Between coaching sessions today I took a moment to get outside and check the mail. Now that I’ve retired from regular work, looking in the mailbox has become one of the highlights of the day. One of the benefits of coaching is that not only do I order equipment for myself, I also order for some of my students. There are also supplies for coaching that have to be ordered periodically. At least once a week I can look forward to a delivery and can track it’s every move as it makes it’s way across the country, or even from such exotic locations as Australia or Estonia.
I was not expecting anything today, but decided to stick to my routine, even if it only meant sorting out bills and junk mail. What greeted me was the table tennis players’ version of the Sears Christmas Wish Book. The Summer/Fall edition of The Paddle Palace Catalog had arrived. The folks at this Portland based company do make a good attempt at giving some guidance to their customers. Several pages are devoted to how best to choose a blade, rubber, and everything you will need to take care of them. They also sell clothes, tables, and pretty much all things related to table tennis.
Even with some direction, catalogs like these are overwhelming. The catalog is 138 pages long. There are hundreds of blades and hundreds of rubber sheets. Is it possible to make sense of this? I decided to try. Clearly the best way to choose a racket was to go with the best names. Sure, I could look at the speed ratings, weight, and the class, but perhaps this was all smoke and mirrors. If I use the Paddle Palace guidelines I’m likely to end up with a defensive blade that weighs about 85 grams. It will have long pips on one side and a tacky defensive rubber on the other, in other words, a paddle just like what I’ve already got.
Alphabetically, the first blade I look at is the Stiga Active blade. This does little to excite me, although it sounds better than the next choice, The Allround Classic. These are some pretty boring names. Glancing ahead, I see Andro makes a blade called Defcon. Now we’re getting closer to what I’m looking for. I’m ruling out any blades and rubber that have names that are just letters and numbers, like the Double Happiness TG7-P. I also don’t like made up words like Carbonado. Finally, I’ve narrowed my blade choice down to two possibilities from Tibhar. I am drawn to an offensive blade called Tibhar Curious. This seems to have a kind of European sexuality connected to it. I also like the Tibhar Furious blade. The Furious is only an offensive minus blade, which seems incongruent. Shouldn’t the Furious be faster than the Curious? I chalk this up to false advertising and go with the Curious blade, which sells for a mere $57.95.
For my first racket covering I decide to check out Tibhar again. Unfortunately the names for their rubber are not just unacceptable, they are dreadful. Who thought naming a rubber Nimbus was a good idea? If that wasn’t bad enough they also sell a rubber sheet called Sinus. As bad as these are, they also sell a version of Sinus called Sinus Sound. That can’t be good. I refuse to ruin my new sexy blade with Nimbus or Sinus, no matter how great their speed glue effect. The other companies do produce some interesting possibilities. Viper, Monster, Killer, Tornado, Hurricane, Domination, Leopard, Pistol, Goliath, Rising Dragon, and Radical are all up for consideration. Finally I settle on two sheets that reflect my conflicted personality issues. I go with Stiga Genesis for my forehand, but can’t resist going with the ultra-Freudian Baracuda Big Slam for the backhand. Apparantly, sex does sell.
As it turns out this might not be too bad of a paddle for less than $150.00. It certainly could be as good a choice for an offensive setup as anything else. I don’t necessarily recommend this method for choosing a paddle, but given that there are literally millions of choices, one has to wonder what method would work?