January 24, 2018

Not a Game for Boys
I just finished reading "Not a Game for Boys," a table tennis play by Simon Block that came out in 1995, and published as a play last year (86 pages, though Amazon incorrectly has it at 104). Here's the book description from Amazon and the back cover:

"Once a week, three cabbies seek respite from their lives in a local table tennis league, and tonight they must win, or face the unthinkable oblivion of relegation. Deeper rivalries and competitive obsessions emerge as the team try to survive the pressure, but the real game takes place anywhere but at the table."

The play has only three characters:

  • Eric, the blocker, who desperately wants to win so they can avoid being relegated to the second division.
  • Oscar, the pusher, who thinks they are getting too old to compete in the first division and thinks going into the second division would be good for them.
  • Tony, the hitter, easily the best of the three, who can be relied on to win all three matches - but he's facing marital problems.

The entire play takes place at the sidelines of the league match, usually with two of the players talking while the other is out playing, and out of sight (offstage). Warning - the language is extremely profane and explicit; I doubt if there is a page in the thing without the "F" word and pretty much every other offensive word. The cabbies are also rather sexist in how they treat a woman on the opposing team. If SafeSport were in use, Eric would get suspended for both verbal and physical sexual harassment. If it were a movie it would be rated R.

The fireworks start when Tony shows up late, getting there just in time to play the third match, because he's been cheating on his wife. Right after arriving, he gets a call from his wife, who has somehow found out, and is leaving him if he doesn't come home immediately. But if he leaves, their team has little chance to win. Things get even more dire when Oscar decides to dump his matches, and loses the first two by wildly hitting instead of playing his normal patient game.

Oscar is a bit depressed as a member of the club, an overweight player in his 40s, had recently died of a heart attack while playing at the club. He'd gone to the funeral the day before and saw that they'd buried him in his table tennis playing clothes, which he thought was embarrassing, and swore that that would never happen to him - getting buried in his playing clothes or even dying in his playing clothes. He's lost most enthusiasm for playing. He probably has the best prophetic line in the play, near the end: "This game is full of maniacs."

Eric is your stereotypical obsessed ping-pong player, who single-mindedly only thinks about winning - it's all he cares about, and he literally cannot fathom why Oscar doesn't really want to win, or why Tony won't immediately agree to play his three matches before going home. Eric also has a ready excuse any time he loses. Many readers here will recognize part of themselves in Eric. However, there are times in the play when he pulls back from his single-mindedness as he tries to advise Tony on what to do about his marriage.

One somewhat disappointing thing - minor SPOILER ALERT - came when, early on, while getting his playing clothes, shoes, and racket out of his playing bag, Oscar pulls a gun out of the playing bag, and puts it on the ping-pong table. One of the unwritten rules of writing fiction is that, "If you put a gun on the table, you have to use it." The gun is a metaphor for any dangerous weapon, and here he literally puts a gun on a table - and author Block is obviously playing around with this rule. However, we also learn the gun is unloaded, and when Oscar is finally provoked to threaten someone with it near the end, there's no tension since not only is it unloaded, but the person threatened knows this. If I'd written this play, I might have finished with a bigger "bang"!

Istvan Jonyer and Others at the 2018 World Veterans Championships in Las Vegas
Here's the article I wrote as a USATT news item. I adapted it from my blog from last Friday.

Larry's Six-Month Law
Yesterday I mentioned this in regard to one of my students, Todd, but didn't actually link to the Tip of the Week where I wrote about this. (I added the link in the afternoon.) Here it is - Larry's Six-Month Law! It roughly says (and explains why) when you play well in practice, it'll often take six months before it'll show up in tournament matches.

TTServe: the New Serving Bar
Samson Dubina's invented a new serving bar, the TTServe. Here's a video (1:48). We have a serving bar at MDTTC (made by John Olsen), which has eight settings - here's a high one and a low one. But Samson's is commercially available, so get one for your club!

1 Hour Table Tennis Training in 5 mins
Here's the article and video (5:12) from Table Tennis Guy.

Feng Leaves Strong Impression in Austrian League Appearance
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington, featuring Yijun "Tom" Feng.

Destination Westchester: Inaugural Championships for Players with Parkinson’s
Here's the ITTF article on the event to be held at the Westchester TTC in New York on Feb. 17.

How Ping-Pong Annually Impacts the NFL playoffs
Here's the article from the Washington Post. (I thought I'd linked to this previously, but apparently not.)

Highlights Video
Here's a highlights video (6:46) with lots of incredible points, from All About Table Tennis.

Raining Ping-Pong Balls?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Tennis or Table Tennis?
Here's the cartoon!

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