Ping-pong or as it’s also known, Table Tennis, began in the 1880’s in England after a few service men came back from Indian and South Africa with a made-up game. The game originally started off being played on a table with a row of books (the net), a book in hand (the paddle), and a cork from a bottle (the ball).
It was known as “ping-pong” or “wiff-waff” quite commonly. However a British company trademark “ping-pong” then Parker Brothers eventually bought up the rights and enforced their trademark so table tennis became the accepted term. At least in the West.
Ping-pong came from the sound that was made while playing the game. This sounds seems to catch the ear of musicians from time to time. I suppose it’s the basic rhythm that can come from a steady game or the almost eery sound itself. That hollow, echoey bounce when the ball connects with the paddle then the table.
Psychedelic animation conceived and produced by Anthony Burrill, Paul Plowman and Malcolm Goldie.
Music by Daisy Daisy released by Sunday Best (2006)
Watch the ball
Watch the way I climb around your hall
walkin up walls
sideways then i stall
Throw the web on you all
Back up with a u-haul
Wreck your rep like eddie on an la strip with rupaul
Movies also have a bit of a puppy crush on ping-pong.
Asian countries tend to treat the game with a large amount of love and respect. It’s almost the perfect sports metaphor for individual conflict as the table will only allow 1-on-1 or 2-on-2. The opposing sides separate and only being able to communicate through the passing and receiving of the ball AKA the language of the game.
These rivalries and conflicts can expand outside the game then be brought into an intimate conversation between the rivals and watching it can feel voyeuristic at times.
Ping Pong (ピンポン Pin Pon?) is a 2002 sports film directed by Japanese filmmaker Fumihiko Sori. It is based on Taiyō Matsumoto’s manga of the same name and is about the friendship between two high school table tennis players.
As One (Hangul: 코리아; RR: Koria, “Korea”) is a 2012 South Korean sports drama film starring Ha Ji-won and Bae Doona. It is a cinematic retelling of the first ever post-war Unified Korea sports team which won the gold at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan.
Hollywood can’t seem to take ping-pong as seriously as Asian filmmakers can. They often filter it through the lens of comedy.
I think it’s hard for American writers and directors to see the game as anything more than recreation for teenagers and the elderly.
Ping Pong Playa is a 2007 comedy film directed by Jessica Yu and written by Jessica Yu and Jimmy Tsai. The story centers on a Chinese ping pong family living in California with a buffoonish and irreverent son.
Balls of Fury is a 2007 American sports comedy film directed by Ben Garant, and starring Dan Fogler, George Lopez, Christopher Walken andJason Scott Lee. The film was released in the United States on August 29, 2007.
However, it seems that indie directors are taking notice of ping-pong and the more serious nature of the game. There are at least two documentaries on the game.
Terry (81) having been given a week to live, gets in sight of winning gold. Inge (89) has used table tennis to train her way out of the dementia ward she committed herself to. Australian legend Dorothy deLow is 100, and finds herself a mega celebrity in this rarefied world and Texan Lisa Modlich, a new-comer at 85 years old, is determined to do whatever it takes to win her first gold. This film is as much about the tenacity of the human spirit as it is a meditation on mortality.
A 2014 feature-length documentary about American teenagers coming of age in the world of competitive ping pong. Directed by Sara Newens & Mina T. Son.
While writing this post I stumbled across a new feature length movie with ping-pong as a major focus.
It’s another comedy, but I don’t have too much information on it.
The year is 1985. Rad Miracle is a shy, 13-year-old white kid obsessed with two things: Ping-Pong and hip-hop. During his family’s annual summer vacation to Ocean City, Maryland, Rad makes a new best friend, experiences his first real crush, becomes the target of rich, racist local bullies, and finds an unexpected mentor in his outcast next-door neighbor.
Also, it should be noted that CNN recently ran a piece (though a short one) on ping-pong and its growing popularity within the states.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of influence (if any) ping-pong has on the United States culture in the coming years.