January 25, 2013

Table Tennis and Animals

Yesterday morning the comic strip Pearls Before Swine featured table tennis, with Pig winning a ping-pong trophy. That is the inspiration for this morning's blog. We'll start with dogs.

Dogs and table tennis just go together. I've known this since "Junior" became the club mascot for the Northern Virginia Table Tennis Club in the early 1980s, even garnering a "Junior of the Month" write-up in USATT Magazine. (I wasn't editor at the time.) Junior came to the club with owner/father John Tebbe, and entertained us while we weren't playing. He was well behaved. Tim Boggan even featured Junior in one of his History of U.S. Table Tennis volumes.

Also well behaved was the dog that a woman from New Jersey had when she came to several of our training camps at MDTTC in the 1990s. This dog would quietly lie down next to her table while she trained, and would never move until she gave the okay. One day several kids tested this by stacking ping-pong balls on the poor dog, balancing dozens of them in its fur as the dog looked on patiently.

Here's my cartoon about why dogs don't play table tennis. Yes, dogs are nearly color blind. I have no idea if they can tell red from black. And here's the hottest chick in table tennis.

In the Fun and Games section here at you'll find a Humorous Videos section. Page down a bit and you'll find segments on "Ping-Pong Dogs" (17 videos) and "Ping-Pong Cats" (76 videos!). From this, perhaps table tennis is going to cats more than dogs.

There's also an Animals Playing Table Tennis pictures section. My favorite there is a picture of Mister Ed playing table tennis. He's the talking horse from the TV show from the hit show from 1958-1966. In the episode Mister Ed plays table tennis. There's no digital manipulation; they apparently got the horse to hold the paddle and probably filmed a lot to get what they needed. I remember seeing the footage, but alas, I can't find it on youtube. (Here's the 42-second opening sequence of the show if you want to see a talking horse. Many episodes are online at youtube. Here's a 54-sec video of Mr. Ed hitting an inside-the-park home run against the Dodger's Sandy Koufax!) There's also a nice picture of a chimpanzee playing table tennis, and a bunch of others.

Here's a video (3:48) of the famous bird visit to the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Nathan Hsu narrates. The four in the video are Nathan Hsu, Raghu Nadmichettu, Tong Tong Gong, and Derek Nie.

If you put "Table Tennis Mascots" into Google, you get a lot of table tennis animal mascot pictures.

A few of you might remember the saga of Don Iguana. Here's the true story. In 1993, a three-year-old entered the junior event at an MDTTC Open. He not only lost every game, he didn't win a point, losing all six straight games 21-0. (Games were to 21 back in those days.) He got a rating of 25, the lowest in history. He entered several more tournaments, and continued to lose every game 21-0. Along the way he lost a rating point to some player rated in the 200's, dropping to 24. And then, one tournament, this all changed when this three-year-old, who literally couldn't see over the table, scored his first point, against Michael Squires, losing the match 21-0, 21-1!!! He was so happy - or at least I think he was, but I couldn't quite tell.

For Don Iguana was an actual iguana! Yes, he was my pet, and he was three years old. I bought him a USATT membership and paid rating fees (though not entry fees - I was the tournament director and waived that). The truth was he never actually was at the tournaments, we just entered him, and the kids would take the match clipboard and return it a few minutes late with the results. Only Mike had the decency to allow poor Don to "score" a point. Don't believe this? Go to the USATT ratings database, put in "Iguana," and Don Iguana will show up with his 24 rating! Alas, the ratings database didn't keep track of individual tournaments until 1994, and so his actual tournament record is lost to posterity - but not his name and rating in the database. (When all this came out, one USATT official was very angry at me, saying I had made a mockery of the rating system, and cited the one rating point Don had given to someone to show that I was messing up the rating system.)

For years afterwards Alan Williams (sorry, I'm breaking your cover) wrote numerous stories about the saga of Don Iguana, often involving him sailing the seas in search of table tennis adventure.

In the early 1980s I introduced to the world Gerbil Table Tennis. When I was in college I raised gerbils. We had a ping-pong table in our dormitory. So one day I had the bright idea of putting a gerbil on each side of the table as we rallied. It was great fun as we hit the ball back and forth while the gerbils ran about. Don't worry, no gerbils were hit or injured while we played - we made sure not to hit them, and they seemed oblivious to the ball anyway.

For many years I had a sort of personal trademark, a quick drawing of a tyrannosaurus rex playing ping-pong with a bird. I used to be able to draw the picture in about 30 seconds or so. Perhaps I'll try again, and scan the results here. If you are at MDTTC, I drew one on the whiteboard in the back room several months ago, and it's still there. Maybe someday I'll draw another, and scan it and put it online. I'm no artist, but it's a fun picture.

