We recently had a significant acquisition at NGP Software, Inc. – an awesome new conference table. It is sweet: a lovely Killerspin Revolution table tennis table, four hundred pounds of stability with a striking blue top and orange metal arched structural underpinning. We got the “tournament used” version, which is as good as new. It has served us splendidly already, both in its official capacity as a site for meetings, as well as by renewing our tradition and commitment to fun.
I like table tennis, especially when it is reasonably competitive. I played a fair amount as a kid. My dad knew how to play, and was patient about teaching. My siblings and I started when we could barely reach over the table. I remember Dad helping us practice our topspin smashes and backspin chops. When we got older, my brother and I battled evenly for countless matches – with most games ending 21-19 or 24-22, amidst series that were settled best 3 of 5 or 4 out of 7.
We often had a table available. In Vermont in the summer we had a handmade plywood-topped table in the summer kitchen. We had a foldable table in our basement in Boulder for a few years. Later, after college, while living in a group house on the Hill in DC, I had a bedroom big enough for a table and I built a (very much one-of-a-kind) bed that converted to ping pong table. Had some good games there as well, but that was some seventeen years ago.
All that practice made me a decent basement player. At the moment, though still rusty, I can take anyone in the office, especially because all employees are contractually required to lose to the boss. But I expect that that will even out pretty soon, when some of the athletic folks in their twenties hone their skills, learn my game, and start to beat the old guy. I am well aware that there are many levels above us as well. I played a bit on the weekend with my friend Ebi, whose serves I still have trouble getting back on the table when he gets serious.
So I am enjoying the new conference table as much as anyone else, perhaps a bit more. In fact, I am coining a new term, “comfort sport,” to describe my feelings. Playing a “comfort sport”—like eating a “comfort food”—has the power to transport you to back to your childhood, to days of unadulterated fun, to a simpler time. I am always looking for such experiences.