February 22, 2017

West Coast Open Cancellation and Past Near Tournament Disasters
As noted in my blog yesterday, the 4-star West Coast Open was cancelled at the last minute due to the venue's mistaken double-booking. Here is the letter sent out to players by tournament director Meng-Yu Wang on this. Here is a notice on this by USATT CEO Gordon Kaye on it. (Not sure why it's not up as a regular news item.) I know that there is going to be a lawsuit against the venue, and USATT will likely get involved. It got me wondering about past such disasters - but frankly, I couldn't think of anything similar. However, it brought back memories of a number of near-disasters! Here's a listing of ones where I was involved. (I'm sure I'm missing an obvious one.)

  • 1993 Junior Nationals in Potomac, MD. I ran the tournament, the only time in our history we've run the Junior Nationals as a separate tournament. (I even got us a $7000 sponsor - that's $11,764 adjusted for inflation - and gave out prize money for the events, the first time we'd ever done that in junior events.) So what was the near disaster? On Saturday afternoon there was a huge thunderstorm, and suddenly all the power went out. We waited an hour or so, and finally had to give up for the day - with no lighting, you can't run the tournament. So I had a feverish night as I rescheduled everything for Sunday. (I think I had everyone start play at 8AM or something.) Anyway, we managed to run and finish every event. (An even bigger disaster followed - the USATT Board, without consulting with me or the sponsor, decided to recombine the Junior Nationals with the Junior Olympics, assuming the sponsor would follow. The sponsor only wanted to sponsor the Junior Nationals in Maryland, and so pulled out. No more prize money.)
  • U.S. Open or Nationals, circa early 1990s. Back when I was around 12, I became a fan of Harry Houdini, the famous escape artist. I spent some time learning many of his tricks, such as (I'm not making this up) tying and untying knots with my toes and picking locks. What does this have to do with the Open or Nationals? Play was supposed to start at 9AM, and many of us were there at 8AM, when the doors were supposed to open. But the doors were locked. More and more people arrived, and by 8:30AM or so there were probably hundreds by the door - but the janitor who was supposed to unlock the door still hadn't arrived. So I studied the lock, and lo and behold, I recognized the type! Using a paper clip and a credit card, I was able to pick the lock - to the rousing cheers of hundreds!
  • Virginia Open, 1977. I still remember all the numbers - I was rated 1496, and beat a 1790 player twice, a 1738 player twice, a 1722 player, and several others in the 1500s and 1600s. My rating was going to explode!!! Except . . . after the tournament, they lost the results! Said somebody must have taken all the draws. And so the to this day the tournament hasn't been processed. Come to think of it, this was a disaster (to me)! Of course, since my level at that time was pushing 1800, I would shoot up in the ratings in my next few tournaments, but at the time I was pretty angry!
  • 1990 U.S. Open. I was part of a crew helping to put the tables into storage afterwards. They were the type that pulled apart into two pieces. We leaned the first against the front of the truck, and stacked all the rest in their like that, perhaps 30 tables (so 60 halves). All of them were leaning slightly toward the front. To make sure they stayed that way, someone was put inside the truck. (Not me!!!) When we arrived at the storage area and opened the truck, we discovered that while going up a hill, all the tables had cascaded backwards, and the person inside was squatting down beneath the last table, which now leaned into the back of the truck. When we opened the truck, he and the last table or two came falling out. If he hadn't squatted down quickly when the tables fell backwards (like dominoes), he'd have been smashed with the weight of 30 tables. (There was, of course, a big disaster at this U.S. Open - the scheduling fell apart, and they ended up falling over a day behind. Another story for another day.)
  • Southern Open, circa 1988. I was the manager in charge of about 12 players from the Resident Training Program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as we prepared to fly to the Southern Open. I had all the tickets. Something came up, and I had to make a phone call right after we arrived at the airport, and used a payphone. (No cell phones back then.) Then we went to United to get our boarding passes. But all of our tickets were gone! I had been holding them, but somehow they had just disappeared! Then I realized what had happened. I practically sprinted back to the payphone - and sure enough, I'd left all the tickets just lying there. Someone was using the phone, but I just reached past him and grabbed the tickets. None of the players I was traveling with ever knew about this - SHHHHH!

How to Play Great Table Tennis in Your 50s
Here's the article and podcast (8:15).

How To Hold the Racket
Here's the four-part series from EmRatThich Table Tennis Coach. I believe I've previously linked to the first three parts. I have not had time to watch them all, but he seems to know what he's talking about.

In Memory of Richard Lee Butler
Here's the USATT obit of the Hall of Famer.

Table Tennis Needs to Follow Chinese Model: Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Here's the interview from the India Times, following Ovtcharov winning the India Open this past weekend. He talks about using multiple balls (including one with less spin), the Chinese Super League, his training regimen (and maintaining it as you age), meditation, and fatherhood.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 22! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com, as well as Volume 19!

Table Tennis Equipment Junkies, Here You Go!
Here's EquipmentJunkie.com. It's been out there a while, a site that reviews essentially every TT item. (But remember, if you are an EJ, you have a disease. It can be controlled but never cured. You are the backbone of the equipment industry, without which it would collapse!)

World's Fastest Serve
Here's the video (19 sec) as Adam Bobrow attempts to return the serve of Asuka Sakai. And unlike previous videos I've seen of this kid doing this serve, this time he tosses the ball up six inches, so it's legal! (How good is Sakai? He upset Samsonov at the India Open!)

My New Shirt!
Here's the shirt I just received in the mail. It's an early birthday present to myself - I turn 57 next Monday. I showed it off at the club last night. The kids thought it was hilarious. It became an English lesson for our newest coach, Coach Wu, who is learning English. Helped by an 8-year-old, he was able to sound out the words and figure out the meaning.

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