Just to refresh your memories, in Part I we learned that some age-old original ping pong paddles used stretched vellum attached to a handle. This was, in fact, a primitive form of a sandpaper bat. It was also revealed that soon after life began in the sea, some restless ping pong-hungry prehistoric fish with limbs suitable for grasping objects, crawled out of the water onto a garbage landfill (which is now called Flushing), and after making their way to a dim sum restaurant (presumably, because why else would anyone go to Flushing?), they met up with some aboriginal types already playing ping pong underground (basement players). Together they chose sandpaper as the exclusive racket with which to play the game (because it afforded them the opportunity to have long rallies – duh!). Soon the sport prospered and spread inland, toward other dump sites, Jamaica and Elmhurst (also created atop garbage heaps), with sandpaper emerging there as the dominant paddle, as well, and where it remained number one for eons … until, that is, the ITTF came along. This event, the encroachment by this global interloping “Federation” backed by Fortune 500 paddle manufacturers, sounded the death bell for the simple, unadulterated, pristine and glorious game of ping pong. It was hastily renamed ‘table tennis’ and shortly thereafter lost its soul and it’s feasibility of ever being a TV sport (the rallies are short and the balls are hit so fast, you can’t even see them). Sandpaper had embodied the best of ping pong, and now its life force had been brutally extinguished – exactly as Nostradamus had predicted. Yes, Mr. N. had declared that darkness would rule once Satan forcibly changed the paddle rules. Alas.
Ah, well, the old game was gone and the new technology was in and labeled ‘official.’ The genie was out of the bottle, the ship had sailed and the toothpaste couldn’t be put back in the tube (Editor: pick one or all 3 of these cliches – your choice). Okay, Mr. Big Shot editor, in that case let me add, and the cat was outta the bag.
Let us now step back, regardless of how heartbroken you feel about the unfortunate ruination of ping pong, and review the middle historical period highlights relating to the evolutionary development of modern ping pong paraphernalia (excluding anti-spin and long pips, because we simply cannot cover every catastrophe and ITTF meltdown). We’ll begin this edition with Lucy. She made her first appearance on CBS TV in 1974, after lying in some ditch in Ethiopia for 3.2 million years.
A couple of paleoanthropologists saw an ulnar bone first (wrist bone), and then they perceptively saw that it was attached to an object that was most likely a vellum/sandpaper type racket (probably 80 grit). And next to that was found a fossilized squash ball that must have been used for ping pong (as the game of squash emerged only much later with the establishment of ivy league schools). A third object was a golf club – which has remained a mystery until now (see below).
And, sure, they found a lot of her – I mean a lot of pieces of bones – but it only came to 40 percent of a full skeleton, and yet they were claiming she was a woman based on less than half of her. Now, the scientists were so excited, jumping up and down and everything when they came upon her, and in the ensuing euphoria they may have even crushed a few bones, who knows. Maybe there was 45% before they began romping around. But one thing that they completely failed to understand – and by the way, full disclosure on my part, this is my speculation – that her family probably ATE the other 60 percent! Duh! My hypothesis is based on the fact that the racket, squash ball and golf club were left intact and in pristine condition … because they were inedible! (Now, why couldn’t these brilliant scholars with their advanced degrees figure that out, huh?)
Lucy, you should know, that despite her appealing name, did not look like Raquel Welch. The latter, you may recall, made that brilliant and unforgettable (unforgiveable?) film, One Million Years BC, where she is seen fighting dinosaurs in a very trendsetting bikini (groovy, man, you should get the movie poster). Anyway, Raquel would not have come upon Lucy in order to teach her how to swim – as she did in said movie – because Lucy was radiometrically dated (some kind of radio isotope decay technique) back to 3.2 million years ago, and the two were therefore not contemporaries. A similar technique using a form of argon decay (something like that), was utilized in estimating the age of the racket, the mashie-niblick and a piece of fossilized squash, the three objects that were found next to Lucy’s wrist bones – the racket being closest to where the heart would have been. From the close proximity of the racket came the logical hypothesis that Lucy loved ping pong more than golf. That was the consensus of most paleoanthropologists. One dissident voice, some wizard, made the point that since Lucy was rather small, she probably only played miniature golf. (I’m tellin’ ya, some of these guys with all of their PhD’s, don’t know shoot from shinola. I know exactly why Lucy had a mashie-niblick close by. It was to crown her husband in case he got out of hand. How do I know that? Experience, my friends, my ex-wife had one of those golf clubs, too. Of course, she used a 3 wood for extra loft. But she did also carry a mashie-niblick in her bag, just in case the shaft on the 3 wood broke.)
The original bones of Lucy were returned to Ethiopia, but her vellum/sandpaper racket was moved to Pleasantville where it currently lies in repose in the curio cabinet of the WTTC next to a cheap Parker Brothers Ping Pong set. Ethiopia has requested its return, and the State Department has ongoing diplomatic discussions about this. However, the current president has called that country a bad name (with an expletive) so it is unlikely that the WTTC will soon be departing with any of its tawdry bric-a-brac.
The next edition (Part III) will take you on a tour of the Spongezoic and the modern era. Stay tuned – same station. Lao Du