Celebrities

July 16, 2014

Celebrities I've Met

Because of table tennis I've met an inordinate number of celebrities. Here's a listing.

TABLE TENNIS PLAYERS. I've met most of the top players in the U.S. and the world since the 1980s, and many from before that. If I were to list all those players it'd be an endless list. It'd be easier to list the ones I haven't met. I've had lunch and dinner with the Swedish team when they were at their heyday (Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, Lindh, Carlsson, etc.); met the top Chinese at the Worlds, U.S. Opens, at MDTTC when they came in early to train, and during my twelve years as editor of USATT Magazine I interviewed nearly every top 20 player in the world. I've known essentially every top U.S. player for many years, either by actually meeting them, coaching them, or (more often) coaching against them when they play MDTTC players. I've met nearly every living USATT Hall of Famer, and every Men's and Women's Singles National Champion since the Nationals began in 1976. 

Men's Singles World Champions I've met: Wang Liqin, Werner Schlager, Liu Guoliang, Jan-Ove Waldner, Jean-Philippe Gatien, Jorgen Persson, Seiji Ono, Stellan Bengtsson, Ichiro Ogimura.

Women's Singles World Champions I've met: Zhang Yining, Wang Nan, Deng Yaping, Qiao Hong, Tong Ling, Angelica Rozeanu.

But the list of celebrities I've met through table tennis gets more interesting when I look at the non-TT celebrities I've met. Here's a listing.

ATHLETES

  • David Robinson, basketball star - played poker with him at Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, circa 1988, when I was (at various times) the manager, assistant coach, and director of the Resident Table Tennis Program.
  • Errict Rhett, football star (running back for Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns) - met and hit with him at an outdoor table tennis exhibition at Baltimore's Inner Harbor in 1999.
  • Jeanette "Black Widow" Lee, world #1 women's billiards player in 1990s - met her at a table tennis exhibition at a sporting good show.
  • Ted St. Martin, world record holder for most consecutive free throws (5221) - met him at a table tennis exhibition at a sporting good show.
  • Audrey Weisiger, USA Olympic Figure Skating Coach - coached her summer of 2013.
  • JJ Hardy, Darren O'Day, Brady Anderson - coached these three Baltimore Orioles players at MDTTC in 2013.
  • Met most of the rest of the Baltimore Orioles at a demo in their clubhouse on Aug. 21, 2013, including: Manager Buck Showalter, Coach Terry Crowly, position players Chris Davis (talked to him for 20 minutes about athlete and skill development), Brian Roberts, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nate McLouth, Chris Wieters, Steve Pearce, and pitchers Chris Tillman, Darren O'Day, Jim Johnson, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, and Troy Patton.
  • Met numerous members of the USA Tae Kwon Do and Archery teams in the late 1980s at the Olympic Training Center during the four years I was resident there, including several national champions, but don't remember any of their names. I shared the dining hall with Olympic athletes from essentially every other sport, and probably met a few that I don't remember.

ACTORS

  • Susan Sarandon - met her at the North American Teams circa 2008 or so.
  • Julia Dreyfus, star of Seinfeld and VEEP. Met her at the VEEP filming on Oct. 9, 2013, as well as others on the set. (I was brought in as a table tennis advisor for a TT scene.) Other than saying "hi" as I walked by, didn't actually talk to her, but stood next to her numerous times while she talked to others - and made eye contact!!!
  • Adoni Maropis, actor (best known as villain Abu Fayed in "24") - met and played tournament matches with him three times. Have since practiced with and played him many times.
  • Judah Friedlander, actor and comedian, best known for his role in TV show "30 Rock" - coached him in the 1990s/early 2000s, and several times at MDTTC.  
  • Frank Caliendo, comedian/impersonator. Met him at 2009 USA Nationals, and played doubles with and against him in practice matches at MDTTC in 2014.

