I do love to play. And in fact, in the one year I lived in a house with a table in the basement, I held a tournament, dubbing it Ping-Pong-Palooza. Fourteen players vied for top prize; only one came away the winner. Me. I made sure to bring my hard-won trophy to the Biltmore to establish my bona fides. And lest you think I invited patsies to my tournament, I made sure I saw each player play once before they were allowed in the competition. I didn't want any weak links. Many good friends asked to play and I had to tell them it was an invitational and their skillz were simply not mad enough.
All this to say I wasn't some palooka who was going to take the fall for comedic effect. I was going to give this young lady a game. And to her credit, she told me before our match that she didn't want me to let her win. As if.
I play a little gamesmanship with Carr-Harris. I rightfully won the serve but, being the savvy vet that I am, knew I could allow her first service and I could choose the end. She'd never expect such a brazen opening gambit. So I took her side of the table. Yes, you guessed it, the very side she had warmed up on! This would completely throw her for a loop!
When my smashes failed to get by her, I threw lobs at her so she'd lose the ball in the glaring television lights.
I proceeded to lose 11-0 to Natasha.
All fun and games. She was supposed to win. I was the stooge. I was asked to play her after Anthony discovered I was a Ping-Pong enthusiast. He thought it would be funny to have me, an old geezer, trying to play against this young US Open champ. So did I. I thought it would be poor form to beat her since she was the star. I also realized there was very little chance of that happening.
And yet... And yet I really thought maybe there was an outside chance I could do it. And at the very least get in some good rallies. Make a game of it. Yes, I was that delusional. Not only did she clean my clock to the tune of 11-0, but there wasn't even one decent rally in the whole game. Zip. Nada. I felt bad for the people. If I were in the crowd watching that kind of pathetic display, I would have thought I could do better than that. I still believe I could have done better than that. But I didn't.
Now, in my defense, I've got lots of good excuses:
- I had a beer before the game and I'm pretty sure she was clean and sober.
- She had a good long warm-up with her coach while I didn't.
- I wasn't wearing my glasses.
- She did all her fancy spins.
- If I were up, say, 8-0 in a game to 11, I would ease up a bit, maybe engage my opponent by geting in a rally. But she did no such thing!
- I'm old-school. I much prefer the 21-point games, where players alternate taking five serves apiece. I can come back from 8-0 in a game to 21; it's very hard to do in a game to 11.
- Come on, everyone knows a real competition is a best-of-3 or best-of-5 sets. I was just warming up!
The photo above and the ones following were all taken by Patrick Shannon. Visit his website here.