& Pong > Four letter words for a “table-tennis” player ?!?
Table-tennis an “Olympic” “athletic” “sport” ?- “You cannot be serious…..you moron”
invitation to table-tennis from an ex-tennis-addict turned
I am writing this article as sort of as an introductory invitation to
table-tennis written by this ex-tennis addict turned
current table-tennis addict, after time and again being asked (or more like
ridiculed) about what the heck is “table-tennis” anyway and how is it
different from “ping pong”. Unless your intent is to deliberately stay close
minded to consider only traditional American sports as global sport and would
rather continue ridiculing table-tennis as ping-pong, it is my futile hope that
you would consider gathering some additional information about table-tennis and
not sound ill-informed in the cyber age of instant information and even get
hopelessly addicted one day.
VOC(Volatile Organic Solvents), Jan Ove, frictionless medium-pips, Ma Long, hook & fade loops, Aspect Ratio genocide, basement grip, wet regluing, robotNazis, high-toss tomahawk, two-color-rule, 40 mm fiasco, asymmetric composites, brush-lob Appeling, exponential back-spin amplification, cork-screw trajectory, top-sheet geometry, dwell-time synthesis, Kpen, Jpen, Cpen, RPH curvature, Pre-tuned vacuum pack, biotech 36 degrees, expedite rule.
Do any of the above terms sound even remotely familiar to you ? Do
not feel bad if you do not……. as even many advanced level table-tennis
players may not recognize even half of the above terms. Even though my goal is
to invite rather than scare people away from the “sport” of table-tennis,
reality is that non-table-tennis players even in places like
“Ping Pong” is actually a name trademarked in USA by the Parker
Brothers (Toy makers) to monopolize the market during USA’s golden age of
“table-tennis” in the 30’s & 40’s. The “sport” of table-tennis
now is now an extremely popular event in Olympics, despite the sad fact that
ITTF had turned the sport for the most part into a non-spectator sport as a
super-speed comedy of errors of mostly 4 or less rallies. Though USA probably
has more tables at homes than any other country, the “sport” has regressed
to a basement joke “game” called ping-pong mindlessly hitting the ball back
and forth over the table, while in most of the 155 member nations of the ITTF ,
it is approached ( or even revered) in most of Asia & Europe as a
professional sport. Most Americans would thus rather watch the Swedish bikini
Team play “ping-pong” rather than watch the Swedish Dream Table-Tennis Team
of 70’s or the Swedish Super Dream Team of
table-tennis of the early 90’s knocking off the Chinese, the gold standard of
table-tennis. There are twice to three times as many registered coaches in
there are registered tournament players in
grew up admiring McEnroe’s lightening foot-speed & volleys and Connors’
one-in-a-billion flat-hitting style (absolute
orthogonal “hitting of the ball” contact with extremely
low-error-margin) which is identical to the most
gifted natural-born table-tennis players known as short-pips-out hitters. But I
almost worshipped Bjorn Borg who though named the angelic assassin by Bud
Collins actually seemed more mortal than Connors & McEnroe. Borg pioneered
the slow-looping super-top-spin (acutely tangential
“brushing of the ball” contact with enormous
error-margins) in tennis (from table-tennis) Quote from web:- “Although
Lennert Bergelin had some early input into the technical and tactical aspects of
Borg's game, his contribution was limited. Borg had developed his own style –
the result of a table tennis player suddenly adapting to the heavy tennis racket
he had been given at the age of nine
– and if it offended the purists Bergelin saw no reason to change what was a
fate & destiny may have it , the above racket Bjorn got at age nine was
actually won by his father Rune Borg as a prize for Rune winning a
“table-tennis” tournament. Rune was a top-table tennis player in
For those not familiar at all with Bjorn Borg of Sweden , he won 5 Wimbledon's (on grass) and 6 French Opens (on clay). If you are not familiar , clay and grass are diametrically opposite surfaces to play tennis on....clay is super-slow and grass is super-fast. Bjorn Borg had followed table-tennis so much so that he is now a close friend of Jan Ove Waldner of Sweden considered by many as the best ever in table-tennis) .
have by now learnt to visualize & accept just how hard a tennis player in
USA is laughing inside at me when they hear me say I play “table-tennis”
( A tennis club manager once actually offered me a whopping $5 to do a
“ping-pong” demonstration…..these days, though I am happy coach serious
players for free if they come to the local table-tennis club …..I would be
charging like $200 per hour with a $600 daily minimum to give private lessons if
I ever did do it, which I don’t and had been offered over the
years………mostly to counter the pathetic image of table-tennis in this
country rather than to make any money.). Being someone who was lot more addicted
to tennis once than I am now to table-tennis and had been an advanced player
close to a USTA level of 5 (of 7) , and though I don’t think I reached my
tennis level (or ever will) in table-tennis, I could never imagine going back to
? I can answer it this way.