LEADERS/POLITICIANS

  • Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State - met him at 25th Anniversary Ping Pong Diplomacy Festivities in 1996.
  • Jack Markell, governor of Delaware (took office Jan. 2009) - coached him at five-day table tennis camp in 1990s before he was famous, and again at our Christmas camp in December 2009, along with his son. His son came to several more of our camps.  
  • Anthony Williams, mayor of Washington DC (1999-2007) - met him at a table tennis exhibition.
  • Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas (1999-2011) - met him at the USA Nationals in Las Vegas.
  • James McClure, senator from Illinois (1973-1991) - met him in the early 1980s while helping Chinese coach Liguo Ai get his visa.

OTHERS

  • Will Shortz, world-famous crossword puzzle editor for the New York Times - met him at several table tennis tournaments, including at the Westchester, NY club that he owns.
  • Tom McEvoy, 1983 world poker champion - met him at a table tennis tournament.
  • Julian Waters, world-famous calligrapher - coached and played matches with him for many years at MDTTC.

I've also met a lot of celebrities through my non-TT sideline - science fiction writing, mostly at SF conventions and writers workshops. Here's a short listing for that. When I say "met," at minimum it means I actually spoke with them and shook hands.

SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY CELEBRITIES

WRITERS: Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, John Scalzi, Orson Scott Card, Alan Dean Foster, Larry Niven, Piers Anthony, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Joe Haldeman, Connie Willis, Robert J. Sawyer, Frederick Pohl, Ray Silverberg, Walter Jon Williams, George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson, Harry Turtledove, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Jack McDevitt, James Morrow, Gregory Benford, Robert Asprin, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Swanwick, Charles Stross, Carry Vaughn, Nancy Kress, David Louis Edelman, Cory Doctorow, Karl Schroeder.

EDITORS: Stanley Schmidt, Sheila Williams, George Scithers, Gardner Dozois, Gordon Van Gelder, Ellen Datlow, Shawna McCarthy, Eric Flint, Scott Andrews, Jeanne Cavelos.

ACTORS: Walter Koenig. (Also Leonard Nimoy - see below.)

OTHERS: Craig Newmark, founder and owner of Craigslist.com - met and talked to him for 30 min at the SFWA suite at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2006.

I've also met a few outside TT and SF:

  • Solomon Snyder, world-famous neurologist from Johns Hopkins - he's my uncle!
  • Jim Palmer, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher for Baltimore Orioles - met him at Camera Day at a Baltimore Orioles game in 1972, when I was 12. He patted me on the back. I never washed that t-shirt again, and ended up hanging it on my wall.
  • Leonard Nimoy, actor best known as Mr. Spock from Star Trek. According to my mom, when I was three years old I ran between his legs at a bank while both were standing in line!

ICC Coaches/Players Resign

Here's the note received last night about the two ICC coaches/players. Zhou, rated 2718, has spent much of the last few years as the #1 rated player in the U.S., with Tian Meng ("Maggie"), rated 2527, near the top of the women's rankings. I'm told they are looking to start their own table tennis center. (Here's the press release on this.)

I regret to announce that Zhou Xin and Tian Meng have resigned from ICC to pursue other opportunities effective tomorrow July 15th. We really appreciate their service for the past three years. We wish them do well pursuing their dream. In the mean time we will continue with our current team Massimo Costantini, Liang Yong Hui, Dan Liu, Huang ZiHoang, Anal Kashyap, Indeebar Chaterjee and Opendro Singh to train ICC students. Furthermore, we are also actively seeking another high level player/coach to strengthen our team. You will hear from us on that soon. Bon Voyage, Zhou and Maggie. We'll miss you.

Here's the noted from the two coaches/players:

Appreciate the blessing from ICC. Also appreciate many people who have taken care of and guided us - too many to list. All good things must come to an end. The past few years is an important journal for both Maggie and myself. The next step will be a challenge. However, we are preparing for the challenge. Hope very soon we will be able to contribute to the sport of table tennis as ICC has been.
Zhou Xin and Maggie Tian

Forehand Flips

Here's video (72 sec) of some world-class flips off short balls, mostly forehands, with a few backhand flips as well.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov - Off the Table

Here's a video (3:27) that shows the off-the-table Ovtcharov. His English is excellent. He even mentions Lebron James (along with Novak Djokovic) as his favorite non-table tennis athletes that he looks up to.

