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Published May 5, 2020


I kept my claim to the family’s
ping pong title

By John Toth / The Bulletin

(Editor: This was written pre-virus and has been waiting patiently in the columns folder.)

It was the event that everyone in the Toth family had waited for - a ping pong match between father and son.

It had been in the making for many years, but something always came up that delayed the showdown.

Then it finally happened on a beautiful spring-like day recently. There was nothing to stop the match this time.

Let me walk back a few years, when the kids were little, and we went camping on many weekends.

All camping grounds have ping pong tables. It’s not exactly a major investment. At nights, after the movie under the stars was over, the kids and I would return to the campsite recreation building and further our ping pong skills.

Ping pong is actually a registered trade name, so from now on I shall refer to the game, or sport, as table tennis, just in case attorneys from Parker Brothers are reading this. The company bought the trademark from the British firm Jaques & Son Ltd. (I had to look that up.)

My two boys got to be pretty good. We played until the camp owner politely chased us out of the room late at night.

I shared with them the skills I acquired from playing table tennis at Camp Cody during my high school and college years. I worked at this live-away camp during the summers and had plenty of time to practice, since the work was not so hard - that’s one reason I kept going back.

I also told my children in great detail how I totally destroyed my eighth-grade math teacher in table tennis during a class field trip.

Then the boys grew up and went their own way. But table tennis is like riding a bicycle or swimming - once you learn it, you never forget it.

Bobby enlisted in the Air Force, was sent to Afghanistan twice and honorably discharged, and then he went to college, got a job and eventually moved to the other side of the country to work.

All this time, though, he kept mentioning how he had been playing table tennis and had become pretty good at it.

All I heard when we got on this subject is how I would not be able to score too many points against him when we play next, perhaps even no points at all.

That was unlikely, because you need 21 points to win, and I was bound to score a few points just out of pure luck, if he was that good, that is.

The friendly banter went on periodically for years. When our paths crossed, though, we never had a chance to test out his refined skills - until now.

The stage was set: table, net (although the metal type that I don’t like), paddles, ball (the yellow one that these old, overworked eyes can see better).

I could feel the excitement in the air as the family anticipated the showdown.
“Let’s just practice for a while,” I suggested. And we did - for a long time. While the Air Force taught him how to be brave, and college, how to be smart, it doesn’t appear that they emphasized ping pong skills very much.

(I had to return to writing ping pong. Table tennis just takes too long and doesn’t sound as good.)

It was obvious. I felt obligated without even keeping score to declare myself as still the reigning ping pong champion of the Toth house.

It was all in fun, and I hope that I’ll soon get another chance to defend my self-declared title. Maybe this time we’ll even keep score.

Until then, son, practice, practice, practice. Because these eyes can still follow, and these hands can still smash and spin that yellow bouncing ball.

Yes, it has to be yellow.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)