The Kanji writing pictured on this shirt is a symbol for truth. At least I think it is. The t-shirt company that sold it to me says so. Apparently there are other symbols for truth that are more commonly used. There are some dangers associated with buying t-shirts with writing you really can’t read. I have been assured this is not an offensive symbol, but is likely incomplete, and rarely seen. Never the less, it makes a nice t-shirt for table tennis, and even if the symbol has no actual meaning, it has taken on meaning for me. If it doesn’t quite mean truth, perhaps half truth works. What better symbol for the year 2018 than one that may, or may not, actually mean truth.
In a world where people are accused of lying every day, half truth might not be that bad. Table tennis is full of half truths. Players and coaches don’t mean to be misleading, but they can easily be misunderstood. The ITTF is frequently accused of not telling the full story. Table tennis manufacturers may be the worst offenders, but people working in sales have never been known for being completely honest (See Perusing the Paddle Palace Catalog). Here are a few of my favorite table tennis half truths:
- “My actual rating is 1900, but I’m playing at a 2000 level.” I’ll give this type of thing two Pinocchios. There might be some truth to it, but the evidence is far too subjective to really be true.
- “Always keep a loose grip on your racket.” I’d have to rate this as mostly true, but it still earns one Pinocchio. Players should slightly tighten their grip as they are striking the ball. If they didn’t, there might be far more injuries from flying rackets.
- “Let’s use my ball. It’s better.” I have to give this one four Pinocchios. It’s not better. It’s just the one you are used to. This is often followed by, “It’s a Nittaku!” I like Nittaku balls, but if it’s a year old and worn down, it’s not necessarily better than a new Brand X ball.
- “You need to attack more.” I’ve got to give this three Pinocchios. Sometimes it’s true, but this is not the answer to every situation in table tennis. Be careful of saying this too often to defensive players. They may be contemplating some sort of attack on the next person that mentions it.
- “Matches will begin promptly at 1:00 pm.” This particular time is right after lunch. Normally, 1:00 pm at a tournament means your match will begin around 2:00 pm. Two Pinocchios!
- “I only play for the exercise.” Mostly false! If you’re actually keeping score, then it’s not just for fitness. Four Pinocchios!
- “This is a very fast blade but, it has great control. This is a high control blade with more than enough speed.” I’d like to see a paddle advertised honestly with something like, “This blade is so fast that you’ll never be able to keep the ball in play. You’d be a fool to buy anything this fast.” My guess is with this kind of marketing, players would still buy them. Two Pinocchios for all the equipment manufacturers.
- “If I could only return serves, my game would be fine.” It is probably not true, but coaches frequently hear this. If serve return is that bad, there are likely other problems as well. I’ll only give it one Pinocchio, since the players that say it usually believe it.
- “These changes are being made for the good of our sport.” This is a big one for the ITTF. It really doesn’t matter what change is made, this line covers pretty much everything. Surely they wouldn’t make changes that were bad for our sport. I’d have to give this at least one Pinocchio.
- “We are enforcing the rules, as they are written.” Here’s a situation where half truth is not good enough. If umpires look the other way about enforcing the laws of table tennis, it hurts the entire sport. One big Pinocchio!
Truth can be a tough thing to pin down. Clearly, everyone seems to have their own version of it. Thankfully, for all the half truths in table tennis, it’s still one of my favorite activities….. and that’s the truth.