Monday, September 19, 2011

Ping Pong Shenanigans

For those of you who don't know me, I'm kind of a big deal in the ping pong world. I have a forehand that could slay a mountain goat, a serve that makes Greece's GDP drop 10%, and my backhand slice is pretty good too.

"He's just too righteous!"-Greece

With this in mind, I decided to try out for U of T's table tennis team.

Now, this may surprise you if you're not Canadian, but University of Toronto has a sizeable number of Asian students. And let's face it, without being bigoted, racist, or even stereotypical, I can say that Asians are good at ping pong. Really. Really. Good.

This just in, Greece has just gone bankrupt and exploded

So I'm understandably going into these tryouts with the knowledge that the odds are not in my favour. I've done intramural ping pong before, so I know that U of T has many, many skilled players. Nevertheless, I wanted to see how I compare, so I went.

When I got to the tryouts, I noticed two things. First, a lot of people showed up to try out, and they were all clustered at the balcony peering down to the table. Two, I was one of two white people. There was a brown guy, a black guy, and everyone else was Asian. This is the kind of situation that a childhood in central Missouri and southeast Denver does not prepare you for. As I stood on the balcony overlooking the table with all the other hopefuls, I couldn't hear a single English word. Everything around me was, to my best guess, Chinese. If you've never heard actual Chinese, for person raised solely on English it sounds vaguely similar to absolutely nothing remotely comprehensible.
Within the first five minutes of watching gameplay, I realized that Greece was going to find stable economic recovery 40 years before I ever have a chance at making the team. I watched people better than me fire off rallies with each other, only to be sent home. I only hoped that the novelty of my whiteness might make them keep me around for a little longer than I deserve.

My Caucasian counterpart, though not overweight and fairly tall, looked like he had all the athleticism of a three-legged daschund. I wondered if he had some secret crazy skill hidden beneath that exterior. But alas. When it was his turn, I watched as he struggled to return a single shot while he warmed up with the other 3 people in his group. Keep in mind, this is the warm up. Where you lightly hit the ball back and forth to get comfortable with your stroke and find your groove. And the poor guy couldn't even get spin. As the director took him aside after 2 minutes of warm up and told him to go home, I wondered where I could get some of whatever drug made him delusional enough to think he had a chance there.

My guess is the elusive herojuanacocaine mushrooms

So I finally get my turn to play, and as we warm up I'm delighted to find that I'm holding my own. I feel like everyone's already written me off after the guy before me struck out earlier, so I'm inspired to break stereotypes. They choose me and this other guy to play a quick game. I won't bore you with the details, but it was a titanic struggle in which at first I controlled play and took an early lead, but I started tightening up on my forehand and let him back into the match, eventually resulting in us playing past 11 until he finally got the better of me, winning 14-12.

It's ok Roger, I know how it feels

In the end though, our match meant nothing, because immediately afterward the director called us over and said "Basically guys, thanks for coming." So I put on my cowboy hat and walked off into the sunset, paddle in hand, forever changed for the better by the experience. I like to think they all were too.

It doesn't just feel good to change the world; it feels right

But I'm not finished. This October, Magnum Force, the intramural team that, as Tom Brokaw put it, "changed the game" and took the U of T table tennis scene by storm, returns this October. We hope, no, PLAN to avenge last year's 15th place finish with no holds barred, ping pong fury that will give every opponent a hard, measured kick to the hollow celluloid balls. Greece doesn't stand a chance.