Response to “Shut Up and Just Play”

Guest blogger today is Sean O’Connell. Sean is the founder of Athens Georgia Table Tennis. He recently responded to an article by Samson Dubina concerning when to call for an umpire in a tournament. Samson’s article has good practical advice, while Sean addresses the bigger picture.
Read Shut Up and Just Play by Samson Dubina
Before I go sounding like a troll, I appreciate all of the amazing content Dubina provides and he does this sport a GREAT service with everything he does and has done through his writing, coaching, and performance over the years. I understand that I’m “missing the point” a bit, because this article is probably meant to be more about not overwhelming a tournament with requests for an umpire. However, the thinking explained in this post is part of why table tennis detractors mockingly call it ping pong. Sports need match officials and standards of play, whereas basement games allow more wiggle room to avoid hurt feelings.
Table tennis athletes should stand a few more inches off the table or make that toss a slight bit higher if one truly believes that no advantage is gained, so why does the onus lie on the receiver to accept the ill-gotten advantage of their opponent? The article states that the server gains no advantage by employing those tactics described above, but it’s very easy to explain why these rules exist and why the server gets an unfair advantage with these tactics. Even if it’s a small advantage at higher levels, it’s an unfair advantage gained by someone who is not following the laws of service in table tennis. Lowering the ball beneath table height before the toss makes it harder to read the toss and track the ball through its flight. Short tosses and tosses over the table make it arrive on the receiver’s side that much sooner. We did not all play this sport when hidden serves were the norm and it can be a significant factor at the amateur level.
When paying $50+ dollars for 1.5 hours of sporting activity, we should not have to walk on eggshells politely policing our opponent. There needs to be a system to encourage more umpires and we should embrace the power of the umpire and match officials to provide a fair playing experience. I think we pay good money to play in these tournaments and the experience should be as fair as possible. Can you be a little over the white line when doing free throws in basketball?, nope. Can you stand on the white line when serving the ball in tennis?, nope. In soccer, do we let the team start the kick off on the opposing team’s half by a foot or two, or do we place the ball precisely in the middle of the field? I think you get my point.
Standards matter when playing a sport competitively and table tennis should not neglect this responsibility. I will never condone someone being a cheater by dressing my critique up with excessive niceties when I’m playing any opponent over a USATT 1200 level. The laws are easy to follow.

2 Replies to “Response to “Shut Up and Just Play””

  1. It would also be much nicer to have umpires keeping score, calling edges, and generally allowing the players to focus 100% on play. I’m told every other country has competitors who are waiting their turn umpire matches. Why don’t we do that here?

  2. I’ve played a very matches where my opponent will call a let, seemingly for no other reason because a ball from another table enters his view. Of course I can not recall a time they call let when they actually scored.

    The most ridiculous let someone called on me once is a claim the ball hit a little drop of water or sweat on his side of the table. It was on match point too.

    But overall the table tennis community is one of the most good sportsmanship sports I’ve played.

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