Oh Hardbat Classic Where Art Thou?

It’s probably too late to see another Las Vegas Hardbat Classic in July from the folks at Bud Light, who last year sponsored Table Tennis’ biggest ever prize along with a huge national competition plus a very fine Las Vegas style tournament and parties.     But rumor has it that there might be one in Miami this year – perhaps in the fall.

Gossima, the Table Tennis blog, suggested Miami may be the next venue about six weeks ago http://www.gossima.info/2010/02/hardbat-classic-2010.html.   However I’ve heard nothing since even after contacting the Hardbat Classic via Twitter, Killerspin (a sponsor last year), and the tournament director by email.

If Bud is going to host this great touranment again I hope they’ll consider doing more with social media – at the very least keeping folks posted better about what’s going on.    I think a lot of potential buzz was missed last year because the tournament details were almost impossible to find online until late in the process.   In fact many probably didn’t find out until they watched the finals on ESPN months after the event.

Table Tennis is a “cool” sport everybody knows and plays, and Bud’s idea of pushing it into a new type of competitive realm with paddle and play restrictions is great – even for “real” tournament play where the paddles and play is both too good and too fast to ever attract a huge American TV audience.

Bud please bring on the Hardbat Classic!

Hardbat Classic Website

Hardbat Classic on Twitter

Hardbat Classic on Facebook

Joe Duck Hardbat Classic Coverage

Trevor R vs Elie Z in All Star Final at Hardbat Classic

The All Star final of the Bud Light Hardbat Classic determined who among 8 high level invited players would compete against winners in the Rated Players, Basement Players, and Bar Player divisions.   This was probably one of the most exciting matches of the whole tournament because the playing level was high, Elie’s 6 point handicap against Trevor matched them up just right, and the crowd was really excited.   This match will be featured along with the tournament on ESPN in September:

Killerspin Hardbat used for the Hardbat Classic

A controversial new paddle made by Killerspin for the Hardbat Classic in Las Vegas made it very hard for many experienced players to compete effectively with each other or with the lower ranked players who often had a huge point advantage as well as the equipment handicap from making everybody use either the paddle shown here or an even cheaper “junk paddle” version.

Although I approve of the handicapping process I think they need some modifications to make a paddle that favors defender play , produces long, quality rallies rather than the short rallies this blade tended to create.   I only saw a handful of  “great points”  where we would have seen hundreds with regular sponge rubber.     I’d favor a modification that would introduce a USTTA approved hardbat and/or a sponge slow version.     Another approach might be to move to the “big ball” format which is much slower but does not destroy the fun of watching high quality loopers arc the ball back and forth many times.

Inexperienced and non- players want high quality play and this blade does not give us much of that, even when it is weilded by some of the finest players in the country as happened at the Hardbat Classic.


Table tennis will probably *never* be a good TV sport but it’s the world’s greatest participation sport and I think the focus needs to be on bringing people into the game rather than changing it to fit TV better.

Bud Light Hardbat Classic at The Venetian in Las Vegas

The Hardbat Classic Table Tennis Ping Pong rumors are not only true, they are truly Table Tennis and it’s going to be Vegas, baby!

I’ll be competing in the Bud Light Hardbat Classic which starts this Friday at the spectacular Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.   Top prize is … wait for it …  $100,000.00   That’s  enough money to pay the interest on our blossoming national debt for … well…. a couple of seconds.   But never mind that….

I’ll try to keep up with some real time reporting via Twitter or here at the blog, though this may depend on data access at the venue and my own good or bad luck in the tournament.

There will be about a thousand players of all skill levels competing – many after winning their regional bar tournaments held around the USA over the past several months.   Even though I won our local tournament it wasn’t a qualifier for the big one, so I’m making my own way there after they opened it up to everybody.

There are also brackets for a special group of “stars” chosen by the Hardbat Tournament, another for walk in players, and one for “pros” who have a rating or have played in USTTA tournaments over the years.     Although I haven’t played in tournaments recently I was actually the USTTA National Table Tennis Champ in the “1300” rating category  in 1992   (ratings in Table Tennis are kind of like handicapping in golf).

The Bud Tournament is “over handicapped” , meaning that the very best players will have to spot a lot of points to lower ranked players – as many as 17 out of 21.    My take on this tournament  is that it will tend to favor  unrated players who are very experienced with the “pips out” type of rubber required at the Hardbat Classic.

Hardbat Classic Official Website

The Venetian Hotel

Follow the Tournament on Twitter

Follow the Killerspin Team on Twitter

Blogs are talking about the HardBat Classic in Las Vegas at the Venetian:

Spin Mantra

Tournament Guide Magazine

Leased Ferrari

License Magazine

Web Hosting Talk

Table Tennis Top

Las Vegas 1

Beijing Olympics Coverage = Awesome

OK, so I’ve got Gymnastics on the TV and Table Tennis early rounds on the computer.    HUGE kudos to NBC and Microsoft for providing such a superb streaming and downloadable video environment – this is definitely NOT your father’s technological Oldsmobile Olympics.

