I hate to confess this, but recently a local table-tennis pro made me his ping-pong bitch. It’s a sad story, really. Last Friday night, I stopped by the Salt Lake City Table Tennis Training and Event Center (or the SLCTTTEC) thinking my pong game was legit.
I figured that since I own a ping-pong table, sessioned countless hours of Wii Resort Table Tennis and VanWildered a few extra years in college to play drunken pong tourneys with my roommates, that somehow it meant I was a good player. Nope. I walked into a God-damned massacre.
When I strolled into the SLCTjesusthisislong, I was floored by how massive the place is. There are two separate gyms and roughly 12 courts. It even has a little lounge area complete with leather couches and a flat-screen TV for video analysis. Looking around, I noticed something interesting over in the corner, “Holy shit, these guys train with fucking robots?!”
Yes … robots. It’s called the Amicus 3000, a fully customizable robot Gatling gun that can fire off 3,000 different types of shots and coincidentally costs $3,000. Honestly, it was a little intimidating. But I wanted to see how I measured up, so I had previously set up an appointment to play Will Todd, who is ranked third in the state of Utah and has been participating in national tournaments since the age of five. He’s also a staff member and instructor at the SLCTokayfuckthis.
Will had a private lesson in a few minutes so he didn’t waste any time. “Typically, you get a two-minute warmup for your forehand, then a two-minute warmup for your backhand.” “Seriously? Can’t we just rally for a little while?” I asked. I was used to warming up for at least an hour while sipping on a couple beers. I couldn’t be expected to beat a guy who has two first names with only a four-minute warmup and no beer. I'm better when I'm drunk.
Oh, well, I was going to have to do this without the awesome performance-enhancements of alcohol. While we rallied back and forth, I noticed Will was wearing a little brown wristband on his forearm. “Can I have one of those little tennis elbow thingys?” I asked, wanting every advantage I could get. “I mean, if you’re using one, I want to use one!” I pleaded. “It really doesn't make any difference,” Will pointed out. “You have no advantages -- unless you practiced for over 1,000 hours and even then, there’s seriously no possible way you could have any advantage over me.”
It was clear that he was ready to play and didn't have time for stupid questions. “So I only have time for maybe a couple of games. Do you want my spin game or my power game?” “What?! Are you serious?” I felt like no matter which one I chose, I was gonna end up like this guy …
Figuring I would be crushed with either option, I reluctantly chose spin. “Be gentle,” I said, as I softly served the ball over the net. He swatted it back with zero effort and I wiffed horribly. I couldn’t focus on the ball because it took on a trajectory similar to a swatted balloon.
“Damn, did you major in ping-pong?” Will looked at me and squinted his eyes, “You can’t major in ping-pong.” While he spun the ball back at me a few times, I asked if he could give me a few pointers. “Well, you’re a decent-enough player. I can tell you've played some games. But your technique is so far from where it needs to be. You should go on YouTube, watch slow-motion clips of pros and then practice their paddle movements in front of the mirror.”
Meh, I don’t have the patience for this.
The game ended in about two minutes and I had only scored one point to Will’s 11 (because he accidentally hit one long). “All right, I have time for one more game,” he said while looking at the clock. I got into the triple-threat stance. “Okay, let me see your power game.”
Will tossed the ball up and fired off a serve that left me stretched out to one side and half jogging off the court. I should have just jogged right out the front door, because the next few volleys were just as humiliating. This game was way shorter than the previous one, but I will say I did score twice (because Will either messed up or straight-up didn't care). So if you do the math, I probably would have won a game if we had played a few more times. We had played our two matches in under 10 minutes, I was tired, sweaty and mentally destroyed.
For information on memberships, hours and lessons, peep the SLCTTTEC’s Website.