It’s always nice when somebody famous visits a table tennis club. I’ve been present for at least three visits from Olympic athletes. It’s a big deal for a club to have a professional drop in. We make a fuss, take pictures, get a few pointers, and generally have a great time. Once these VIP’s are back on the street, they return to a life of near anonymity. Very few table tennis players are hounded by the paparazzi. Occasionally, a celebrity from some other walk of life decides to take up table tennis. Let the backup catcher for the Florida Marlins, or the guy from the reality show that was cancelled after two episodes show up, then we’ll really get excited.
I think we all have a conflicted relationship with fame. Philosophically, I want to believe that no one is more important than anyone else. But emotionally, I still get excited thinking about chance encounters I’ve had with Julius Erving, Halle Berry, and one of the drummers for the Allman Brothers. Fame was really on display at the Academy Awards. Most of us can’t get away with having names like Lady Gaga or Spike Lee. Spike’s actual name is Shelton, and Lady Gaga’s is Stefani. With names like Shelton and Stefani, they might have found office jobs, and played table tennis once a week. If table tennis is ever going to make it big, we’re going to need a few scandals, and an award show that competes with the Oscars. Inevitably, the scandals will come, once we’re famous enough for anyone to care, so let’s start with an awards show. All good award shows have to begin with presentations to people no one has ever heard of, doing jobs no one appreciates. Here’s where we can have awards like “Best Scorekeeper in a Match That They Wish They Were Actually Playing In.” Rarely are the losers in the semifinals recognized for their ability to flip numbers on a scoreboard for the benefit of the player who just beat them. Awards for editing and choreography of training videos would feature thirty minute videos where no one ever misses a shot. Costume design awards would include tightest, and shortest shorts. A special award would go to best track suit worn by a non participant in a tournament.
It’s possible that table tennis will always fly under the radar. We’ll never be rich, famous, and thought of as the beautiful people. We don’t know how lucky we are.
The highest form of vanity is love of fame – George Santayana