February 12, 2024

Tip of the Week
Learn From Your Easy Wins and Bad Losses.

USATT’s Illegal Chair of the Board
[Skip this segment if you have no interest in USATT politics. And sorry about the length!]

I’ve blogged about this issue multiple times. This past week I sent an email about it to the USATT Board of Directors. Here is the email. The key issue is simple. The bylaws say a chair cannot serve more than two consecutive full terms. It defines a full term as any term over one year. The current chair became chair of the board on June 1, 2020, and continued as chair until the next election, on Dec. 6, 2021, 18 months later. Since 18 months is more than a year, that’s a full term, with his second term starting on Dec. 6, 2021. As explained in the email, in the Dec. 6, 2021 election, the board voted to make it retroactive, so that the chair, Richard Char, who had already served a full term, suddenly had not served a full term – thereby creating the fiction that his first term started seven months after it actually began. (As I wrote in the email, it’s likely that some board members did not understand the implications of the wording at the time.)

So, what did USATT do after receiving my email? Rather than arguing the case themselves, they brought in their lawyer to argue for them. Now, one should listen to the lawyer’s arguments, but his conclusion was ordained from the start – he’s going to argue for the person or persons he believes he represents, which is the chair and CEO - and so his conclusions are meaningless. And yet, in case after case in recent years, board members hide behind the USATT lawyer, telling me they are just abiding by what the lawyer says, which is circular reasoning since the lawyer is essentially assigned what their conclusion is and then argues it. (The CEO did chime in at the start, of course taking Char’s side – they support each other 100% in all issues - but not giving a serious argument for it, making key assertions without support, such as claiming his term started on Jan. 1, 2021 – more on that below. I pointed this out in my response.)

In this case, the lawyer kept arguing with me on non-central issues while avoiding any serious argument over how the chair’s first term can arbitrarily and retroactively be changed so as to create the fiction that his first term wasn’t a full term, thereby claiming his illegal third term is actually only his second term. Then, after going back and forth a few times, he took me off the CC list so that I couldn’t respond to his arguments to the board. But his arguments on the key issues were mostly arguing by assertion (i.e. claiming key points without evidence) and circular reasoning. When forced to argue something that isn’t logical, that’s about all you can do. (If the lawyer requests it, I’ll post the entire transcript of our emails here and readers can judge for themselves.)

What’s almost nails-on-chalkboard irritating in the various emails is the refusal to address the central point – that Char’s first term started on June 1, 2020 – and instead just assert it started on Jan. 1, 2021, despite the fact that it did not. It’s right in the June 1, 2020 minutes, where they voted to re-appoint him as chair. It says, “That Richard Char is hereby appointed as Chair of the Board, to serve until his successor is duly qualified.” (Italics are mine.) Note the part where it says he serves under his successor is duly qualified? Seven months later, on Jan. 1, 2021, had his successor been duly qualified (i.e. elected)? No. That didn’t take place for another eleven months, on Dec. 6, 2021, when he was re-elected, a total of 18 months, i.e. a full term, as per the bylaws. Voting otherwise violates the bylaws. (The whole issue reminds me of the 1897 Indiana vote to make pi equal to 3.2!)

The facts of the matter are simple, and explained in the email. The key part starts in paragraph five, where it talks about Bylaw 8.3. There’s also a simple timeline given at the end. One interesting issue - for the past three years it’s been generally acknowledged that Char’s first term as chair of the board was to complete the previous chair’s term, since that’s what the bylaws say happens when a chair resigns, which is why there was supposed to have been an election on Jan. 1, 2021. It’s one of the few things the board seems to have agreed on. But now the lawyer disagrees. But if so, then why did they even bother with making the election in December of 2021 retroactive to eleven months before, except for that fact that that’s when it was supposed to have happened? It didn’t, and so Char’s term continued for 18 months, hence a full term, as per the bylaws. (However, I don’t want to get bogged down on that argument since it’s just a way to keep the topic away from the current issue of an illegal chair of the board. That literally is the goal of certain USATT people right now.)

Will my email do anything for now? No. There are several board members who agree with me, but since they don’t have the votes, don’t think it’s worth pursuing right now. I’m sure others know that it’s obvious that Char is on an illegal third term, but since they are part of his “team,” they won’t speak up, or worse, use the circular reasoning that they are just going by what the lawyer “advises.” When a board becomes too close like this where they’ll just blindly support the others in this way, it’s time for a new board. (And yes, it leads to policy problems as well, but that’s for another blog.)

When I pointed all this out to one board member last year, his reaction was curious – he said he wasn’t sure about the bylaws, but would support Char either way. He also said that it doesn’t make a difference who is chair, which is silly – the chair wields great power in our organization. That’ll also be a topic for a future blog. When I’ve brought this up with other board members who support Char, they got very quiet, refusing to comment or to get involved. They know that they are  on the wrong side of the issue but do not want to become pariahs on the board.

