recalled.

This was The Hype Guys’ chance to collaborate with a public official for the very first time.

And in a 39-second video, Mayor Goodman delivered the performance of a lifetime.

“It was one take, and she nailed it,” Iverson raved.

This experience, like most involving Nighthawk and Dragon, showcases pickleball’s ability to bring people together in the strangest of ways.

“I think it goes back to the power of the community of pickleball,” O’Donnell shared. “In a lot of other sports, people are more closed off and not very social. This whole thing just went from connection to connection based on a shared love and passion for pickleball.”

Sometimes, things that don’t go to plan work out for the best, even when you’re in Las Vegas.

         See the full video of the encounter below.

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