Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Ping Pong

So usually my posts are about something related to instructional technology, or something about my book, but today’s post is just rambling.

I saw my good friend of mine over the weekend at a wedding. I went up and greeted him.

“I’m going to whop you at Ping Pong, Eric.”

He responded to my heart felt salutation with a similar reply.

“You wish, Jensen. You couldn’t whop my house plant.”

I first met Eric when he was a little smaller. I was single at the time, and interested in meeting his older sister. When he found out I knew the basic rules to ping pong, he challenged me to a game on their new ping pong table. When I agreed, he began to issue bold statements.

“I’m going to kick your tail. I’m the best there is at Ping Pong. Prepare to be humiliated.”

Now I wasn’t that good at ping pong, and wondered how bad I was going to get beat. He was probably only about 14 or so, but based on what he was saying, he seemed incredibly confident.

We set up the table, started playing, and it quickly became clear that his claims were a bit far-fetched. I ended up beating him about 21 to 3. This didn’t surprise me because I was a good 7 years older. What did surprise me was his reply after I beat him.

“I’m just getting warmed up. You are going down the next round.”

We played probably 10 games that first day. I consistently beat him, over and over and over again. 21-4, 21-7, 21-1, 21-2. And no matter what the outcome, the next game was always going to be his. The next game, he was going to drive me into the ground and humiliate me. Even during the game, while being trounced upon, he would say things like, “You’re the worst player I’ve ever seen! You swing like my grandma!” It wasn’t until about the 5th game or so that I realized this trash talk was the most enjoyable part of the game. I began to return as good as I got.

“It’s ok Eric, maybe you will play better when your voice changes.”

Eric never lost his confidence. It was inspiring. He never once dropped his shoulders and said, “I guess I’m not as good as I thought.” The worse I beat him, the more bold his claims became.

“It’s a good thing I hurt my shoulder last night or you would be crying like my baby sister.”

Over time, Eric became a good ping pong player. The games that were so fun because of the trash talking suddenly became fun because of the trash talking, and the fact that he won half the time (though I would never admit to that, of course).

The trash talking carried past the games. We bragged at church, we bragged when he would come over to my house to play with my little brothers. I would go over and play 15 games with him, and people would come down to ask how it was going.

“Eric figured out which way to hold the paddle about 3 games ago, and scored his first point.”

“He’s lying, I’ve shut him out 4 times, and then we had to take a break while he went into the bathroom and cried.”

There was as much spin on the ball as there were about the games.

So last weekend, after the wedding, Eric shows up on my doorstep, paddle in hand, and challenges me to a game.

We played five games. It was an epic rematch. It was a very enjoyable 45 minutes. Eric hasn’t lost his touch. His trash talk was almost as good as his volley.

And for the record, he did score once.

In the second game.

But only because I was sneezing at the time.

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