Open Mic: Is Ping Pong an Olympic Sport or an Offensive Asian Stereotype?

J. Michael MorrisSenior Analyst IJuly 30, 2008

Imagine if you were a sports writer.

No, I mean one that gets paid for assignments and has actual press credentials for the Beijing Olympics.

Now, imagine that horse's rectum of a boss you have at the local paper is asking you to cover ping pong. So, you get some shots from Dr. Jellyfinger for your passport and fly to China. At the hotel desk, you tell some "new, local friends" that you are covering ping pong.

Tomorrow you wake up to a concrete floor on your back, leather straps around your limbs, and repeated drops of water falling directly between your eyes.

"What went wrong," you think to yourself, fighting off the inevitable madness promulgated by three years of Chinese water torture in a turn of the century prison?

What went wrong, ding dong, was that you mocked the rich history and tradition of the Republic of China by referring to table tennis as ping pong.

Journalists from Pennsyltucky could be imprisoned right now?

This exact scenario might not actually happen. But why risk it? Call the sport by its proper name.

Table tennis has come a long way since its introduction as an overweight aristocrat's non-sweating alternative to lawn tennis in 1890s England. Yes, I said England, not China.

I saw Forrest Gump too, and for years made the same assumption. It is, after all, commonly referred to in America as ping pong.

Today, players compete for big money on par with UFC fighters. But, I would prefer getting punched in the face for a living, given the choice.

They wield specially developed rubber-coated wooden and carbon-fibre rackets that are as expensive as Taylor Made Drivers. Various rubber compounds and glues are applied on the rackets to impart greater spin or speed.

Table tennis has become the world's largest participation sport, with 40 million competitive players worldwide and countless millions playing recreationally.

Still, not one of these participants has ever seen a woman naked. I guess that's about when I gave up the game yesterday.

Originally it began with cigar-box lids for rackets and a carved champagne cork for a ball. It was beer-pong before beer.

The team to watch, however, is China. They are led by the legendary Guoliang Liu.

In his birth town of Xinxiang, from the early age of six, the young Guoliang managed his first forehand drive. He very quickly adopted the Chinese playing style known as “penhold” and rapidly mastered the basics of table tennis. In 1991, aged 15, his efforts began to pay off—he was selected for the Chinese national team. The rest, as they say, is boring, too.

So, in the great, mentally-challenged tradition of Jeffy from The Ringer:

GO FOR GOLD!

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