Editor’s note: We have recently barred any publication of Lao Du’s usual flapdoodle and screwy hooey during the pandemic as a public service to PPP. However, he has strenuously insisted that he has to at least air one of his bellyaching beefs before the corona virus death toll reaches 100,000 because, otherwise, he insists his pretentious screeds would be viewed as “unseemly.” So, in order to mollify and calm him down somewhat (i.e., to shut the guy up), I have reluctantly allowed the following blog as a one time permit, although I do fear the possible consequences of anyone reading this (PTSD and depression, and maybe some traumatic grief as a bonus, may result). When I ask Lao Du why he dwells on his personal pet ping pong peeves and doesn’t address more crucial matters relating to the current dire virus situation, he says it’s the way he deals with stress and the loss of his so-called normal life. He says, at times like this he resorts to venting his frustrations on the “boobs” at the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) and the occasional players he confronts at the club who don’t like sandpaper, won’t play with him because of it, and who keep proclaiming that it’s illegal.
Oh, and one more thing. After reading the blog that follows, I reminded Lao Du that he had already used the joke he included about Gladys Knight and the Pips. He responded by saying that it was mostly only a few old people who were likely to read his stuff, and that they would not remember that joke, so he wasn’t too concerned about it. I think he was probably projecting about his own obvious mental lapses when he said this, plus it’s likely that the Gladys Knight thing is the only joke he knows. So, with that as a final warning, brace yourself for more inanities relating to sandpaper. And, if you’ll excuse this little bon mot of my own: The only grit Lao Du displays is on his racket.

You ever heard of a throw angle? Whadda ya mean you don’t care? I’m gonna tell ya anyway. It’s the angle at which the racket grabs the ball when you hit it and caroms off at a certain angle. The throw angle will change depending on what kind of rubbers you’ve got. For example, if you make identical swings using Yasaka Mark V rubbers and Butterfly Tenergy 05, the ball will rebound off those surfaces at slightly different angles. And if you were to use a Trojan Ultra Ribbed on your racket, you’ll probably get a different throw angle, too – but it won’t be approved by those feckless fumblers, the coterie of pantywaists, sissies and goobers at the ITTF. They only give their rabbinical seal of approval to the powers that be – the Double Happinesses of the world … and Stiga, and Joola and Butterfly etc. But let me put it to ya this way: If we’re reduced to talking about “throw angles,” then it means that the manufacturers and vendors of these products have taken over the sport. The throw angles and all the other technology are making ping pong – excuse me, table tennis – too complicated for us ordinary club-playing folk. Hey, Thoreau said Simplify, not Complexify.

Now, let’s talk about speed glue for a second. You ever heard of that kind of glue? I bring it up because it relates to the throw angle … and speed and spin. When the slicksters apply this adhesive substance which contains volatile organic compounds (“VOC’s”), the sponge layer expands and causes the rubber above it to tighten or stretch, giving the racket your basic turbocharged trampoline action. But, wait, not so fast. Here’s the thing: VOC’s are illegal. Yeah, how ‘bout that! The ITTF, those flunkies over there in Lausanne, Switzerland, outlawed them. Really, they did! Hooray, right? Not so fast again, Bunky. Although it’s in the rules that speed glue is illegal – it’s rule # 2.4.7 for god sakes, which states no “physical, chemical or other treatment” – nevertheless, the ITTF allows the stuff if it’s used and prepared by an “approved” manufacturer. I mean just sample this hypocrisy: “Using a factory tuned rubber” with VOC’s is just fine with the ITTF. Need I explain what a ‘factory tuned’ rubber is? Do I really? Hell, I’ll tell ya, anyway. The ITTF has sanctioned companies to do what individuals cannot. You can use speed glue if it’s done for you. Isn’t that sweet! It’s more than sweet. It’s honkey dory… for the so-called sanctioned companies. Makes a lot of cents (and dollars) for the powers that be – the ITTF and their colluding co-conspirators. (Double Happiness rubbers even have the gall to sell this stuff with a “Neo” prefix which designates the illegality of this impropriety.)

Point of Information: There are no VOC’s in sandpaper rackets.

