Tuesday 27 September 2011

Another Excessive Celebration of Table Tennis with Adam Bobrow

Before engaging on quite possibly the most thoughtful and detailed response to any interview so far, you must first watch a video. It's a video of a table tennis player, an actor, an entertainer and an all round fun and humorous guy which is renowned not just in the table tennis community but throughout Youtube. Take the time to watch the video and then read the great interview which has prepared for your reading pleasure by none other than Adam Bobrow! Thanks Adam!

Adam Bobrow's famous Video

Full Name: Adam Bobrow
Age: legal
Date Of Birth: 2-14-198legal
Nation represented: USA is where I live so I in some senses, I represent it.
Highest US Ranking: Oh geez. It’s so low that I couldn’t possibly keep track.

Equipment Used?
Blade: Butterfly Viscaria Flair
FH Rubber: Stiga Mendo Energy (max thickness)
BH Rubber: Stiga Mendo Energy (max thickness) this could all change soon depending on sponsorship
Bobrow showing class at SPiN
Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?

I have been playing tournaments for 15 years and total 23 years. I used to play with my family on the driveway a lot. My dad was the best player I had ever known or seen since I wasn’t involved with any legit table tennis scene. In the hours upon hours that we would joke around on the driveway my brother and I got creative and decided to use a tennis ball to play with. My dad warned me not to use a tennis ball. He said “You’ll break the paddle.” “No I won’t, dad. Watch this.” I swung and CRACK! So I felt bad and bought a new one. Even though the paddle I broke was probably only $3, I saved up a few weeks of allowance and got the most expensive paddle Big 5 had to offer. $13 later and with a genuine apology I showed my dad the paddle I had brought for the family.

He told me that I didn’t have to get such a nice paddle. So while that paddle will be added to the family collection, it would be mine to use. I got excited but wasn’t sure why. I wanted to know what made this paddle more expensive than others? Why was it better? That was when my dad showed me how to spin the ball. From that moment on, I was exposed to a whole new dimension of table tennis. The sport still continues to get more and more exciting to me.

What has been the highlight of your table tennis career so far?

Ahhh, Matt. Tricky, tricky question. Ok, I’ll give you two answers… one will be my best match and the other will be a cool experience. Arguably, my best match was against women’s Olympic Team Member, Jackie Lee at the 2007 US Nationals. She is and was a MUCH better player than me. On paper our ratings would suggest that she could pretty much ignore me and beat me. She has amazing sportsmanship and work ethic so I really respect her. Going into our warm up I tried to act as professional as possible and give a completely proper warm up (which is unusual for me). Since she is a great blocker and spinner from both sides… I knew it would be unlikely for me to do any damage near the table unless I really had a good opportunity to rip one (a forehand… not a fart). Instead, since I am very comfortable playing lobs and defense, whenever she got the opening, I just backed up and let her hit 4 or 5 spinny attacks that I would return very high and deep on the table with lots of topspin and some form of sidespin occasionally to keep her guessing and moving. If I noticed she was going for a drop shot, I would come in and attack when it was too high… and if I hit a really good lob, I would come back and counter smash. This sort of game is something I play a lot more than she does (because anyone in their right mind would not spend a lot of time practicing lobbing… and probably the same for practicing much against it). When people walking by saw this match, they stopped to watch and when they heard that I was leading, they had to stop and see how this was possible. The crowd got bigger and bigger… and soon there were over a hundred people standing around watching as I managed to win 3-1. That was my first time playing in a my sexy santa shorts (which are actually boxers I found at Ross… but about the same length as TT shorts) and I have been wearing them ever since (not because I am superstitious, mainly because I like the way they look and feel… fun and comfortable).

Also, the point known as “Ping Pong Child Abuse” on youtube, had a LOT riding on it and that was one of the most satisfying experiences I have ever had playing table tennis. Justice on Earth! ;)

On the non-competition side of things, when I started working with SPiN Hollywood, many cool opportunities came up. Myself and Soo Yeon Lee got flown out to Las Vegas, got drivers and the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in to play for a Verizon convention. Verizon took care of our food… so as you can imagine in a nice hotel in Vegas… we ate quite well. We also got VIP access to see N.E.R.D live and meet Pharell. All we had to do was play table tennis with Verizon employees for a few hours and have fun. It was definitely a job to remember and a highlight of my career.

What is your next big goal for table tennis?