Effective with Beijing we are seeing how powerfully technology can cover major events.  In this case the coverage was very expensive, but as these technologies mature and bloggers become more adept at webcasting we can expect a lot of visibility where there was little before.


Erick at TechCrunch has a problem with the coverage and is calling NBC lame, but he’s very wrong about compatibility and lameness.    Bob Kostas’ deadpan nonsense notwithstanding, NBC rules.

Olympic Stadium from Pangu Plaza

Olympic Stadium from Pangu Plaza
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Wikipedia has a great summary of the Beijing Olympics.   I’m a little concerned about the delayed coverages by NBC since I’m a night owl and would enjoy sitting back and watching in real time, but I’m thrilled that NBC will have all the events online so I can watch the Table Tennis, which generally is hardly touched by TV coverage.    China is favored to take most if not all of the Table Tennis medals, but the champion has had a bad prior two major tournaments so he may not take the gold.

Website Smackdown: www.Ping-Pong.com

Sure I’m guilty of having some bad websites but I can’t resist smacking down ping-pong.com, a textbook case of how NOT to make a sales website.  After many frustrating attempts to find and order things I have been consistently thwarted by a bizarre combination of poor navigation and illogical structure.   The key problem with this site is that the company is often out of supplies, but has failed to integrate their inventory very effectively into the navigation.   Thus you need to click the tiny “inventory” link to find that … they pretty much don’t have what you are probably looking for – the things they’ve been listing elsewhere at the site as if they do have them.    I need some Table Tennis shoes, which are light and grippy and will hopefully will help me beat my good pals Charley and Kevin, both of whom already have table tennis shoes.   Here’s the inventory I found after clicking around for some time:

DS40-35 3.5 (USA/Canada) Available
DS40-36 4.5 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time
DS40-37 5 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time
DS40-38 6 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time
DS40-39 7 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time
DS40-40 7.5 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time
DS40-41 8.5 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time
DS40-42 9 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time
DS40-43 10 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time
DS40-44 10.5 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time
DS40-45 11.5 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time
DS40-46 12 (USA/Canada) Out of Stock – do not order this
product at this time

So, unless you are under 8 years old and surfing the site for this shoe you are out of luck.   Why not integrate the inventory such that people don’t have this extra step?     The one time I did buy from Ping-pong.com it took about 6 back and forth emails to finally find out they were OUT of what I wanted because in that case the inventory listings made it look like they did have it.   Thus they are wasting their time and mine as well as dropping orders and customers.    Easy to fix?   Of course it should be – they only feature a few thousand total products and therefore should be able to list inventory *on the same screens* as those that feature the products, saving the step and misunderstanding.  

So, NO SHOES FOR JOE, and thus I’ll have to struggle to beat Charley and Kevin.

Beijing Table Tennis

Beijing Table Tennis

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

We had a lesson from a former member of the China National Team here in the TT club located in the Basement of the huge sporting goods store on Wanfujing Street, Beijing’s big shopping area.

Translating for me is my pong pal Dr. Kevin Wu, the best medford oregon dentist who is also a very good table tennis player.

Home from China

Wow, I’m back home from an amazing trip to China over the past 2 weeks.    Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing with 30 hours on the train between these cities so I could see more of the countryside.    I have a ton to write about the trip and with my travel pal Charley Aebersold have over 1500 photos to post and caption over at Flickr.   In Shanghai and Beijing we were really lucky to be with Kevin Wu, our Table Tennis friend and the best dentist in Medford, and his son as we navigated China’s massive urban landscapes and the fantastic Great Wall of China at Simitai, hosted by Kevin’s Cousin from Beijing.   Kevin is originally from Beijing where he went through medical school before heading to the USA, so he was right at home and we enjoyed his unique western+eastern perspectives.

Charley stayed in China to train for Table Tennis, more about that when he returns from Hebei and the National Training Center.

I’d have to say everything on the trip paled next to the Great Wall of China, which was a simply staggering site to behold as well as an amazing historical hands-on adventure.    On my next trip to China I want to hike along the wall with backpacks for several days, soaking up the 2000 years of history since this wall guarded the southern Ming dynasty from the Northerners who eventually prevailed, ushering in China’s final dynastic empire which was in turn overthrown by Sun Yat Sen around 1911, bringing modern China into being and setting the stage for the conflicts that led to the Communist and current era in China’s sweeping historical journey of many, many centuries.