I play well against the moribund, the sclerotic, the prepubertal and just about all the cachexic gomers I meet.  But I don’t do so hot against people who can actually hit the ball back to me with some consistency.   Between you and me, I try not to play anyone in the latter group anymore  because it’s … well, it’s not good for my ego.  I usually tell these guys I’m tired and devoid of energy.  But when an 8 year old asks me to play, I jump with a renewed snappy exuberance.  Ya know why?  Because  I can still kill these kids. A few reverse pendulum serves, and they’re totally disoriented and ping pong dysfunctional  – a notch on my paddle for the “kill.”  Maybe I should feel ashamed – I mean it’s like mugging a defenseless octogenarian on a deserted lower east side street at 11 at night  – but it’s a WIN, and I need that.  (Ah, I’ll give the kids some candy later.)  

      There’s a ping pong lesson for all of us in this (believe it or not).  And it’s this:  If you keep the ball in play against beginning and intermediate players, you’re probably gonna win and be able to write a good story of your incredible prowess in your diary.  (It’ll warm the cockles of your heart when you review  it down the road during your  dottage.)  Just be patient and content with getting the ball over the net 4 or 5 times and let the shnook on the other side of the table be the impulsive one.  Let him imprudently try to whack a short, low ball with backspin when he’ll probably only make the shot one in ten times.  And he’ll try the same thing over and over and over again, because he has no self-restraint or understanding of how foolish it is to pursue that mindless strategy.  (Inwardly, you can have a lot of fun feeling contempt and disdain for this unworthy opponent.  Caution:  Remember not to curl your lips in “total” disdain, because one of these lunkheads may be carrying.)

     Finally, remember what Bruce Lee said, this will also improve your ping pong.  To thine own self be true, he said.  Wait, wait.  Maybe that was Shakespeare.  Recently  I’ve been getting ‘em confused.  Hold on, now I remember.  Bruce Lee said Become like the water, my friend. Something like that.  Wait, wait – maybe that was Shakespeare.  Ah, I guess it really doesn’t matter, because I don’t have any idea what it means.  Only this:  Win or lose, what’s the real difference anyway (especially to a crotchety and doddering old fool).  It’s only a game.  (Or is it?)   Lao Du