Stuff That Works - US Open Table Tennis in Grand Rapids.

Spent some time in a totally alien environment today - I went to watch some of the matches in the 2012 Table Tennis U.S. Open Tournament which was held for the second year in a row right in downtown Grand Rapids. This event goes on for 5 days and has players from all over the world. I read about it last week and really wanted to experience it for myself.

It was a very different world - I was waaaaay in the minority in a couple of ways. First and foremost because I didn't have much of a clue as to how things worked. Sure, I have played "ping-pong", but this is a whole 'nother world. These are world class players of all ages from all over the US and lots of other countries as well. Secondly, I was in the racial minority as well. The largest percentage of people were Oriental by far - old white men were few and far between! I heard foreign languages being spoken everywhere as I walked around. It was cool to be surrounded by the totally unique sporting culture of table tennis and a myriad of social/ethnic cultures as well. You ain't in Grand Rapids anymore Cliffy!

The athleticism of table tennis was very much on display. While most players had what I call a "studio tan" (think musicians like Jack White) from being inside all the time, there was no getting around the excellent condition of their bodies - especially their legs. The two guys above and below were top flight players. Wow - they used up all of the space they were allotted. As you can see from the picture below, the player on the right went out of camera range to get a shot. At times, both of them were probably 6-8 feet behind the table while whacking the ball back and forth with authority. The control was wonderful to watch.

The serve in table tennis is the opposite of booming serves in tennis. The emphasis is on spin and control - therefore each point begins with both (or all 4 in doubles) of the players right up on the tables, but once one or two shots are exchanged they can be playing from all over the area. Doubles was crazy to watch - four adults around the little table smacking the ball in rotation. It was a wonder they didn't hit each other or trip all over themselves and one another.

These two young men put on a great show - almost as exciting as the two older guys above. The families and friends of these two kids were clearly divided into separate camps. These two competitors fought tooth and nail for three games - the guy in the dark blue (RH side) won 3 in a row to win the match but every game was hotly contested with a see-saw on the score. The games are won at 11 points, but all three these two played went beyond - the first went to 18-16.

There were players of all ages and skill levels (well, no one played at MY skill level - from the youngest to the eldest, everyone I saw playing there could have cleaned my clock in minutes!) including some players in wheelchairs. The single day ticket was $10 and I gladly paid $8 to park my bike in the shade in the DeVos Place underground garage.

If the US Open returns to Grand Rapids, I will probably return for another look at some great table tennis.

It was enjoyable watching top level play, but once I started to get really hungry I decided to go home - I was not in the mood to spend $11 on a burger dinner consisting of a prepackaged burger made from mystery meat on a yucky bun with a few fries. No thanks - I will go home for chow.

Saw this handsome Lotus parked in the garage by my bike - sweet.

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