There are two options available to pursue this. One is to take it to the USOPC. Any unbiased person there will agree that, since Char served continuously from June 1, 2020 to his re-election on Dec. 6, 2021, what was a full term at the time of the vote can’t be retroactively changed to less than a full term by a simple vote to make the election effective eleven months before. As noted above, the June 1, 2020 vote itself says he stayed chair until the next election (“...until his successor is duly qualified”), which was Dec. 6, 2021, and NOT Jan. 1, 2023. Trying to retroactively change this was a blatant attempt to pretend his first term wasn’t a full term. If so, as I explained in the email, then congress, with a simple majority vote, can declare George W. Bush and Barack Obama eligible to run for a “third” term!

However, I’m in Maryland, while USATT headquarters is right there on the USOPC campus in Colorado Springs, interacting regularly with the very people who might be making this decision. Who knows how that would influence any decision? It might be no different than going to the USATT board where most just want to get along and support their “team” – but I have no way of knowing. So I’m undecided now on whether it’s worth pursuing when there’s another option.

The other option? USATT elections are this Fall. This will be a major issue, and it’ll be interesting seeing board members defend this and other such issues, along with numerous policy issues.

One other interesting tidbit – why did I wait until Feb. 7 to email the board? There’s a simple parliamentary trick that I wanted to avoid. By waiting until Feb. 7, it meant that Char’s (illegal) third term was over one year, thereby a third full term. (His third term started on Feb. 6, 2023.) According to the bylaws, one can only have two consecutive full terms or three in an eight-year period. Now that Char has served three full terms, he cannot run again due to term limits. If I had sent the letter earlier, Char could have simply resigned, let the board elect a new chair selected by Char, then that new chair resigns – and presto, Char is eligible to run for chair again!

Weekend Coaching
Once again my time was split between feeding multiball and acting as a practice partner/coach with one or two players at a time. As usual, lots of footwork drills. At one point I had two advanced beginners, both about seven or eight, who needed work on pushing. So I put them both on the far side, one on the left, one on the right, and we I alternated pushing side to side so they both got to work on it. We had some nice long rallies!

I often banter with the kids. This week when some of the younger kids came in, I pretended not to know them, asking, “Who are you? I am new here.” Then I explained that I was Coach Larry’s twin, and that Larry was in prison for murder. “Someone gave him a high ball and he killed it. He’s in prison for murder!” When they asked me my name, I had a sudden brainstorm, and said, “I am Coach Hit Me.” And so, for a time, I wouldn’t respond unless they called me Coach Hit Me – and, of course, whenever they did that, I had an excuse to fake hit them. Also, when I was feeding multiball and gave them a high ball to “kill,” I’d accuse them of murder.

On a completely unrelated note, I just heard that Will Shortz had a stroke a few days ago and is in the hospital. I don’t know the details. He’s on the USATT Board of Directors, owns the Westchester TTC, and of course is the New York Times Crossword Editor.

Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the video (65 sec) of quarterback Patrick Mahomes playing table tennis back in 2017 (on left), the year he was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. (They are playing with hardbats.) He stands up too straight, which affects his entire game – fix that up, and he has some potential! Alas, he chose another sport than table tennis, and yesterday won his third Super Bowl. Alas, there are no know pictures or videos of Taylor Swift or Travis Kelce playing table tennis.

Full-Time Table Tennis Centers
Here’s my listing I maintain, with a number of recent updates. There are now 116 in 26 states and DC. (Steve Hopkins was especially helpful in sending me a number of updates.) Email me if you have any updates!

Major League Table Tennis
Follow the action!

University of Maryland Table Tennis Club Needs Your Support!
Here’s their GoFundMe page – hope you can help out. They are so closed to their $3,000 goal – they are at $2,481.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich
Eleven Lessons from the two-time World Men’s Singles Champion, and the High Toss Serve.

New from Ti Long

Anger Management for Table Tennis
Here’s the video (4:40) from Damien Provost/PongSpace.

On Timo Boll's WTT Doha Win! And Other Things...
Here’s the video (14:21) from Drup Pong.

New from PingSkills

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

Member Clubs Invited to Host 2024 USATT State Championships
Here’s the USATT news item.

New from ITTF

Greece and Turkey Play Ping-Pong with Political Refugees
Here’s the cartoon. It would seemingly be more relevant right now if it were more about Israel and Gaza. (Not sure when the cartoon came out – it’s not dated – but according to Google it was posted this past week.)

I Return Everything
Here’s where you can get the shirt. I like the first one’s design. Great for choppers, lobbers, and blockers!

This Is What a Table Tennis Temper Tantrum Looks Like
Here’s the video (21 sec)!

Beetle Bailey – “Only if you give me an advantage”
Here’s the comic strip from Friday, Feb. 9, 2024! Here’s my Beetle Bailey Table Tennis page, with links to all 33 known Beetle Bailey table tennis strips, as well as a link to where Mort Walker explains why he does table tennis so often.

Funny Table Tennis Tiktoks
Here’s the video (6:40), which is a compilation of lots of old funny videos.

Weirdest Ping Pong Items
Here’s the video (10:34) from Pongfinity! “I searched the Internet for the coolest and weirdest table tennis items ever.”

Non-Table Tennis – Orange Head to Fry
This is political, but I when I figured out that “Year of the Dragon” was an anagram for “Orange Head to Fry,” I put this cartoon together!

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