Wow. I have lots of goals for table tennis… and the next big one I think would be bridging the gap between recreational players (the mass mass mass majority of ping pong lovers) and tournament players. I believe that there is great power in numbers and companies, corporations and other organizations will get involved with a sport that has millions of people actively participating, playing in leagues, purchasing paddles/raquets/bats that have rubber that you can change… and doing just that, buying rubber whenever their rubber is dead. In the US, and in my experience, most of the world, the majority of people who love to play are not familiar with this professional equipment or that there are clubs where a player can show up and find others who play at a high level who are not already friends, family, co-workers or other people on a cruise.

How many players do you meet that hear the words “ping pong” and immediately say, “I am really good at ping pong. I have never lost to any one of my friends.” I can tell you, I’ve heard it a ton of times. These are people who really need to be introduced to a real table tennis scene … and just become aware that there is a very long scale of talent in this sport… and that there is always room to improve. Sometimes, these people will respond best to getting beaten to a pulp on a table by some 70 year old woman with braces on every part of her body who understands spin a little bit… and for others it will be discouraging and not inspire them to improve. I believe that it is necessary to appeal to what people really want.

I am a big fan of teams leagues and am currently running one in LA with a friend (www.lattf.org). People like social experiences, being a part of a group, a good challenge, close competition and feeling important. When you play for a team, your results are important to everyone on your team and when you are repping a club, the results will also be important to your club so people will take more pride in their game and have more motivation to show up and perform well.

I think school pride should have a similar effect. I would love to help get table tennis into schools for all ages and eventually, I would love to see there be a professional league where players in the US and other countries that don’t already have this, can make a living as players without having to coach as well. Of course, I would like to see that televised and would love to see people walking around in table tennis jerseys with the last names of their favorite player on the back.

That’s the short answer. ;)

You are well known for your victory dance during a table tennis match where you won a point at 10-0 down. Can you tell us a bit more about the scenario there and where the crazy dance came from?

I am a comedian and an actor and I love to dance. I had seen American Football players do some funny dancing and over the top celebrations, so I thought it would be funny to really one up them… go way over the top and do it in an even more innappropriate/unusual place. Since I am not built to be in the NFL, I figured my favorite sport would be perfect. ;)

You have some other great videos too and love your dancing and acting, how do you feel acting, dancing and table tennis combine together in your life?

Well, they are all things that I really enjoy. They all offer me great creative outlets, fun, friends and a chance to entertain other people. I feel like my passion for table tennis stands me out a bit in LA… and because you can’t get a meal served without meeting an actor in LA. Actually, you can’t get your car fixed or get a physical check up without meeting someone who is auditioning for a part in something.

My dancing… well, I really like to dance… and even though I am not professional, or what real dancers call “good”… and look sort of funny when I do it, that seems to make people smile. So I think combining my love for table tennis, dancing and acting (or any two of those three) can really enhance the value of the entertainment I put out there. Whether it continues to feed me and help me travel or not, I hope to be doing all three for a long, long time.

My favourite video from Adam
Ping Pong Child Abuse (don't let the title put you off)

What do you think is lacking in table tennis' publicity? What can be done to promote table tennis better?

Well, I have been part of the USATT for a long time and have watched the ITTF for a long time as well and hope to be more involved with them in the future. This is a very tricky question that many people are constantly discussing and actively trying to figure out. I think the “cool” factor is one thing that could be more prevalent in promoting the sport. I think SPiN is helping that with celebrities and parties and adding some flair to table tennis … giving it some edge.

This could involve a cool soundtrack, some adrenaline pumping promos, lighting or other things… but in the end, people will still have to watch the playing (which will not have music) and have a reason to be excited and to care about the result. For people to really be invested and to care, they have to feel like they know the people involved or have some sort of personal interest. If a player on TV is representing their country, people have a reason to cheer for that player and hope that he or she wins. But if people watching, have seen interviews, the personality of the player, know what that player stands for and like that player on a more personal and intimate level (you know what I mean)…. they will be far more interested. I get the sense that this is how poker has managed to do so well on TV (not to mention, people have an easy time understanding it and feel somewhat smart when they watch). I think reality TV has a very similar approach. It really lets you MEET and get to KNOW the people you’re watching… so you care about what happens. I need that when watching movies… I need to care what happens… that’s what would keep me from changing the channel. So, I think table tennis needs some more personality.