Xavier Therien vs. China at the 2014 Canada Open

Here's the video (1:08) - lots of action!

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fifty-four down, 46 to go!

  • Day 47: Melecio Eduardo Rivera Brings a Wealth of Experience to the ITTF’s EC

Table Tennis Exhibition Between Saive and Grubba

Here's the video (7:35).

Kiernan Shipka Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article and pictures of the 14-year-old actress playing table tennis in high heels. She's best known for her role as Sally Draper in "Mad Men."

Reacting to Pingpong Mishap at Blackfoot Pride Days

Here's the article from the Idaho State Journal. Here's a picture. "Ping-pong balls rained down on Interstate 15 north of Blackfoot last Saturday when an annual giveaway event for Blackfoot Pride Days went terribly wrong."

New Dance Move: The Ping Pong

Here's the article and video (24 sec)!

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March 7, 2012

Returning Serve

It's everyone's biggest weakness, or so it seems. But it shouldn't be that way. Let's review:

  1. If the ball is deep, return it aggressively, ideally with a loop.
  2. If the ball is short without backspin (i.e. sidespin, side-top, topspin, or no-spin), mostly return it aggressively with a flip.
  3. If the ball is short with backspin, either push it long (deep, low, good backspin, quick off the bounce, angled, and hide the direction until the last second), push it short (so that it is low and that, given the chance, would bounce twice on the opponent's side of the table), or flip it.
  4. Above all else, returning serve is about BALL CONTROL. If you have trouble controlling the ball, or reading the spin, play against players with good serves until you can read the spin and control the ball. If you don't have anyone like that you can practice against, then you better find someone because you aren't going to learn to do something unless you practice it.
  5. That is all.

How arm problems are improving my game

More specifically, it is helping my backhand tremendously. Ever since I hurt my arm ten days ago I've avoided hitting or looping forehands with any power. It's really helped the healing process while allowing me to continue coaching every day. However, it's meant a huge amount of backhand play since I'm having everyone play most there in drills. And since I'm not looping forehands, guess what? When we play points, I'm opening with my backhand loop. The result is my backhand blocking, hitting, and looping have both improved tremendously. My normally steady backhand is still steady but at a faster pace, while I'm backhand looping in pushes and serves to all parts of the table, something I don't usually do as I'm more the all-out forehand looper type. Also, after nine days of non-stop backhand play, my backhand muscles are now tireless - I can hit backhands forever without my arm getting tired.

Take me out to the Ball Game--that'd be Ping-Pong
You all know the lyrics to the baseball version, which can be found here (with the second stanza the commonly sung one). Here's my version!

Take me out for some ping-pong,
Take me out for some fun.
Buy me a racket and ping-pong balls,
I don't care if I don't score at all!
Let me hit, hit, hit with my forehand,
If they don't land it's a shame,
For it's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven points and you're out,
In the new pong game.

Talking to the Curator of the World's Greatest Collection of Photos of Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

Oh, that would be me! Yes, I was interviewed about my "Celebrities Playing Table Tennis" site. The interview went up yesterday - here it is!

Dan Seemiller article

Here's an article on Dan Seemiller in yesterday's South Bend Tribune.

Zhang Jike

Here's a tribute video (9:21) to World Men's Singles Champion Zhang Jike, strangely titled, "World Champion or Small Boy?"

Lots of Ping-Pong Balls

Yes, that's a lot of ping-pong balls in the air. I keep thinking I recognize the player, but I'm not sure. Anyone know? [NOTE: Aaron Avery emailed that it was Polish paralympic player Natalia Partyka, and sure enough her web page includes that photo. Thanks Avery!]

