Fun & Games

Hey there Sports Fans,

I’ve been watching humans smacking a little ball back and forth across a short net on a table. They really seem to enjoy this free-time activity. It was very confusing to me. Sometimes they played to 11, other times 15 or 21. Sometimes they switched servers after 2 serves and other times after 5 serves. In some games you could win by 1, but other games played until there was a lead of 2. I thought that maybe the 11 or 15 and win by 1 point games were between people who had less time to play.

Shi and Theresa (aka Slackjaw Sally) playing Ping Pong

Shi and Theresa (aka Slackjaw Sally) playing Ping Pong

Justin explained the rules and taught me the basics of hitting the ball with the paddle. We played to 21 with a 2-point lead to win and we switched servers every 5 serves. It was really fun! Later, Shi gave me some tips on how to control the paddle and position myself for a better return. Now that I get it, I think it’s a blast!

This game is called ping pong by some and table tennis by others. I wondered why, so I looked it up. Wow! There is a lot of controversy over whether the two games are the same or different. After reading arguments for all sorts of differences and samenesses, I found what I think is a reliable resource. Darren McGurk of Galashiels, Scotland explained that these are two different games played with different types of paddles and slightly different rules.

The paddles, called bats, in table tennis have a layer of sponge covered by a rubber layer with nibs. This makes it easier to add spin and control the ball. Ping pong bats are hard and covered with sandpaper. Table tennis is played to 21, changing servers every 5 points and the winner must be ahead by at least 2 points. In ping pong the first to 11 or 15 (depending on tournament format) wins the leg and they change servers every 2 points. Ping pong players trade bats at the end of each leg and swap sides of the table, but table tennis players keep their bats which may be different from each other within certain parameters. The last difference I saw was a double point ball in ping pong that doesn’t exist in table tennis. This is an option once per game per player to serve for 2 points if you win the serve.

Which game are we playing? Table tennis or a combination. Whatever it is, I’m glad to be part of it!

Sporty Slackjaw,