The reign of table tennis on campus

Chris Dacanay
Sports Editor

Is it just me or did table tennis explode recently on campus?

Before this semester, I had never seen anyone playing table tennis (or pingpong, as it is colloquially known) in a dorm lobby; but now, the fierce competitions and constant clattering seem almost inescapable.

Perhaps my ignorance of this pingpong trend stems from my insular lifestyle in St. Louis Hall over the past two years. As anyone who has ever been to Saints Louis and Elizabeth Hall knows, the former pingpong table was underwhelming, to say the least.

Pingpong action was rare in those days at Louis, but Franciscan University’s investment in a brand-new pingpong table for the second-floor lobby has ignited a blazing passion on campus for the game.

That passion has been particularly present among freshmen, I have noticed. More often than not, the freshmen are the ones loitering in the lobby. They prowl about looking for prey upon whom they shall release the full extent of their pingpong prowess in a “friendly match.”

Some of these guys are so good that it’s scary. Seriously, I’ve played against a few of them, and every time they wind up their arms to unleash an otherworldly spin on the ball my heart stops.

Perhaps there’s a future in professional pingpong for these guys. At least, that’s what I think from my perspective as a pingpong novice — a young grasshopper in training to one day rival the whiff-whaff senseis by whom I am graced to be surrounded.

The rhythmic cracking is enchanting as the ball careens from one end of the table to the other, following split-second hits. That unmistakable sound of a game in progress is immediately identifiable as one walks into the hall or catches an auditory snippet from out of the window as he or she strolls past it.

Some players imitate the pros by sharply exhaling as they whack the ball. The breaths are more akin to groans and are not the most flattering noises.

If you walk into the lobby and overhear that noise, do not be concerned. The person is not dry-heaving; rather, he is surpassing his limits and becoming a pingpong Super Saiyan, gold hair and all.

Pingpong has transcended boundaries on campus as well. No matter one’s race, gender, physical build or major, pingpong unifies all. You don’t even need to be good at the game to have fun — calmly volleying the ball back and forth is enough to make a player feel powerful.

But don’t just take my word for it: here are some real, pingpong-affiliated individuals.

Junior Justin Manzer is a resident of St. Louis Hall and a recreational pingponger. Manzer said of pingpong, “With a lot of the incoming freshmen, they seem to have a lot of fun with (the new pingpong table). It’s a sport which a lot of people can compete (in) even if they’re not as athletic as some others.”

Manzer said his favorite part about pingpong is “how hyped people get about it even though it seems like it’s so simple.”

Manzer said that he does not, in fact, “become (one with) the pingpong paddle” while he plays.

Also a resident of St. Louis Hall, junior Michael Garcia said, “Pingpong is lots of fun ’cause it’s all the fun of playing tennis, but you don’t have to put in the same athletic effort — you just stand there. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Garcia said his favorite pingponger is Forrest Gump.

Freshman Mariel Downs, an education major and pingpong enthusiast, was interrupted in the middle of a game to provide a comment. She said, “I have basically spent the last three months beating Matthew Gabrelcik at pingpong every single game — I’m practically known at the Louis/Liz dorm for being the person that beats him.

“I’m rather good,” Downs said. “If anyone wants to challenge me, I’ll be here, waiting. Thank you.”

Freshman Matthew Gabrelcik declined to comment.

Clearly, the new pingpong table in St. Louis Hall is a hit — pun very much intended. So, if you see me — or anyone for that matter — idling about in the second-floor lobby of Louis/Liz, feel free to challenge me or them to a friendly match. Let’s keep the volley going.

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