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February 2, 2012

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

This month was a treasure trove, with 19 new celebrities - just look at some of the names below! There are now 1334 pictures of 788 celebrities at the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis Page! (I maintain the page, updating it around the 1st of each month.) New this month:

Musicians

  • John Lennon, rock star
  • George Harrison, rock star
  • Ringo Starr, rock star
  • Paul McCartney, rock star
  • David Bowie, rock star
  • Bob Marley, musician (new picture)
  • Alice Cooper, rock star (new picture)
  • Keith Jarrett, Jazz Pianist
  • Ennio Morricone, Film Music Composer
  • Manfred Eicher, founder and producer of the Jazz record label ECM

Athletes

  • Minnesota Fats, pool player
  • Vitali Klitschko, Ukrianian WBC World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, and leader of the UDAR of Vitaliy Klychko political party (2 pictures)
  • Wladimir Klitschko, Ukrainian WBA Super, IBF, IBO & Ring Magazine World Heavyweight Boxing Champion (3 new pictures)
  • Danny Briere, Philadelphia Flyers hockey player
  • Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers hockey player
  • Javier Zanetti, soccer player
  • Lionel Messi, soccer player

Actors & Actresses

  • Liv Tyler, actress (3 pictures)
  • Peggy Diggins, actress
  • Susan Peters, actress
  • Mary Brodel, actress
  • William Powell, actor

Politicians and Leaders

  • Gerhard Schröder, former German chancellor
  • John D. Negroponte, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State (2 pictures)
  • Norm Coleman, former Minnesota senator (new picture)

Other

  • Santa Claus, toy giver (2 pictures)
  • Frank Caliendo, comedian (1 new picture)

Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day. As you know, on February 2 every year Pingpongatawney Phil comes out of his hole, and if he sees a ping-pong ball, everyone gains 100 rating points. (And for the love of ping-ping, please click on the Pingpongatawney Phil link - I spent a lot of time creating it! Feel free to distribute.) The ball on the ground is a Nittaku, which is the Official Ball for USA Table Tennis.

Hardbat Day

Today is Groundhogs Day, but yesterday was Hardbat Day. While coaching I had the sudden, inexplicable desire to play hardbat. So I pulled a hardbat racket from my bag and chopped with it, so students could practice their loops. Last night I finally figured what had caused this overwhelming urge - it was Marty Reisman's 84th birthday! (Strangely, according to his Wikipedia entry, he was born on Feb. 1, 1930, which would make him 82. But I'll go with the "official" version.)

Using the hardbat wasn't actually a lark. It really is good practice for students to loop over and over against chop, and I was able to really work on their loop strokes. In each case, we followed that with a serve & loop against push, then loop or hit against block drill (with me back to regular inverted). The key here is that against backspin, you drop the back shoulder and your power goes both forward and up. Against the block, the shoulder stays mostly up (completely up if hitting) with the stroke mostly forward. Beginning/intermediate players need to practice this a lot - its tricky making the adjustment between the two. Here's a short article I wrote on this, with the back shoulder the key.

I regularly use the hardbat racket for students to practice against. I also have one with long pips with sponge so students can practice against long pips chopping. Other rackets I keep around for students to practice against include long pips with no sponge, antispin, and pips-out sponge.

School interview

I was interviewed yesterday by someone from American University, who is doing some sort of graduate project in journalism on table tennis. I filled her with lots of info on table tennis. She also got to talk to Crystal Huang (the 9-year-old girl who last year achieved the highest rating ever for anyone under age 10, boys or girls) and her dad, and other club members.

ITTF's Youth Leadership Camp

Here's an article about the ITTF running a table tennis youth leadership camp in Qatar. There's also a video (4:23).

Behind the back shot

This is probably the best behind the back shot I've ever seen. (And they show it both live and in slow motion.) Because my shoulders have the flexibility of frozen neutronium, this is about the only table tennis trick shot I cannot do. So when I see people do these shots I get very envious.

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January 3, 2012

Tip of the Week

Table Tennis Tip: Pushing and Looping Deep Backspin.

Still sick

This is Day Three of the Great Cold of 2012. I'm not sure whether to blame Obama, the Iowa caucuses, or global warming, but if my cold doesn't get better soon I'm going to blame somebody. It looks like another day in bed reading. (Actually, maybe having a cold isn't so bad.)

