November 5, 2013
Junior Hamburger Incentives
A few days ago I promised Crystal Wang and Nathan Hsu that I'd eat a cheeseburger if she won Women's Singles at the Nationals or if he made the Junior Boys' Team. Doesn't seem like much of an incentive, does it? Here's the story of my 33-year hamburger estrangement.
In 1980, when I was 20, I was living in Wilson, North Carolina, training every day at the Butterfly Table Tennis Center. My highest rating achieved at the time was 1954, but I'd been stuck at around 1850 for the past two years. I entered four events in the North Carolina Open - Open Singles, Open Doubles (with Tom Poston), Under 2100, and Under 22. I wasn't seeded in Open Singles, and was one of the lower seeds in the other events.
After pulling off an early-round upset I ate a quarter pounder with cheese from the McDonalds down the street. When I pulled off another upset, I had another. Every time I pulled off an upset I ate another. (I was notorious in those days for my appetite.) We'll now jump all the way to the final of Open Singles. At this point, here is the situation:
- I've won Open Doubles
- I've won Under 2100
- I've won Under 22
- I've eaten NINE quarter pounders with cheese in the course of about five hours
- I'm bent over in agony with a stomachache and am nauseous
- I'm in the final of Open Singles against Fred King, a 2200 player
- Fred is serving up 17-13 in the fifth (games were to 21 in those days and you served five times in a row)
Despite constantly clutching my stomach in agony between points, and attacking nearly every ball with my forehand (both looping and smashing), I win all five points on Fred's serve to lead 18-17, and finally eke out the win, 21-19 in the fifth. I swept all four events I entered, and it was a major event in my playing career as I jumped from 1850 level to around 2100, and well on my way to eventually reacing top 20 in the country. But I came out in such agony I almost went to the hospital. At that point the very sight of a hamburger made me nauseous.
Over the next twenty years I didn't eat a single hamburger or cheeseburger. I'd eat meatballs in spaghetti and sloppy joes, but somehow a straight hamburger or cheeseburger brought back memories of that intense stomachache and nauseousness. Then, at the 2000 Junior Olympics, I told the story to our group of 30 Maryland juniors at dinner the night before the competition. They asked me what they had to do to get me to eat one. I said if they won over half the gold medals, I'd do so. Guess what? They did. (Actually, they did this nearly every year in the 1990s through the early 2000s.) So at dinner afterwards, while everyone watched, I ate a cheeseburger. I put lots and lots of lettuce, tomato, and onions on it to drown out the hamburger, and managed to survive.
I haven't eaten another one since.
So here we are, 33 years after that epic comeback against Fred, and I've got two juniors gunning to make me eat another. I'll probably give the same incentive to a few of our other juniors if they reach major goals at the Nationals. And then I'll force myself to eat another cheeseburger. Ugh!
Pretty good junior incentive program!
[EDIT added in 2020: It's been 40 years now, and except for at the Junior Olympics in 2000, I still haven't had another hamburger or cheeseburger.]
ITTF Trick Shot Competition
The winner of the ITTF Trick Shot Competition is supposed to be officially announced tomorrow, but I just got an email from USA's Adam Hugh that, even though he led on nearly every objective criteria, the winner is Josep Anton Velazquez of Spain, with this entry, over this one from Adam. We should have more on this tomorrow.
USA's Kunal Chodri and Kanak Jha Win Bronze
They made the semifinals of Cadet Doubles at the ITTF World Cadet Challenge (which ended Sunday in Otocec, Slovenia), defeating Horacio Cifuentes and Gustavo Yokota of Argentina and Brazil in the quarterfinals, 11-8 in the fifth. In the semifinals they led 2-0 against Hwang Minha and Man Kwan of Korea and Hong Kong before losing in five, -12,-9,7,6,4.
Table Tennis Facts
Here are eight of them - but are they all really facts? The fifth items says players smash the ball over 100 mph, but there's been no test that I know of that shows this, while most show that few smashes go over 70mph. (Of course, this might have a lot to do with the testing procedure and definition of the speed. The ball may leave the racket at a high speed and rapidly slow down due to air resistance.) The last item says China, Sweden, and South Korea are the "current world powers," but it's been a while since Sweden was a world power.
Why Serve Variation is Vital
Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.
The Honeymooners Table Tennis
Here's a video (26 minutes, but you only need to watch the first 3-4 minutes) of a table tennis scene in the classic TV show "The Honeymooners." The episode, "Something Fishy," played on Dec. 17, 1955, and opens 32 seconds in with a roughly three-minute table tennis scene between the characters Ralph Kramden (actor Jackie Gleason) and Ed Norton (actor Art Carney), mostly involving Ed leading Ralph 19-2, with Ralph then pretending to lose the ball so as not to lose a ten-cent bet over the game. About a minute after the table tennis scene sewer worker Ed also quips about playing table tennis in the sewers. Special thanks to Steve Thoren for alerting me to this classic scene.
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