A grass seed salesman I know went head to head with the power of ping pong and lived to tell about it. Table tennis has been known by a variety of names including gossima, flim-flam, and ping pong. Experts believe that the game was created in England during the late 1800's. Early versions of the game used balls made of cork on table tops.
The International Table Tennis Federation was formed in 1926. It soon became a favorite in many nations and led to the dominance of the game by nations like Japan and China.
Ping pong was the reason for the first entrance of any American sports organizations into the Chinese mainland after the communist takeover in 1949. In 1971, the American Ping Pong Team was in Japan for the 31rst World Table Tennis Championship. While they were there, they received a surprise invite from China to play. It initiated “Ping Pong Diplomacy” with the massive communist nation in the thick of the Cold War.
Ping pong has a history of breaking down barriers.
A grass seed salesman from Wisconsin who I will call Wild Bill for the purpose of this article has been a life long player of ping pong. He recently told me about the wildest game he has ever played which also broke down a barrier. More specifically, it broke down a piece of drywall the size of his head.
Wild Bill traveled to Alabama for a sales meeting. When the meeting was over, he noticed a ping pong table in an entertainment area of the resort. He met an individual from California, and they struck up a game. The Californian had no idea that Wild Bill had been playing ping pong since he was a small child, that he had gone undefeated at church camp 40 years prior, that he had a stellar record in college, or that he had dominated his own children in the garage for the majority of their short lives.
The game rapidly became a heated contest. At a crucial point in the game, the Californian smashed the ball toward the left corner of the table. As Wild Bill recalls it, “I went horizontal, stretched out, planning a miraculous return. That's when the wall came out of nowhere. When my head hit the wall, there was quite a thud. Everyone in the room stopped. I was actually stuck in the wall for a moment. I pulled my head out of the drywall. Dust was swirling around my head. I stood up and looked at the little circle in the wall where my head had been. Someone asked if I was okay. I said, 'Hell, yes, I'm fine—I missed the stud.' Someone started laughing. Then everyone started laughing. I was a little befuddled after that and wound up losing 21-16. I think my opponent's name was Harold.'”
Wild Bill doesn't think there was any “residual damage.” He says he was “a little dizzy when I pulled my head out of the wall. It's just a good thing I missed the stud.”
I think we can all be thankful for that.