Celebrities Update

Over the weekend I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page with 18 new pictures of 9 new celebrities. There are now 1317 pictures of 760 celebrities playing table tennis. The new celebrities are:

  • Tom Cruise, actor
  • Rob Lowe, actor
  • Ralph Macchio, actor
  • Jack Benny, actor and comedian
  • Mary Livingstone, actress and comedian
  • Alice Cooper, rock star (new picture)
  • Michael Buble, singer (5 pictures)
  • Joe Reeder, former U.S. Undersecretary of the Army and Chairman of the Panama Canal Commission (and a student of mine!)
  • Baron Davis, basketball player
  • Blake Griffin, basketball player (5 pictures)

Christmas Camp

On Saturday we finished our 21st annual Christmas Camp at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. There were over 30 players, almost all juniors, ranging from beginners to several over 2300. I blogged about much of this last week. Here are two interesting notes from the last day.

  • I overheard a group of kids, ages 10 or 11, discussing the intricacies of Tenergy 05, 25, and 64, with the FX option. I'm not sure why, but I found this incredibly funny. (By the way, I'm an advocate of kids who train regularly and get good coaching to use advanced sponges like this after they've reached about 1500 or so in level - it really helps in their progress, especially with looping. It's the racket that should not be too fast until they are relatively advanced.)
  • I told a kid I was feeding multiball to that he should try to remember the feel of the good forehand loops. He said, "That's easy. The ones that strain my back are the good ones." Uh oh.

Article on World Champion Zhang Jike

He describes the year as "powerful."

Marty Reisman video feature

Here's a video profile of Marty Reisman (6:36) as part of the "City Series" featuring New York City.

1998 Eastern Open

In my blog on Friday, in pointing out my credentials for promoting major tournaments (in regard to the low turnout at the 2011 USA Nationals), I wrote of the 1998 Easterns I directed, "I promoted the heck out of that tournament." Someone complained that I seemed to be taking all the credit for the record entries at that tournament, when I was just pointing my particular background in this. So to be clear, Richard Lee and others all promoted the heck out of that tournament, leading to the huge entry turnout.

Breaking News - I'm running for U.S. President

I'm running for president of the United States as a member of the Ping-Pong Party. My minions are already moving out through Iowa and New Hampshire, getting the signatures needed to get me on the ballot for their caucuses (in Iowa today, so we're in a bit of a rush) and primaries. I will also be on the Republican ballot, as the conservative alternative to Romney and the moderate alternative to all the rest. I am also running as the Libertarian alternative to Ron Paul by claiming to be a libertarian to libertarian audiences.

I will gladly meet any of my rivals anytime and anywhere in Iowa in a game of ping-pong where I will destroy them, as I will destroy all our nation's foes, except perhaps the Chinese, who are actually very good at ping-pong. Under my leadership, USA will dominate the 21st century as the second best ping-pong power. Altogether now, "We're number two! We're number two! We're number two!"

Platform:

  • I promise to do whatever you want me to do if it will get me your vote. This is a core value with me, and I always stick to my core values.
  • Hardbatters: I will outlaw sponge.
  • Inverted sponge players: I will outlaw hardbat and anything that's not inverted.
  • I will create a Blue Ribbon Commission to come up with a new service rule that can actually be enforced, and then shoot all umpires that do not do so.
  • I will occupy a tea party and serve tea to the occupiers. I will give them cream and sugar in their tea until they give in to my demands. If they do not, I will stuff ping-pong balls down their throat.
  • I will revamp our national educational system, replacing outdated schools with modern table tennis training facilities.
  • I will change the national mascot from a bald eagle to a large ping-pong ball, and solve our economic problems at the same time by bidding out rights to what brand becomes the National Ball. Will it be Nittaku? JOOLA? Stiga? Butterfly? Halex? Double Happiness? Bids are open now, starting at $1 Trillion.
  • I will nuke our country's economic rivals. Why? Because I like saying "nuke."

