Sunday, September 30, 2007

Those who live by the paddle…

In my vast three years of marital experience, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that you must consider your partner’s daily victories and losses to be no different from your own, which is why it’s always a little bittersweet for me when I cream my wife Kara in ping pong. After each game, I always make a special point to empathize with her, gently inquiring to see how she’s feeling. “Boo-yah! How’d you like that, Woman?” I’ll ask, sensitively.

Ever since her parents graciously gave us a ping pong table to celebrate our emancipation from grad school, Kara and I have spent the better part of our waking lives down in our unfinished basement, smacking a little ball at each other and inhaling massive quantities of fiberglass insulation particles. The air down there is so thick with insulation that, after a few games, your nose and throat begin to feel as if you’ve just snorted an entire Pink Panther.

Before we got the table, which came in a box so large that I thought Kara had gone online and ordered us a mid-market condominium, the most meaningful rivalry of my life had been against my buddy Josh on Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for Super Nintendo. We’d yell and scream and throw our controllers on the floor and at each other. Of course it was a stupid thing to get so excited about, but you shouldn’t judge us unless you’ve experienced for yourself the joy of ripping off your friend’s head with his spine still attached.

While Kara and I haven’t achieved quite the same level of violence on the ping pong table, the scores of our games are getting uncomfortably close.

“I’m really sick of losing,” she complained last night after I delivered one of my patented topspin Dream Crushers™. But she’s getting better so quickly that I can feel my days as household ping pong champ coming to a close. I tried to encourage her, telling her that if our ping-pong rivalry was made into a movie, we wouldn’t be at the end yet; the synthesizer music would just be cuing up for the training montage.

“If this was Rocky IV, you’d be in Siberia chopping down trees and running through knee-deep snow right now,” I told her. “We haven’t gotten to the part where you come from behind and knock me senseless in the fifteenth round while the Soviet crowd chants your name.”

I didn’t dampen her hopes by telling her that her euphoria will turn out to be short-lived, as during our fight she will have sustained such massive brain injuries that she will decide making Rocky V sounds like a good idea.

For now, though, her training goes on and our scores continue to converge. Our rivalry is likely to soon become one for the history books, like Red Sox vs. Yankees or Autobots vs. Decepticons. Before too long, we might even be able to start a game on a point that I win. Score keeping officially begins (retroactively) after Kara wins a point, and we have to keep playing until she slams one in my face, preferably leaving a welt. These have become the house rules, though I sure don’t remember ratifying them.

We have become especially good at delivering welts to one another. I’ve found that when it comes to minor skin contusions, it is far better to give than to receive.

Last night, Kara said, “Nine to thirteen,” just before she served, and I was thrown off for a moment. After I thought about it briefly, I realized what had happened. It turns out that she was just reciting the score, not estimating the number of toilet paper rolls she goes through in a week.

You can send a ping-pong paddle up a creek to Mike Todd at


  1. Mike: I played tennis from age 7 to college. In jr high I'd exhibit my immaturity with something like, "You really don't blink right as you hit the Dream Crusher. I don't think. Or do you?" Yes, master of the psyche out. I think it even worked. Once.

    BUSTERP! Man of my punctuation dreams! I only just saw the website you referenced last week. I love it. Thank you so much. (Is it sad that I'm completely sincere in my excitement?) Now if you could only find "" I'd buy you a beer.

  2. I never understood the allure of ping pong. Or Decepticons. Or minor skin contusions.

    I've led a very sheltered life.

    I like bowling, though...

  3. My husband does that to me in air hockey. Screams all those encouraging phrases in front of everyone. cuz we don't have an air hockey machine, we play whenever we find one out.

    I on the other hand get him back when we bowl. No no I don't win, but I at least once, throw the ball behind me *on accident* right at him. hehehehe

  4. What's a "Pink Panther"?

  5. Dudes! Y'all are funny. Dang, I've been all blog neglecty this week. Stupid work. Actually wanting me to do -- what's that stuff? Right, work.

    Also, Anonymous, Pink Panther is the mascot for a popular brand of insulation manufactured by the Owens Corning company. Also, it's my nickname for crack.

  6. Funny.

    For Janelle: Funny period.

    Liked your Pink Panther reference. Funny thing is, thinking of the Pink Panther triggered that theme song in my head, which then for some reason morphed into the theme song from "The Odd Couple".

    Thanks. Now I have TWO highly addictive songs (hence the crack ref? ha) stuck in my head.

  7. Busterp: My kids are still of the age where they watch Pink Panther marathons on Boomerang. The song stays with you for days. 'course, now I'm mentally reliving all the Oscar/Felix fun (and the damn theme song) thanks to your reference. Ah, the good ol' days.

    Mike: This work you speak is fun?

  8. I've been sitting here trying to decide which theme song I like best...

    I never liked that damn pink panther, but it IS such a cool theme song. On the other hand, I LOVED the odd couple, and so I pick that theme song as the best one... so get outta my head, panther...