Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ping pong or table tennis? I'd say it's BOTH--A response to a reader's comment

I recently received a comment from a reader who congratulated me on naming my site "Pong with Me" and for using the term "ping pong." You can see the whole comment under my post called "Tip #1: Got Patience?" The reader asserts that "this attempt to disassociate the sport from the term 'ping pong'...betrays an arrogant and self-harming elitism - since when has a sport turned its nose up at those who self-teach themselves the sport, even though it be in basements?"

Originally, I was simply going to respond to his comment with another comment, but it turned into a whole other monster, a whole other post, a whole other schpeal!

So, in response to Tsoi Dug, I say the following:

Thank you for the comment, tsoi dug! I wholeheartedly agree with the reader that ping pong should be an acceptable term to people who call themselves "table tennis" athletes.

I think that we need to encourage more people to play in their garages and to get good in them. Look at my video of Timo Boll as a little child. That's him playing against his father in his basement in Germany! I, myself, did a lot of training in our own garage, and I call the sport "ping pong."

If we look at basketball and soccer, how many of those top athletes came from underprivileged backgrounds? How often do we see kids playing soccer in South America or Africa in dirt poor conditions? Are they not playing "real" soccer? Do we go around saying that those kids playing basketball in their local, rundown, outdoor basketball courts are not "real" basketball players? What about those old people who stand around on the tennis court at their country club and swing at a few tennis balls? Do we say, "Oh, they're not playing tennis--they're playing ___ (insert with anything along the lines of 'pseudo tennis,' 'old geezer tennis,' 'these people are lame-o's who give tennis a bad name,' etc.)." Hmm...I didn't think so.

So what makes someone playing ping pong in their basement so different from someone who plays ping pong in better conditions with better equipment that we need separate terms for the two scenarios?

Well, I do see why "table tennis" players don't want to associate with "ping pong." The majority of the American public DOES NOT see ping pong as a sport. The education simply isn't there. Most Americans see table tennis/ping pong SOLELY as the game they play in their basements and garages. They think that table tennis is just about waving your hand in the air and trying to get the little ball to bounce on the other side of the table by "not hitting the ball too hard."

It's easy to see why "table tennis" athletes try to disassociate themselves from those recreational "ping-pongers" who don't understand the true dimensions of the sport--it's because there is little or no representation of table tennis as a sport. There is nothing to redeem ping pong from being seen as a mere game which requires little physical effort. In the American media, there are no Michael Jordan's or Andy Roddick's or Mia Hamm's to make up for the old people or fat P.E. kids.

The core of this problem, however, is NOT in the term "ping pong." The problem rests in the portrayal of ping pong/table tennis in the general public and the lack of proper education and media coverage on table tennis as a sport. Now, Killerspin has done a great job by airing its matches on ESPN2, and I commend them for publicizing the sport for what it is--competitive, physical, complex, intense, and intricate. There just needs to be more of that.

Instead of shunning the "ping pongers," we should embrace them and accept the term "ping pong." The garage- and basement-ping-pong players are where the future of table tennis/ping pong is, and we just need to harness that popularity and turn it into something positive for the sport.

We need to educate these "ping pong" enthusiasts and show them everything that ping pong/table tennis can be--something more physical, complex, and rewarding than they could ever imagine.

We need to start from the bottom up (this includes basements, garages, schools, after-school programs, community centers) to promote grassroots and homegrown players and establish American players as formidable forces in the international arena.


Tsoi Dug said...

Yes, the "table tennis" establishment should stop offending us ping pong players and make us feel bad about playing "their sport" so poorly, like we have no right to play it unless we play on a level the "table tennis" establishment approves of. That kind of behavior only kills off any nascent popularity the sport enjoys.

generiv viagra said...

The ping-pong is a wonderful sport, the first time I played it cost me a lot of work to learn but after practiced much I could make an excellent board game...I recommend this sport is very good

Anonymous said...

Table tennis is an awesome sport! Full of energy...excitement. Lots of styles and lots of strategies.

Jerry Brock said...

Playing ping pong or table tennis is actually a very good physical exercise. This is the reason why I came to love this kind of athletic table sport.