March 30, 2011

Seemiller vs. Malek 1979

Here's a Blast from the Past - the final of the 1979 USA Men's Singles Championships in Las Vegas, where Attila Malek upset Dan Seemiller. It's hard to believe it's been 32 years since this great match. The tape is 22:40 long. You can see how the game has changed, due to new techniques but even more so due to better technology. The sponge surfaces they use are far less bouncy than modern sponges; if a top player were given one of their rackets to hit with, they'd probably hit one ball and say, "What is this stuff?"

The biggest difference in play back then is probably backhand play. Note that both play their backhands pretty much flat in rallies. (Seemiller, of course, uses the "Seemiller" grip that's named after him, and so mostly jab-blocks the backhand.) Malek had a backhand loop, but seems to use it mostly against backspin. Part of this is because of the sponge they are using, and part of it is because the backhand loop simply wasn't considered as big a weapon in those days, and players weren't trained to use it in rallies as often, though that was changing rapidly in Europe.

They also have less power on forehand loops, though much of this is because of the slower sponges. Both loop from close to the table to make up for this, so opponents have little time to react.

My favorite quote: "Dan Seemiller not only looks like Jimmy Connors, he sounds like him." Both players are in great shape - players in those days did just as much physical training as modern players, though modern players know how to train better for table tennis, especially with weight training. Dan mentions he trains twice a day for about two hours.  Malek says he should practice eight hours a day, as he did in Hungary, but now "only" trains four hours a day.

Seemiller, who would win five USA Men's Singles titles and be the longtime USA Men's Coach, is now a full-time coach at the South Bend Table Tennis Club in Indiana. Malek, now a member of the board of directors for USA Table Tennis, is a full-time coach at the Power Pong Table Tennis Club in Huntington Beach, CA.

I recognize a few people in the often blurry background, such as Danny's brothers Ricky and Randy Seemiller (and I think father Ray Seemiller is sitting next to them), Perry Schwartzberg, D-J Lee, Eric Boggan and Brian Masters (both age 16), and that's Marty Reisman wearing the slanted hat and white (or is it pinkish?) shirt. The two Chinese ballgirls I believe are Diana and Lisa Gee, both about 9 years old and future USA Team members. Anyone recognize others, or know who the commentators are?

NA Championships

I'm off tomorrow to the North American Table Tennis Championships in Mississauga, Canada, near Toronto. Keith Evans is the USA Cadet Boys' Coach, but I'll be working with Tong Tong Gong, one of the members of the USA Cadet Boys' Team. Because I'm not the team coach, Keith will be coaching him and the other team members in the big team match against Canada (winner goes to the World Junior Championships) and in some singles matches, but at the least I'll be able to talk tactics with them between matches, and perhaps coach some of the singles matches. (Keith cannot coach against another USA player, so in singles I'll be coaching Tong Tong in those matches, unless he's playing another player from our club, MDTTC.) It is a protocol thing as I have to be clear that Keith IS the USA coach; I'm only helping out since I've worked with Tong Tong for quite some time. I know what it's like from the other perspective, to be the team coach and have other coaches come in wanting to coach specific players - I was the USA junior or cadet coach a number of times in the past, especially in the 1990s - so I have to be careful not to overstep my bounds.

Words quoted incorrectly

In a comment on my blog on Monday I wrote, "If you leave your long pips in the heat or play outdoors in the heat, and that changes it into frictionless long pips, then you have treated it with heat, thereby making it illegal." Note the three references to heat that I bolded, and where I specifically said it was the heat that was a treatment? Over in another forum, Olivier Mader wrote, "Sure, there are people like Larry Hodges who think that playing outdoors is treating but I believe that he would be in the minority with that view." Maybe I'm living in the clouds, but I just don't get people who will misquote someone like that. When you have to change someone's words to make a point, you've lost the argument while saying a lot about yourself.

If I were to say, "It's dangerous to go outside in freezing cold unless adequately dressed," would it be honest for someone to claim I said, "Larry Hodges says it's dangerous to go outside"? Of course not. It's lying by omission.

