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Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Time to Shine

MacPherson about to pounce on his young and inexperienced opponent.

I've had 24 hours to reflect on my appearance at Paul Anthony's Talent Time (held monthly at the Biltmore Hotel). Here's the deal: Paul brought out a 13-year-old wunderkind by the name of Natasha Carr-Harris, a local table tennis whiz who came back from the US Open Championships in Milwaukee a winner. She put on a little exhibition with her coach, wowing the crowd with her Ping-Pong chops.

Carr-Harris displaying her virtuosic table tennis prowess against her coach.

Then I was brought on to give the young champ a game. Ken Lawson played my coach and hit some balls to me, one of which landed on the table. But I didn't need no stinkin' warm-up! This was a 13-year-old girl! I play against grown-ups.

Anthony does the pre-interview with me.

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.

Coach Lawson confidant in my abilities; Anthony holding up my prized trophy.

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.

The game is afoot. Is that fear in the teen's eyes?

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!

Carr-Harris looking dazed and confused at what just came her way.

I gave her all I had.

I try to smash one by her, as Lawson cowers for his life.

When my smashes failed to get by her, I threw lobs at her so she'd lose the ball in the glaring television lights.

Where's the ball? Caught in the lights, that's where.

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.

A disgusted Coach Lawson listens to my pathetic excuses.

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:
  1. I had a beer before the game and I'm pretty sure she was clean and sober.
  2. She had a good long warm-up with her coach while I didn't.
  3. I wasn't wearing my glasses.
  4. She did all her fancy spins.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. Come on, everyone knows a real competition is a best-of-3 or best-of-5 sets. I was just warming up!
Okay, not so much good excuses, but excuses nonetheless. It was overall a fun night. I just wish I could have given her a better game. Natasha is a very charming young lady and quite the over-achiever. I think I might go to her coach for lessons.

The photo above and the ones following were all taken by Patrick Shannon. Visit his website here.

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