The Simpsons and Ping-Pong

  • Here are two pictures of Bart and Lisa Simpson playing ping-pong: Picture 1 and Picture 2
  • Here's a drawing of Bart with a ping-pong paddle.
  • Here's a recording of Patrick Stewart saying "Now let's all get drunk and play ping-pong."
  • Here's the online wiki for Madam Wu, a minor character on The Simpsons, where it says that "Her father was a professional ping pong player who died when he got a ping pong ball lodged in his throat." According to The Simpsons 2012 Daily Desk Calendar (which I just got for Christmas), in the Oct. 10, 2012 entry, it says, "Her father choked to death on a Ping-Pong ball the day before the Heimlich Maneuver was invented."

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December 2, 2011

Great "multiball" serve, receive, attack drill.

Here's a great "multiball" drill, where neither player actually feeds multiball. Start with a box of balls near the server's side of the table. The server (using his best serves) only serves and attacks one ball, then lets the next ball go by as he grabs the next ball. Receiver returns serve and plays one shot only. Then they repeat, in rapid-fire fashion. The goal of the server is to set up a strong third-ball attack. The goal of receiver is to stop server's attack. Take turns on the drill, with each doing perhaps 5-10 minutes.

You can do variations of this, where the server uses a specific serve over and over, the receiver a specific receive, etc. I posted variations of this drill in the past. The drill is especially valuable for learning to receive effectively. Most rallies at the intermediate and advanced levels don't go much beyond these four shots, so this drill lets you rapidly practice the most important shots of the game - the first two shots by each player.

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page yesterday with 14 new photos of six celebrities. New celebrities are basketball players Chris Mullin and Carmelo Anthony, and German soccer player Gunther Netzer (or as they more correctly call it, football). There are also six new pictures of basketball star Yao Ming, and new pictures of actresses Fay Wray and Joan Davis. There are now 1299 pictures of 751 celebrities.

USA Nationals in Ten Days

I leave for the USA Nationals in ten days, on Monday, Dec. 12; events start the next day. I'll be mostly coaching at the Nationals, as well as playing hardbat. Regarding my coaching, it would be very helpful for me if any readers who are not students of mine would refrain from practicing their serves, receives, and other table tennis techniques until after the Nationals. I mean, practice is so passé; if you know the game, just show up and play, right? And practice is such work. So just have fun, don't practice, and me and my students will have lots of fun at the Nationals. Seriously, do not practice your serves - good serves are such a pain to coach against. I don't want to have to remind you again. Thank you for your attention.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

Here is the (current) opening to the chapter on Receiving Tactics (5300 words):

"What is your goal when you receive? That is the primary question you must ask yourself when considering receive tactics. This is no different than thinking about serve tactics, except when you serve, you get to spend time between points deciding which serve to use.

"Receive is the most under-practiced aspect of the game, with serves a close second. Every rally starts with a serve and a receive, and yet players rarely take the time to practice and develop these techniques. Receive is probably the most difficult part of the game to master, and it's doubly hard when players only practice it in actual games. Instead, find a practice partner and take turns practicing your serve and receive.

"Most players are either overly aggressive or too passive when they receive. It's important to find the middle range. However, it is even more important to understand that it is consistency, placement, and variation that are most important."

German soccer players playing table tennis

Here's a video of German soccer players playing table tennis, including Emmanuel Frimpong - yes, "frompong." (1:38). I'll add to Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page next month. 

A History of Table Tennis

All told in 4:51 in this hilarious video by Pierre Knows, from why the name of the game changed from Whiff Whaff to Ping Pong to Table Tennis and why the Chinese still call it Ping Pang. (I think I linked to this video once a long time ago, but I searched my archives and couldn't find it - so if I did, enjoy it again!)

Rallying with a grenade

You read that right - here's a video of two top women rallying with a live grenade (3:34), in slo-mo, in front of a high-class, wine-sipping audience. Warning - has a gory finish.