Another person wrote that I had said I was "skeptical of the pure long-pips blocking style." Actually, I wrote I was "somewhat skeptical of the long-pips blocking style." He took off the "somewhat" to (falsely) make a stronger point, and so instead of quoting me accurately, he only quoted me "somewhat" accurately. The fascinating thing is these people actually read my blog, and only saw the negative they wanted to see. When I invited them to make the case why I shouldn't be somewhat skeptical of that style, i.e. do something positive, where were they? (And watch how fast my words will now be misquoted or taken out of context! Some people simply cannot exist without enemies, real or imagined.)


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"If you leave your long pips in the heat or play outdoors in the heat, and that changes it into frictionless long pips, then you have treated it with heat, thereby making it illegal."

Based on your own quote and my understanding based on that would be that you would consider a rubber treated if it was played outdoors in the heat or just in the heat indoors.. So, if I'm understanding this correctly, I would be treating my rubber no matter if I was playing in my garage as the temperatures there reach 130 - 140 degrees in Summer or if I'd play outdoors where we are usually well into the 90's on a nice and sunny day.. So, unless I play at the clubs that is 1 hour away, I would be treating my rubbers just by using them in my garage or outdoors in my driveway as it is hot in Florida for most of the year... Of course, you can't really play indoors in 120+ degree temperatures.. That's unhealthy, so outdoors play is really the only option unless I could convince my wife to put the table tennis table in the living room and I doubt that this will happen.. With other words, I would have to stop playing at my house for most of the year in order not to not treat my rubber based on your definition as we do have heat for most of the year around here..

So, what about people in poor countries with hot climate where they usually don't have AC units.. They would be treating their rubbers any time that they play as they don't have AC..

Even on the ITTF website, they show such treaters at work in a Park in NYC..

In reply to by pushblocker

This is one of the most fascinating responses ever. So now you claim you are playing in a garage in 130-140 degrees? Okaaaaaaaay. By the way, I conversed with the chair of the ITTF Equipment Committee, and he sounded pretty doubtful that pure heat would do this to long pips, as opposed to actual light, such as sunlight or (drum roll please) a sun lamp. But there is one thing you are correct on - it's very difficult to test, and so those who cheat can get away with it, just as those who cheated with steroids got away with it for years.

As to your "understanding" of my quote, you changed what I wrote and attributed me saying something I had not said. That's lying by omission. If you want to inteprete what someone says, then quote them *accurately* and explain your interpetation, don't put your interepretation out there as if it were something I said when I didn't. That's dishonest.

By the way, I play table tennis in my garage. Since I'm the world's top distributor of rubber cements and bicycle glues, the basement is full of these glues, and they get into my rubber. I have no other place to play. So if I show up at a tournament with glue fumes coming out of my racket, it's not my fault. :)

In reply to by Larry Hodges

You didn't read my post correctly.. I said that I'm playing outdoors as it's too hot to play in  my garage.. I already previousely said that I checked some of the rubbers in my garage and they weren't much different than the ones out of the package.. Might be the UV rays when playing outdoors if it's not the heat..

"By the way, I play table tennis in my garage. Since I'm the world's top distributor of rubber cements and bicycle glues, the basement is full of these glues, and they get into my rubber. I have no other place to play. So if I show up at a tournament with glue fumes coming out of my racket, it's not my fault. :)"

If that would really be the case, you could verify if your rubber is legal or not by buying or renting a ENEZ or similar device..

No such device is available to test pips friction and furthermore, there really is no friction limit that applies to players as it only applies to manufactorers.. Again, I have run many times into players who played anti like inverted rubber, so it's not really a long pips phenomena..

In reply to by pushblocker

Actually, in the first half of your response you were talking about playing both indoors and outdoors, but I'll accept that you meant outdoors, since that's what you did say in the second half. Regardless, I don't believe playing outdoors, even in the sun, is going to turn your legal long pips into frictionless long pips. What do you do, keep them aimed up at the sun throughout the point? (You get very little energy if the sun's rays come at an more severe angle.) You do realize that if you keep the racket straight up and down, as you mostly do when you play, the pips will aim sideways, not up towards the sun. Or will you now claim that you play with the sun in your eyes, low in the sky, so the sun can bask directly on your long pips, during hour after hour of play in thereby maximizing the sun's energy on your poor, poor pips?

