“When I find myself in times of of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom – Play Ping-Pong”. There is one game that I have had a life long affection for and that is ping-pong, or table tennis which it officially goes by. Growing up as a young child in Port Chester, NY, the winters could be long and cold so indoor sports were popular for obvious reasons. Since I was 7-years old and couldn’t drive bowling was out of the question. I also find it terribly boring and after two games I am ready to turn my cool shoes in to the front desk and call it a day. Most homes on the East Coast have basements and that is where I played my first game of ping-pong. My dad actually built a table out of wood and assembled it in the basement. It wasn’t that he was too cheap to go buy a table, it was built to fit over our Lionel Train set, so you could lift off the ping-pong table and have the train set underneath. It also made the ping-pong table about a foot too high which didn’t help when you were small to begin with. It was my first experience at playing and I fell in love with the game…I was going to be the next Forrest Gump. My basement became the winter social center for neighborhood kids. Our rallies didn’t last to long back then, we basically just liked to smash the ball with about 3 out of 10 hits actually landing on the table. My father’s games against some of the neighborhood dads would get intense and I believe that’s where I learned the forbidden 4-letter words. I just enjoyed watching and hearing the rhythmic sound of the ball going back and forth. We moved to the west coast and ping-pong became a year round sport. There was a table on our patio and available to play anytime, only rain could stop the action. By Jr. High and High School the games became more competitive, but the nice part about it was that it was just fun. We could play for hours and invent new games like seeing how hard we could smash the ball, or playing left-handed, or smashing each other. One thing I learned quickly was that you need large supply of balls when playing the smash game. The whole game changed when I went to college and beer was added as a required piece of equipment. My freshman year at the dorm was the only exception, no alchohol allowed, unless nobody was looking. We would play for hours often after midnight. I also soon realized that others enjoyed ping-pong as much as I and some of the players could kick my ass. This took me by surprise as I thought I had mastered the game. After we moved out of the dorms beer came back full-time as an integral part of the game and ping-pong became beer pong. I didn’t improve much during these years, but I did learn how to bounce a ping-pong ball into a red cup. We also got in some serious matches and even entered some sponsored tournaments as a double teams. That all ended when we were matched up to play Zhang Jike and Li Xiaoxia in doubles, two Chinese students…game, set, and match over. They played with their racquets upside down from what I was familiar with and they were beyond good. Say what you want about stereotyping, but Chinese players are on a whole ‘nother level. Competitive table tennis is popular in Asia and many believe that is where the game originated. The game was actually originated in England during the 1880’s, where it was played among the upper-class. Man when it came to America, it sure dropped in class and found popularity among all classes. The back and forth sound of the ball gave the game it’s more familiar name of ping-pong.
It was now my turn to be a parent, own a home, raise 3-kids and pass on my ping-pong skills. I could easily beat each of them while they were young, but as they got better and I stayed the same, my skills weren’t enough. I tried to distract them by blaring 70’s rock ‘n roll music as we played, or verbally teasing them as they were about to hit, but the day soon came when the next generation of pongers were passing up the old man. The kids are now gone and I guess I could go to the Senior Center to play, but that sounds too depressing. I hope to get a new table and maybe invite strangers off the street to play me. ” I love Ping and Pong, put another dime in the juke box baby”.