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November 1, 2011

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I've updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, with 11 new celebrities and 14 new pictures, bringing the totals up to 1285 pictures of 1285 celebrities. (Some pictures have multiple celebrities, so numbers below may appear not to add up.) New this month (and "new" means I already had pictures of that celebrity, but have put up new ones):

  • Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler's wife
  • Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys quarterback
  • Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos quarterback
  • Tiger Woods, golfer (new picture)
  • Payne Stewart, golfer
  • Sebastian Coe, English Olympic 1500 meter Olympic gold medalist
  • Andy Murray, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Boris Becker, tennis player
  • Bill Tilden, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Francis Hunter, tennis player (3 pictures)
  • Justin Gimelstob, tennis player
  • Wladimir Klitschko, Ukrainian heavyweight boxer (new picture)
  • Magnus Carlsen, chess player (2 pictures)
  • Boris Johnson, mayor of London (new picture)
  • Beatrice Lillie, actress
  • Junior Durkin, actor
  • Howard Jacobson, author (new picture)

Serve practice

I think the best way to do it, and way I do it (including a lot recently) is to practice one serve motion and one spin, depth, and placement variation at a time. After you've done a bunch of that one, do another variation with that motion. When you've practiced all the spin, depth, and placement variations for that motion, then practice doing them randomly. If you have trouble controlling one of them, go back and practice it until you have control of it, then go back to serving them randomly. When all this is done, move to the next service motion, and repeat. At the very end, randomly practice all the variations with all the motions.

A few important points. First, don't get in the habit of rapid-fire serving. Visualize each serve in your head before you do it, and make sure your execution matches what you visualize, including where it bounces on your side of the table, how it breaks, etc. Second, you should also practice subtle differences in the serves. For example, vary your follow-through on each serve to throw opponents off. On a forehand pendulum serve, sometimes follow through down, sometimes sideways, sometimes up. If you don't practice it, you won't be able to do it effectively in a match. Third, don't forget fast & deep serves. They take a disproportionate amount of time to develop the timing, and so put in extra practice with them.

Crazy inside-out sidespin by Wang Liqin

It's only nine seconds long, but if you want to learn how to loop inside-out with crazy inside-out sidespin, this is the video to watch. Shown at full speed and in slow motion, from two angles.

Pongcast Videos

  • 2011 European Championships (26:53), with play-by-play commentary, and time between points removed.
  • 2011 Swedish Open (30:30), starts off with "Classic Moments in Table Tennis History," then goes to the Swedish Open, with play-by-play commentary, and time between points removed.

Iran pulls out of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy"

North and South Korea, and India and Pakistan are all competing in Monaco in this modern version of Ping-Pong Diplomacy run by the Monaco-based Peace and Sport, but Iran has pulled out, with no reason given. Other teams competing are USA, China, Japan, Russia, France, and Qatar. Here's the ESPN article.

Big Ping-Pong

When I say Big Ping-Pong, I mean BIG PING-PONG. Watch this video (0:43), and see if you agree.

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July 7, 2011

Adoni Responds

In my July 5 blog entry, I linked to several pictures of actor and table tennis player Adoni Maropis. In one, he was wearing rather prominent kneepads, so I jokingly wrote, "Yes, he has knee problems." Adoni responded via email, saying that he wears kneepads to dive for balls - and as someone who has battled with him on the table a number of times, I can verify that he is constantly diving for balls. He's sort of like the mountain goat of table tennis. (Oh boy, am I going to hear from him now!) He also wrote how he hates the photo I linked to about him "terrorizing the hardbat community," saying "I hate that pic...it looks like I have bad everything and either a huge beer gut or pregnant... or a woman... and oh so old." I'd comment on this, but when dealing with a guy who's blown up half the west coast and (when he's not diving on elephant-sized kneepads) kills every chance he can (at the table), I'll shut my mouth.

40th Anniversary Ping-Pong Diplomacy Celebration - SF Edition

Here's an article on the San Francisco ceremony, with lots of pictures. Pictured are former Chinese stars Cai Zhenhua and Liang Geliang, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, former Secretary of State George Schultz, and former USA star Judy Hoarfrost.