Tennis is an amazing athletic sport. However I could never dream of going
back to tennis once addicted to the insane super-spins of table-tennis. At
the professional level (where youth dominate) it is a sadly mistaken myth that
tennis would demand more endurance and power. Most non-players estimate
the playing area for example based on the basement sizes where table-tennis is
played as a game but few folks realize the standard size of a table-tennis court
is 14 meters by 7 meters ( 46 feet by 23 feet) and the power
,coordination and foot-speed to generate the extreme super-spins of table-tennis
(mostly because the Olympic level table-tennis athletes make it look so easy
like Forrest Gump).
Once you even “barley” learn to generate the myriad of super-spins
& counter-spins of table-tennis at such extreme high speeds in relatively
such small time frames compared to tennis and can get the sizzling feel of the
ball digging deep at tangential limits of calculus into the (freshly reglued
wet) bottom-sponge of the rubber sheet to meet the wood , your addiction to
table-tennis is incurably complete and cannot think of going back to tennis,
despite the fact that it can be at times very frustrating (depending mostly your
own style of play) as the most complicated individual sport ……sort of
downhill skiing while playing speed-chess at the same-time due to the high level
of thinking for stroke selection and execution on your feet at ridiculous speeds
at generally expected & accepted nearly non-stop action until the game is
`One unfortunate aspect of table-tennis is that it is really not much of a
spectator sport. Unless you play & “feel” the sport , as a spectator, it
is mostly a super high speed comedy of errors except may be 1% or so of the
time. Used to be that at least you can watch 10% matches in the sport when an
attacker plays a defensive player, when the sport is at its spectacular best .
But unfortunately ITTF (with IOC’s help) had systematically exterminated
defensive styles for political reasons. Yet the sport is one of most popular
you are a table-tennis player, the above statement will help you do your
research on the history of spin thru times from the introduction of the sponge
racket in Bombay (now Mumbai 1952) by Japanese, Cultural Revolution of 60’s in
China & Ping Pong Diplomacy 70’s , the first Swedish Dream Team 1973,
Bjorn Borg ( bringing looping super-top-spin to tennis subconsciously from his
dad), Hungary – loopers-maker-chopper (Berczik’s Trio) 1979 , Swedish (Super)Dream
Teams 1989-2000, & glue ban and repeal fiasco of 1995, Ruf Harrison’s (
& Tim Boggan’s) Aspect Ratio concentration camps of 1998 at Durban for
back-spinners, Adham Sharara’s 40mm gas chamber of 2000 to finish the job on
back-spinners etc etc
is a (condensed) excerpt from the book “The Money Player” ,the most
expensive ( old or new ) book related to table-tennis on Ebay, written by Marty
Reisman , who was many times a US Champion in 40’s and 50’s &
prestigious English Open Champion ( sort of like Wimbledon of table-tennis then
) and one of the very best in the World , around when US table-tennis was at or
close to the top.
of my last gold smuggling ventures took me to Taiwan. Doug (Cartland) and I had
been invited there by Taiwanese Table Tennis Association to play an
international match against Taiwanese National Team. We flew in as we usually
do, on US military aircraft since it was free. This time though, most of all
fifty passengers seemed to be all Colonels or Generals.
& I felt so insignificant. I felt worse because at least Doug was not a
criminal (not a gold smuggler like me). He was not what I felt I was , the
lowest of low, a smuggler with 21 lb of gold in secret pockets of my vest.
armed services brass talked about possibility of war with Mainland (China).
talked about beefing up the 7th fleet
talked about Koran war.
talked about entire strategy of South Pacific .
men were movers & shakers in history.
discussed about fate of entire nations.
the plane landed and I looked out the window. There were 100s of people to
welcome the plane, government officials in suits, news media, flower girls and
school children. When the plane stopped a band stuck up.
brass was impressed. They knew Taiwan was doomed without US help but they had
not expected such a show of support & gratitude. They were performing
selfless tasks that brought skepticism from home & hostility abroad. What a
refreshing change. Here was a country that was openly grateful.
brass crowded into the aisle of the plane. One star generals glowered at
colonels, who gave up their place in the line. There was a 3 star general aboard
and obviously he will be out first to lead the delegation but after that it was
anybody’s guess about other generals in line.
in the plane was standing except Doug & me. We were sitting way back in the
plane, pondering the importance (if any) of table-tennis in a changing world.
went by. The brass had pretty much arranged themselves in order and were combing
their hair and sponging their brows and becoming more important.
the wheels were rolled to the door and door opened. I cannot even see the door
as we were way in the back. There was cheering.
brass gave themselves one last inspection.
voice came over the airplane’s intercom :-
Mr. Cartland, Mr.Reisman, the
floated on a cloud past those colonels & generals. The Taiwanese Officials
were shaking Doug’s hand and mine. Schoolchildren shoved bouquets of flowers
into our arms.
personal representative of Chiang Kai-shek delivered the welcoming speech. I
will never forget what he said “ Mr. Reisman & Cartland, you have given
much pleasure to people of free