Specter Spectacular

November 1, 2013

Another Oriole Takes Lessons

Okay, cat's out of the bag (or Oriole is out of the nest?), since most of the local table tennis juniors now know. The Baltimore Oriole baseball player I blogged about yesterday that I'm coaching is Darren O'Day, the 6'4" submarining $3.2 million/year relief pitcher with a lifetime 20-9 record and 2.62 ERA. Last year in 68 games he had a 2.18 ERA, the best of the O's relief pitchers. I hit with him some in August. I'm coaching him later today; afterwards he's hitting with our local kids, who are out of school today (some teachers meeting) and so doing a one-day training session (10AM-6PM).

I did find it interesting how fast these Oriole players pick up the sport. As noted yesterday, of the 25 Orioles, about half are at least 1200, the result of non-stop competitive play in their clubhouse. Surprisingly, most have decent technique - they copied much of it from JJ Hardy and Brady Anderson, who play 1800+ level. The lefty Brady actually has the best technique, running around attacking with his forehand, and not a bad backhand either. JJ has a nice counter-hitting game, but tends to point his racket up when he strokes - but it gives him an excellent blocking game, and he can smash as well, along with a surprisingly spinny forehand pendulum serve, made even more effective because he does it from his forehand side, which almost nobody does in "real" table tennis - except me, who does it in close matches as a variation. (Why don't you?)

Scream Halloween

In a class I taught yesterday just before the kids left to go trick-or-treating I did a nasty trick. I hid my Scream mask in the restroom before the class began. About ten minutes before class ended I asked my assistant coach, John Hsu, to talk to the kids about how to create spin on serves, and arranged that he'd be facing the restrooms as he did so, so the kids would have their backs that way. Then I went to the restroom, put on the mask, and quietly sneaked up on them. Then, staying silent, I leaped in front of them. There was quite a bit of screaming! Then I went after Coach John, "choking him to death" right in front of the kids. (John knew - it was pre-arranged.) Then I chased several of the kids around the table, still silent. Finally I put a Gatorade bottle on the table and motioned for them to go to the far side. We spent the last five minutes with me feeding multiball in the mask while they tried to hit the bottle of "worm juice." When they did, I had to jam the bottle up under the mask to drink it, always looking back and forth sharply between the bottle and the kid who hit it. Then I'd go right up to the kid and stare at him from one inch away. At the end, I went back to the restroom, removed the mask, and returned and said, "Did I miss anything?"

Table Tennis the Brain Sport

Here's an essay by Daniel G. Amen, MD, on the greatness of table tennis as a brain sport.

Four-Table Tennis

Cape Fear Table Tennis Club in Fayetteville, NC, is running the first four-table tennis tournament in the U.S. What's "four table"? It's table tennis played with four tables! Here's video (7:06). And here's their home page with info on the tournament.

Around the Net Shot

Here's video (38 sec) of Puerto Rican cadet star Adriana Diaz doing an around-the-net roll-on-the-table shot at the 2013 World Cadet Challenge.

16 Table Tennis World Records

Here they are!

Table Tennis Animation Project

Here is Sneak Peak of a Demo/Test raw footage (1:44) of a table tennis animation work in progress by Mike Mezyan. Can't wait to see the final version!

Queen Latifah vs. Granny Franny

Here's the story and video (51 sec).

Superhero Bee Pong

Look! Up at the Table! It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No - it's . . . a large bumblebee playing table tennis? I think that's what it is, not sure. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Non-Table Tennis - "The Best Things About Halloween"

Last year I had a story, "The Haunts of Albert Einstein," published in the anthology Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales. ("Poor Albert Einstein is destined to haunt his old offices in Princeton for eternity, surrounded by the ghosts of bickering physicists who simply will not shut up, and the relentless paparazzi. What can he do to save himself from this fate?") The editors asked the authors to recount their favorite memories of past Halloweens. They just put up three of them, including mine - here they are! Mine's about getting caught up in a Halloween prank, and hiding late at night behind a bush in a Tyrannosaurus Rex costume as a drunk, angry man stood on the other side trying to find me.

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September 25, 2012

Coaching Decisions

Here's a tough decision I've got to make - and it's a good decision to have to make. I have a new student, a 7-year-old girl. She has one of those rare combinations of talent, physical ability, and mental focus. She's been playing about two months and already has nice strokes, can even forehand loop backspin with surprising power. (Yes, one month after starting, this 7-year-old is already looping.) Should I go the "normal" route and have her focus on hitting against topspin until she's bigger? Or should I have her loop the forehand against everything right from the start, since she seems to do this naturally? She's too small right now to really be successful trying to loop over and over - her hitting peers would hit her off the table. But imagine where she might be in two years. And since she's picking things up so fast, how soon should I have her spin the backhand as well? (It's tough spinning the backhand until you are taller.) Decisions, decisions . . . but I think she'll almost set the course. If she can loop over and over, then that's what I'll have her do. 

She was using a rather slow blade and sponge, but in our last session she tried out my blade - a fast carbon racket with hyper-tension sponge for looping - and fell in love with it. I was of course skeptical, thinking it was obviously too fast for her, but she was noticeably better with it, could rally faster and more consistently, and loop with great spin. (Yes, great spin at age 7.) After discussing it with her dad, we're likely going to get her the same or similar setup. Many coaches would be against this, and so would I normally, until I saw how well she played with my racket, and especially the way her eyes lit up while doing so.

2013 National Team Trials Host City Bid

Want your club or city to host the 2013 USA National Team Trials, to be held Feb. 7-10? Here's the bidding info! Good luck to you.

Want to Be the Voice of Table Tennis?

The ITTF is running a contest to select a table tennis commentator for the 2013 World Table Tennis Championships in Paris. You can be the winner - if you enter! As the ITTF page asks:

  • Do you love Table Tennis?
  • Have you always wanted to be a commentator? 
  • Have you got the knowledge and insight to engage our viewers? 
  • Does travelling to the biggest events all over the world sound brilliant? 
  • If the answer is a resounding YES, then we want to hear from you

The Anti-Plastic Ball Petition

Here's an article against the upcoming introduction of plastic balls in place of celluloid balls, by former about.com table tennis moderator and Australian player Greg Letts. It includes a link to a petition. (I've been trying to get hold of one of the new plastic balls to try out, but haven't been successful.)

Photos from the 2012 World Women's Cup

Here are 21 photos from the Women's World Cup. The first one is of the very nice outside decorations, including two giant paddles. USA's Ariel Hsing is photo #16. (Is that a black power salute in photo 13?)

Paralympic Graphic

Here's a nice photo collage for the 2012 Table Tennis Paralympics.

Oakland Raiders Game Ball

Here's a picture of the game ball the Oakland Raiders gave to the 2012 London Olympians (or at least to ones in attendance at the Sept. 23 game, where they beat the Steelers), including USA Table Tennis Olympian Lily Zhang.

Ping London 2012 Promotional Video

This is a very nice table tennis promotional video (2:04). It's a bit different than the usual ones. And now that whistling tune is going to be in my head all day.

Non-Table Tennis - Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales

The horror anthology Specter Spectacular was released today, with 13 ghost stories. I said horror anthology, right? Actually, 12 are presumably horror, while one is a humorous ghost story - my story, "The Haunts of Albert Einstein"! "Poor Albert Einstein is destined to haunt his old offices in Princeton for eternity, surrounded by the ghosts of bickering physicists who simply will not shut up, and the relentless paparazzi. What can he do to save himself from this fate?"


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