Tuesday, September 24, 2019

[Daily] Spinning up in a social ping pong league

Last night was the first night of the SPiN Social League. I felt a twinge of hesitation (“how much time should I put into this?”) before I left my apartment for the bus ride over, but I ended up feeling really great afterwards purely from the dopamine hit from playing ping pong. For the kickoff event, we did a round-robin brawl in randomly-selected groups to give the organizers a sense of our playing level. I lost my first three matches to people I don’t think I should have lost to, and then won two more. I notice I mirror so hard that I end up playing to the level of the person I’m playing against, rather than maintaining my level of gameplay. I also need to focus on strategy and improve the consistency of my serve.

Afterwards, I chatted with R------ a bit and he said he knew how I felt—he’d been through the same experience as a kid. “You train so much, then you lose to someone you think is really bad, like some 70-year-old guy who’s just standing there.” (To be clear, I'm sure he experienced this frustration 1000x more intensely than I did. I play 1-2 hours a week.)

I said I think one problem of mine is I lack the “desire to crush,” and he said he also didn’t really have it… but I kinda looked at him funny and then he walked it back to, “yeaaah I totally do.” But, he said, it depends on who he’s playing, and sometimes he has to cope by not even looking at his competitor. For example, he once had to play a really important match that would determine his entire next year (because of the ranking change and whether he’d get into a higher league, etc), and his competitor was his best friend and roommate. “So you get into these situations in a match where everyone’s just [keeping their head down] looking at the floor.” He talked about a similar situation with two female ping pong player friends whom he grew up playing with. As they grew up they split into women's/men's divisions and didn’t formally compete anymore. He insinuated that technically speaking he is a better player... but when they compete now socially, he can’t beat either of them, they always beat him, and his friends make fun of him.

To sum it up, there is a surprising emotional component to competing that I hadn’t realized. The two times I played in competitions as a middle schooler(?), I don’t remember thinking about such things. I don’t think I’d yet become a feeler.

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