Chops and Spins of table tennis can leave your head whirling
Coach was feeling somewhat lively. The look in his eye was the one I've noticed in my cat, as it torments some helpless bug. Richard McAfee held aloft the turtle egg using a ball, and just before putting it in play merrily stated,"Now, don't hit it that way (off to my best )." I hit it dead , the ball flying off at a 90-degree angle to its planned course.
"Don't strike this one that way (to the left)."
It flew left than the ACLU.
"Now, don't hit this one to the internet."
You know where it moved, so don't ask.
After all is said and done and one is left helpless at the hands of an expert, there is but one thing to do. You draw yourself up , throw back your shoulders, increase your head and shout:"Ping-Pong, Ping-Pong, Ping-Pong!" It drives them nuts. You can known about table tennis table quality.
Today's subject in the endless series called"Sports I Stink At" is properly called table tennis. There's a flourishing little pocket of its followers here at the Chastain Park fitness center, playing 15 tables at the name of the Atlanta Table Tennis Association. It is quite a gumbo of humankind in there, a rich mixture of ages and nationalities that speaks to the global appeal of this match.
McAfee is the club's president, a full-time coach (who knew?) And the former contest director for table tennis for Atlanta's Olympics. He actually seems a nice and type ambassador, given to only the table tennis tease.
The uninitiated can input the gym on any given Tuesday or Sunday and be struck dumb by the speed. So rapid is the back-and-forth it appears to be a clock store on a double-espresso jag. There's the exact same kind of ferocious downsized volleying in the two-time Olympian in his corner as from the rank-and-file playing in the center of this room. Certainly impressive is the youthful U.S. junior champion, said to be good enough to provide even Forrest Gump a game.
The club gladly accepts walk in commerce, but McAfee admits that lots of decent amateur players have stumbled to the fitness center, taken from the roomful of spinning serves and 90 miles kill shots and walked back out the doorway speaking just to themselves. This is as edgy as table tennis has. If he can grab them in time, McAfee will encourage them to stay and understand and build in their game. "You can't learn playing at home, no matter how good you think you are," he explained.
Here, they actually paste on the plastic sheeting in their paddles before each night of play. Think of this as the equal of a pool screwing together his own cue as he picks up the scent of blood. Never play with table tennis against these glue people. Real table tennis players wear special shoes and buy $150 paddles and can make the ball do circus tricks with table tennis racket hight-end.
None of this, of course, applies to me. The Ping-Pong table of my youth is sawdust somewhere, and also the one in the basement is really a fertile cobweb farm. Admittedly, my game had been missing so long that it was declared legally dead. When McAfee handed me one of the fine paddles, he didn't warn me that by its own highly tuned character, it would send balls rocketing off its face. This was like handing a driver's ed student the keys to a Ferrari.
Finally, I got to the point where I could return one or two of his simplest shots someplace on the desk. But as soon as the part of spin was introduced, the whole surrounding region became a hard-hat zone. Balls were hopping around so blatantly I was waiting for Glenn Burns to stop by and select six out of the air for this week's lottery.
It was about this point that McAfee started telling me about the subtleties. About the table tennisplayers are highly trained athletes. About how they have a fraction of a second on every shot to determine if from the rebound to hit the ball, what part of the ball to hit and how to hit it in order to deal with the spin and the speed. Hey, look, I'd just like to get through this without sacrificing an eye, OK? Sooner or later, I needed to try a real game. It's my job.
As I scanned the room for an opponent, it became obvious that my only real chance to compete is to present tackle table tennis. They frown on that here. I picked out the only girl in the room, a slight, bespectacled woman who at least wasn't trying to strike the ball throughout the gym walls.
Eleanor Leonhardt wouldn't state how old she was, only hinting that I had been younger than her children. She explained her style as a chiseler. She'll chop, chop, chop, returning everything, awaiting the mistake in the opposite end of the table. There was no waiting this time. What a bloody rout. In five minutes it was over, 21-1 for those keeping score at home and ping pong machine ball. Happily, she functioned that one ball into the web, or it would have been a shutout.
In a time such as this, with your pride stripped bare, there's nothing left but the pointless gesture. It's the last resort for those who can not do. All together now: "Ping-Pong, Ping-Pong, Ping-Pong!"
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