The facts are seemingly straightforward: Speed glue is illegal. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) are illegal. Tell me: You wanna guy whose racket is emitting radioactive crap? Or VOC’s? The boosters containing these may emit low levels of VOC’s, but when you apply the stuff you can be overcome with fumes similar to those coming out of Chernobyl or Fukushima or Three Mile Island. I suppose there are benefits to be derived from these released aerosols (these boosters). Try it. Open the bottles and take a sniff. Woe! You can get high before your paddle even touches a Xuxaofa 3 star ball with one of those treated rubbers. We’ll be bringing back glue sniffing from the 50’s. Yeah, we can use a new addiction: “Inhalant abuse.” Why use your mom’s hair spray. Use what Ma Long uses. You don’t like paint thinner, or toluene (contact cement), or other stuff you can’t pronounce? Well, I’m sure there are enough benzene rings in these VOC’s to satisfy even the most devoted junkies.
So what do the ‘smart’ cheats – the tricksters and hustlers – what do they do exactly to provide more speed and spin? They utilize everything, including olive oil, paraffin, baby oil, and motor oil, which are the thickening agents mixed with the active VOC’s, all of which are considered ‘boosters.’ These compounds make the rubber thicker, all right, but they do something else. These modified boosters slow the release of these volatile compounds so that they are not detectable by the Geiger counter-like devices that the ITTF uses to test the rubbers before a tournament. And, so, the cheats can get away with it – except, apparently, after they rub on the magical potion onto the rubber, the racket makes a loud noise when they hit the frickin’ ball. That atypical sound is the only imprecise evidence that at least informs you that the guy on the other side of the table from you is up to no good. (So, I guess now the manufacturers have to come up with a noise abatement system, which will probably increase the price of these rackets to maybe just under a few thousand dollars. Better get a second mortgage.)

One final note on the use of these illicit concoctions. They absorb very slowly into the rubber, but the treatments only last for a few weeks (3-4 weeks). Aw, too bad! Que lastima! The poor souls gotta get another fix to juice up their paddles again. That’s why they have to apply the stuff themselves versus buying new rubbers so frequently. And they apply it shortly before they play. But, as I said, now they don’t have to make their own boosters – the ITTF has seen to that. They’ve got sanctioned companies doing that. You can buy them: Haifu Booster, Dianchi Booster, and my favorite, Falco Tempo Long Booster. They come in nice bottles and containers, too. They look like hybrid perfume bottles and underarm deodorant dispensers.

Ya know, I admit to being a card-carrying Luddite (Editor’s note:  Luddites are not one of the lost tribes of Israel), but I am not embarrassed by it, and it does not forestall my railing against technology when it takes over and ruins a sport that I love. And behind the ruinous technology, keep in mind, are the people who make money from the equipment being manufactured based on that technology. The sport gets commercialized – sort of like what Christmas is all about these days: selling stuff. The innate purity of the activity is compromised. Maybe in the beginning it’s small things, but when ping pong players are changing their rubbers every month, or applying hazardous chemicals to their rackets to gain an advantage, you know that things have gotten outta hand. When trickery and deception are the principle motivational influences of equipment junkies to gain an advantage over regular club schlubs who play without the souped up equipment, the game becomes a farce. It becomes totally unfair.

C’mon, do you honestly believe that guile and glue should be the factors that determine a winner? Shouldn’t it be just plain mano a mano, unadulterated racket skill? The World Championship of Ping Pong is a tournament held in England every year. It pays the winner far more than any other table tennis tournament sponsored by the omnipotent ITTF. Guess what? IT’S A SANDPAPER TOURNAMENT! And guess what else? Everybody plays with the same exact racket which is handed to each player before they play a match. It’s the closest thing to the evenhanded rules of boxing, which requires each fighter to use the same gloves.

Players who use anti-spin or “tune” their rubbers with boosters or glues and VOC’s which expand the rubbers, should be thrown out of our club. Ditto for all the carbon layers they’re inserting into the blades. And, of course, maybe even especially, add long pips to that list which should be outlawed. The only pips who should be allowed admission to our club are the ones accompanying Gladys Knight. I’d make one other exception: Archie Bunker’s wife, Edith – she’s a pip, too. (Archie may have said she was a real pip, but he never called her a long pip, so we should let her in.) Lao Du