Tutoring and Table Tennis

I've been discussing with club members the idea of starting a tutoring service at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. We have so many kids coming in for lessons each day, so why not turn MDTTC into an all-service table tennis and tutoring center? They could bring their homework, and we'd find someone at the club who could be available for tutoring. Oh, that latter would be me!!! (I'm qualified to tutor math, English, and a few other subjects.) While I've tutored before, I've never done it in a formal setting, so I'm not sure of the best setup. Do I do it one-on-one on a case-by-case basis? In a group setting at scheduled times, such as Mon-Thu 4-6PM? How much to charge? If anyone has experience in these matters, let me know, either by commenting below or emailing me. Thanks!

Calories burned in table tennis

You thought you were just having fun, and it turns out you've been out for a walk!

Celebrities with USATT Ratings

Did I miss anyone? I'm sure there's someone obvious I left out. (See the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page for pictures of over 700 celebrities playing table tennis, including the below.)

The Celebrity Rankings!

Ranking

Celebrity

Occupation

Current Rating

Highest Rating

Last Played

1

Julian Waters

 

Calligrapher

1898

2067

June, 2011

(Played in U.S. Open in July)

2

Adoni Maropis

 

Actor

1881

(Has a 2110 hardbat rating)

1881

March, 2011

(played in U.S. Open in July)

3

Will Shortz

 

Puzzlist

1799

1845

Feb, 2011

4

Tom McEvoy

1983 World Series of Poker Champion

1711

?

Pre-1994

5

Frank Caliendo

 

Comedian

1670

1670

March, 2011

(Played in U.S. Open in July)

6 Judah Friedlander Actor, Comedian 1509 1510 Oct., 2010

7

Jack Markell

Governor of Delaware

1223

1223

Apr, 2010

8?

Susan Sarandon

Actress

Why isn't she rated? She plays at and co-owns the Spin Club in NY!

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June 1, 2011

Contact point on the block

At the Easterns, while blocking to warm up Tong Tong Gong's loop, something clicked. It's one of those things I've always known and coached, but it helps when it works in your own game. I'd been holding my racket too high on blocks (both forehand and backhand), and that's why it hadn't been particularly comfortable in recent times. By starting with the racket lower to the table, I can actually raise the racket slightly as the ball bounces on the table, allowing the center of the racket to "follow" the ball. This leads to a quicker block, better timing, contact in the center of the racket, a bit of topspin on the block, and overall, a more consistent block. If you hold the racket slightly higher, you have to wait for the ball to come up to it, and then try to catch it in the center, which is trickier.

Holding it higher does give a flatter block, which is effective against some, but the price is less control. But you can do this while holding the racket low by taking the ball right off the bounce and stroking straight forward. This is how many penholders block, and is why they so often give such flat blocks.

Celebrities playing table tennis

On Monday I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, which now has 1192 pictures of exactly 700 celebrities playing table tennis. Also, the site now has its own domain - yes, CelebritiesPlayingTableTennis.com. Make sure to bookmark it! There are now so many famous celebrities pictured that any short listing would shortchange the site, and any more comprehensive listing would take up more space than there are ping-pong balls in the universe, give or take a few. It's divided into ten sections: Politicians/Leaders, Athletes, Talk Show Hosts, Writers, Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Cartoon Characters, and Other.

Here's a fun one that just went up, of actor Jack Oakie, circa 1933, playing table tennis in a suit of shining armor. He acted in lots of movies around that time, so I have no idea what movie this takes place in. Anyone know? Here's his acting record.

Rating stats galore!

You can now look up your rating stats, head-to-head record, and other stats at the Table Tennis Spin site!

Marty Reisman Analyzes President Obama's Table Tennis Play

Dang, he beat me to it! (I actually meant to post this last Friday, but had so much other stuff I left it off. Then it got left out on Monday somehow, and then my computer crashed yesterday and so it got left off again. But for those who missed it....) Here's Marty's analysis, which includes a link to the video. (I blogged about this on Thursday, May 26.)  Here's an opening quote from Marty: "Not being certain that either president Obama or I may be able to take the necessary time away from our other respective responsibilities for a lesson in the flesh, as an alternative, here is my Presidential Ping Pong 11 Point Internet Lesson that should ensure our national image will never be tarnished in the event our president should ever be challenged to play a competitive match against a leader of any nation having opposing political views."

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