We now have two separate issues, the future of the televised sport and the future of the sport on a level that non-professionals would get involved. Promoting the sport off of television, I think table tennis brands need to work with major sporting goods store to not only have equipment sold there, but to have visible promotional material in stores letting recreational players know that there are leagues, clubs, tournaments and places for them to find stronger competition… or proper training, equipment, etc. Maybe even have very public exhibitions where at the end, they collect emails and keep the interested people involved… and get them involved more. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think bringing in recreational players and bridging that gap is super important.

Who is your favourite table tennis player and why?

Man, well… Waldner. I just think he’s magical to watch (especially when he was in top form). His creativity is endless and anything can happen when he is playing.

Currently, Xu Xin. I think we are brothers from another mother (his is the Chinese one). I think he has SO much personality and creativity and wears his emotions on his sleeve far more than any other Chinese player. He’s very expressive, talented, fun to watch and I really dig his seemingly care free way of walking to the beat of his own drummer.

Honorable mentions, Timo Boll and Jorgen Persson. Both extremely talented players and extremely kind people who are great role models for sportsmanship.

Then there’s Chen Weixing… you don’t want to see him when he’s ANGRY… or do you? Waiting to see if he’ll explode or how high he can pull up his shorts adds a whole new level of suspense to the sport.

Grubba was great… and Jean Michel Saive is a lot of fun… I could go on and on…

You are a regular guest at Spin NY, how successful do you think Spin clubs are in promoting table tennis?

Well, I have worked with SPiN a lot and I think SPiN is doing a great thing for the sport. I think they are creating a place where the majority of people who love table tennis are getting a unique opportunity to be exposed to the top players in their area and really see the table tennis that we see while at the same time, making it fun and offering a social experience. SPiN is working to do public events and grow all the time and hopefully they will create some even more public, high profile events in the near future. I know they are working on it. So I think they are doing a GREAT job and are successful in their goals. ;).

Attire like no other in the sport lol

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?

Wow… well, Michael Jordan… I couldn’t watch him play without going outside to play some basketball right afterwards and lower the hoop to a height where I could pretend to be him and mimic his moves. Also, Mickey Mantle…. I grew up idolizing him and got to meet him before he died. Man, I really love watching great athletes.

Who's your favourite actor/actoress of all time?

I don’t think I have a just one of either, but Daniel Day Lewis blows my mind every time I see him perform. Sasha Baron Cohen and Ricky Gervais I also think are amazing. Charlize Theron in Monster was one of the best performances I have ever seen and Meryl Streep is amazing in everything.

Favourite food?

I love fresh fruit, vegetables too… mangoes are outstanding.

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?

Sleep. NOT!!!! ( “not” jokes are coming back). Tons of stuff. Meet people, travel, read, write, think, talk to friends, make new friends, try to learn, try to inspire, dance, play other sports, make videos, act, do voices, beatbox, sing, rap, help people parallel park.. or whatever else they need help with… break up fights… smile at people… make foreigners feel welcome here, encourage people to explore and think critically. I guess, surf the web, chat with people… learn about health… I pretty much try to do whatever I want as often as possible (which involves being there for other people… being a good friend, brother, son, grandson, etc.).

Dream Car?

The Batmobile. But honestly, the Batmobile. (the one from the ’89 version… not the new one that looks like a tranformer). I think a convertible would be fun… I think my dream car would be electric. I am enjoying my Prius right now. 8>)

Ideal holiday destination?

North Korea. Oh, HOLIDAY??? I see… hmmm… New Zealand? HEYO!!!!! ;D I really would like to go to NZ, I hear it’s super prestine and beautiful and the people are smart and attractive and smell great. Other than that… I like warm water, warm weather… maybe Brazil… or Fukuoka, Japan… Palawan, Philippines (planning to go in January). I like to travel a lot.

First thing you would do if you won $1 million?

Grow eyes on the back of my head. Literally! What? I would probably invest $999,000 of it safely so that money should hopefully never be a cause of stress and then maybe create some samples of clothing and fragrance that I would like to put out on the market. And take some real time to set up some extensive travels and really hilarious or influential productions (movies, etc.) 8>)

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?

Sure. Dream big. Go for what you want. Just do it! But seriously… succeed in table tennis????… I guess you would have to define that for yourself. Think about your goals and take action to make it happen. If you just want to improve or play your best, focus on one the thing you want to improve, be specific and put in the time and effort. Ask for help if you need it, but make sure you play a lot and have your fun. Happiness should be priority. After all,” all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” –The Shining ;)

*Also, I hope you took some time to get up and walk around, stretch out your legs, hydrate yourself during this reading experience. ;D If for any reason you haven’t had enough of me yet, check out www.AdamBobrow.com

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