Just Ping-Pong the Day Away

1999 > China

Watch Out! We’re playing Ping Pong here!

all day, every day, they are pinging and ponging around
The one and only dominators

The sun lazily drifted through the window, illuminating delicate puffs of
dust as the focused combatants swirled around the table. Quickly, they
darted from side to side in the pale light, never allowing their opponents
to achieve what they so hope for, and opening in their defense. Finally,
through pure skill and a little luck, a weakness appeared and instantly
through it, flew a little orange Ping-Pong ball, glowing brightly as it
passed into the sun’s rays.

Yes, this is China, and I am watching the national sport, Ping-Pong, or
table tennis. No, it is not on TV, though it is televised, and no, I’m not
in a park, though every park has occupied tables all day long, I am at
work, and its the midday championships. Every day, starting at 11:30, we
have a two and a half hour lunch. Nominally, this is so those who come
into work at the painfully early hour of 8:30 am (definitely not me) can
take a nap, but its actually used by the Chinese staff to improve their
Ping-Pong skills.

Up here, in an old meeting room on the top floor of our work building,
is the scene of the most brutal action. After the staff works its way
upstairs, playing in the minor leagues on each floor of each building in
this compound, they attempt to hold their own against the ruling Ping-Pongers.
The action is quick, with that little orange ball getting one hell of a
beating as two person teams compete against each other amid foot stomping,
laughter, and howls of anguish.

I personally like my boss’s style. As he serves, he will stomp his foot
and yelp to try and psychologically distract his opponent. I would think
his eyesight, requiring glasses, would slow him down, but I underestimate
his skills. As far as I can tell, and I’m no expert, he is one of the best
here. On this day, he doesn’t have the best teammate and he is playing two
good opponents, but he still holds his own.

Watching this game, I realize why it is so popular here. Like
badminton, the other odd game Chinese are fanatical about, Ping-Pong
allows for aggression and brute force, but only when properly contained
and controlled. I imagine that with one billion people packed close
together, there really isn’t much room in China for raw power sports like
rugby and car racing. Every aspect of life here has to be aligned to keep
the entire country from flipping out.

Me, I’m OK at Ping-Pong, but I will never be good, for those very
reasons. I, as an American, am used to raw power sports, not that I
understand rugby or car racing, but I have a problem keeping from
launching that little orange ball into the stratosphere.