Underspin and Funding Trouble Ping Pong Team

"IN THE BEGINNING, God '00 created the heavens and the earth." Most people know this is the first line of the Bible, but not many have read beyond those words.

Some people have gotten as far as the part where God makes light, the oceans and man on successive days. A select few even claim to have read that on the seventh day the Lord rested. But don't believe them. They have missed the fine print.

It is true that the Lord slept late on the seventh day. He woke up around noon, took two aspirin for his hangover and then ate a brunch consisting of scrambled eggs, bagels and lox. Afterward, He relaxed by lying on the living room sofa but He soon became bored because there was nothing to do. You see, He had not yet created the Sunday comics or television so He could not watch the playoffs.

So God said, "Let there be Ping Pong." And there was Ping Pong but He saw that it was not good. He had no one to play with. Although this made winning much easier, it was no fun having to chase after the ball following every shot.

God decided "Pong" was not suited for Him, but He thought Adam down in the Garden of Eden, who was getting pretty bored himself having nothing to do all day but eat forbidden fruit, might like the game. But Adam had no one to play with either so God created Eve out of Adam's rib so they could play pong.

Pong's importance in history has not diminished since that day. For instance, the inventor of the pen, an avid pong player who employed the pen-holder grip, named his new invention after this grip when he realized a pen is held just like a ping pong paddle. More recently ping pong diplomacy has opened the door to improved relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

Yet despite its importance in international relations, the Government Department offers no courses on ping pong. The Department of Athletics offered such classes last year for novices but they were discontinued this year because the department perceived a "lack of interest," Terry Maskin '77, captain of the Harvard ping pong team, said last week.

Ping pong team practices, held Wednesday nights at Currier House, are now the only opportunity people have to play pong at Harvard. But beginners "feel out of place" at team practices, Maskin says, because Harvard's best players are present.

The best of these is Frank Chiang, a Law School student who, Maskin says, "is so much better than anyone else at Harvard that he can't keep in practice."

Chiang made it to the quarterfinals of this year's Ivy League tournament before bowing out. He teamed with Jim Dahlen, another future barrister, to get to the semifinal round in doubles play.

Harvard did not return empty-handed from Princeton, where the tourney was held, as Sukie Magraw '78 won the Ivy League Women's Singles title. "She's much better than any other woman in the league--no one can touch her," Maskin says of Magraw. She is the only female good enough to play on one of the all-male teams in the league.

This year the team as a whole did not fare nearly as well as the trio of Magraw, Chiang and Dahlen, however, finishing near the bottom of the ten-team league. One reason for this poor showing, Masking says, is the lack of financial support the team receives from the Athletic Department.

This year, for the first time in the team's existence, the department gave it some financial backing--$100 for the purchase of two tournament-quality ping pong tables--an amount matched by the master and House committee of Currier House, where the tables are located.

All other expenses must be paid for by team members. These include travel expenses for road matches, which can be as high as $30 per person for each trip, and the cost of replacing paddles and balls. Just resurfacing a paddle with new rubber, a paddle-lift good players' must undergo at least twice a year, can cost up to $20.

This means that often the best players cannot afford to play at away matches. This places the team at a disadvantage when it plays teams that receive more generous aid, such as MIT ($250), Cornell ($600), and Rutgers ($1200).

Relief may be on the way, however, for the ping pong team and other club teams. Floyd S. Wilson, director of intramural athletics and recreation, in a meeting Monday night told representatives of the clubs that next year they will be able to get some funds to pay for equipment and travel expenses, although the teams will still be basically self-supporting.

"We're not really talking about a heck of a lot of money," Wilson said yesterday. No more than "a couple of thousand dollars" is available, he added.

Wilson also announced the establishment of a club council made up of club members to give clubs "a means of expressing their interests and needs to the Athletic Department." Another purpose of the council is to "make the clubs a little more orderly and uniform," he added.

Even if the ping pong team can get more money, its problems would not be solved. Because there are only two tables available on which the team can practice, team members do not get much chance to practice and others interested in playing cannot get table time.

This table shortage makes it difficult to "spread ping pong around," which Maskin sees as the purpose of the team. To this end "the loss of lessons has really hurt," he added.

The future may not be the brightest for Harvard's disciples of ping pong, but they will get more cooperation from the residents at 60 Boylston St. than some of God's other missionaries got from the cannibals.