MDTTC New Programs

We're starting up a series of new programs at Maryland Table Tennis Center. (These are in addition to our ongoing programs.) New ones include:

  • Beginning/Intermediate Table Tennis Class, 10 weeks long, Thursdays 7:30-9:00 PM (starting Feb. 21), taught by me.
  • Senior (over age 55) training on Monday mornings 11AM, taught by Rocky Wang.
  • Physical Training for Serious Table Tennis Players, Mondays at 6PM by Rocky Wang.
  • Spring Break Camp, March 25-29.
  • Next Tournament: March 2-3. (Note that Charlene Liu is taking over as tournament director - I'm just too busy coaching on weekends to keep taking time off to run them. I ran the last two MDTTC tournaments.)

The Myth of Practice Makes Perfect

Here's an article that talks about the importance of "deliberate practice," as opposed to just practicing - i.e. effective vs. ineffective practice.

USATT Election Results

Mike Babuin wins reelection.

Marty Reisman Appreciation

Here's an article by David Hartman about Marty Reisman.

Big Brothers Big Sisters at Grand Central

Big Brothers Big Sisters ran a "Tournament of Champions" at Grand Central Station in NYC. Here are two pictures of it - picture one, picture two.

Table Tennis Motivation

Here's a table tennis highlights video (12:00) that somehow I missed when it first came out last July.

Got an iPhone?

Your long wait is over. You can now buy a table tennis iPhone case.

Scary Robots

Which of these three master robots do you want to practice with? It's like taking on The Terminator!

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October 10, 2012

Coaching in the Wilderness and Run-ins with Animals

I do some coaching each week on the road, including a trip out into Virginia. They pay me double to do this, otherwise I wouldn't want to leave the safe confines of the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which is eight minutes from my house. The kid I'm coaching in Virginia is five years old, and like most kids his age has an attention span of roughly from now to now. So I find all sorts of interesting ways of keeping him interested during our one-hour sessions - mostly with targets on the table (giant rubber frogs, stacks of cups, etc.) or by setting up imaginary scenarios where he has to do something or the world will explode. This kid lives in a mansion in the middle of woods - a great place to grow up.

Yesterday after I drove down their front driveway (about two hundred yards) and pulled into the street out front, I found myself surrounded by six deer. I'd driven right into their midst and then stopped my car, and rather than run, they all just stared at me as if they were used to this. I stayed absolutely still, and after a minute they ignored me. Four more joined them, and now ten deer surrounded me. As if that weren't enough, I very large hawk sat perched on a telephone cable just over the street, looking down on us like the specter of death.

After about five minutes the deer all took off suddenly as another car came by. (Apparently my car wasn't as scary.) As I drove out, four more deer came out onto the road, blocking my path. They froze for a moment, and then they too took off. A minute later, as I drove home, I passed a large horse farm with dozens of grazing horses.

I've had other run-ins with wildlife in my years as a coach. Many years ago, while spending a summer coaching in Oklahoma, I woke up in the middle of the night with a searing pain, and discovered a scorpion perched on top of me that had just stung me. Numerous times I've had birds flying around in clubs and tournaments, including this segment from the Maryland Table Tennis Center (starring a very traumatized bird and Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Raghu Nadmichettu, Tong Tong Gong) just a few weeks ago. A kid once brought a box turtle to MDTTC and let it walk about the club all afternoon while he played. We've had numerous dogs visit the club, though all seemed well trained. One woman at one of our training camps brought her dog, which was so well trained it would sit quietly by the table as her owner trained, never interrupting anything until she gave the okay, I think by snapping her fingers or something. The kids had a blast with it as it would lie quietly as they covered it with ping-pong balls.

Here are lots of animals playing table tennis!

Exhibition and Teaching in Guam

Australian player and coach Alois Rosario puts on a show for the kids in Guam (2:05).

Great Point at World Cup

Here's a great point (1:09) from the 2012 Men's World Cup between Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus and Chuang Chih-Yuan of Taiwan. The point took place with Samsonov leading 9-8 in the seventh, and gave him match point. Chuan would win the next two points, but Samsonov would win 12-10 in the seventh.

Ariel Hsing vs. Matthew Perry

USA Olympian Ariel Hsing was on The Ellen DeGeneres show yesterday (3:12). DeGeneres was playing actor Matthew Perry when she faked a back injury, and said someone else would have to play for her. Then she called in Ariel, who proceeded to clobber poor Perry, who was actually pretty good. DeGeneres had told Ariel not to hold back, and she didn't.

Three-Way Table Tennis

This looks like someone's homemade table, but they decided it needed three sides. And they are playing outdoors.


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