Sorry, I don't believe it. To make your long pips frictionless, you'd have to leave it outside to bake in the sun, or use the sun lamp that you admit you use to treat other people's long pips, just not your own, even though yours just happen to end up the same way, frictionless. Of course. And you don't seem to want to respond to the problem of your changing my words and then posting them as if I'd said something I hadn't said.

Now a really serious question. Since you claim it's from playing outdoors in the sun that must be causing your long pips to become frictionless . . . why aren't you heavily tanned? Do you wear a mask when you play to protect your face from these terrible sun rays? Heck, in the videos, your legs are whiter than mine, and that's saying something! Or do you play in the hot sun in long pants? How is it that the very sun that can burn into your long pips until they are frictionless hasn't done the same to your face, arms, and legs?

Here's an example of a tape that shows you close up - sorry, you are very untanned. How is this possible?

In reply to by Larry Hodges

I actually said " if I was playing in my garage" and not that I'm actually playing in my garage at those temperatures.. I also later said that it would be unealthy to play in 120+ degree temperatures indoors..

As for tanning, did you ever hear about sunblock??  I did have a skin cancer removed once before and I do not take any chances.. My dermatologist told me that for any longer outdoor activities, I do have to use heavy SPF (I use SPF 55).. If I wouldn't do that, I would be a frequent flier for skin cancer surgery.. The sun is pretty strong down here in Florida and anyone not using sunscreen for longer outdoor activities is a fool..

In reply to by pushblocker

If you are in the sun so much that it's able to burn into your long pips and make them frictionless, it's going to take more than sunblock to stop you from getting some tanning.  They are not perfect absorbers of UV radiation. (That's why they have SPF  numbers - to indicate the level of protection. There's no perfect protection. But congrats on taking steps to avoid skin damage.) And you haven't explained how you keep the sun's radiation flowing into your long pips when you play (even though it's hitting it at an angle, thereby losing most of its effect), or why you publicly misquoted me. I'll drop the misquoting issue now, but please don't do it again.

In reply to by Larry Hodges

SPF 55 means that it takes 55 times the time to tan/burn than without it.. This means that if I'm 55 minutes in the sun, I actually only burn like I spent one minute in the sun..  So, if I play 4 hours on a Weekend day using the SPF 55, it's like spending just over 4 minutes in the sun without sunblock. 4 minutes are really not enough to get tan...

In reply to by pushblocker

The problem is that with the sun hitting your paddle at an extreme angle, it's going to take a HUGE amount of hours to have a major effect. Remember, we're talking about sunlight coming down on your paddle at a rather extreme angle, unless you spend your playing time pointing your paddle into the sky for some reason. I just don't see how the sun can have such a major effect on it like that, unlike the handy sun lamp you say you have but don't use on your own tournament rubbers, though you do on others.

It's rather coincidental that you openly use a sun lamp to create and sell frictionless long pips, claim you don't use them yourself, but just happen to play outdoors in the sun all the time and so the sun supposedly also makes your long pips frictionless despite the angle it's coming down at, while of course not being out there long enough to get a tan, while denying that exposing your racket to direct sunlinght for long periods of time is treating the rubber in any way even though it apparently greatly affects its characteristics. Sorry, I just don't buy all this, or the whole "The sun did it!" supposed loophole to allow you to use frictionless long pips. But we're going nowhere on this, and I'm leaving for the North American Championships soon, so I'll drop this for now.

A little off topic perhaps, but another nice way to see how the game changed so radically from the 70s to the 90s is to watch the best of Waldner DVD set.  The footage of the matches between the early 80s and the early 90s is like watching two different games.

In reply to by david.bernstein

It's completely on topic, and you're right that watching Waldner is an excellent way to watch how the sport has evolved. The biggest difference is in backhand play, from flatter backhands like Waldner's and Persson's to the modern almost-everyone-backhand-loops-everything game. I may write an article on that.