Personalities in the Sport
by Adam Bobrow
We play table tennis, we watch table tennis and we have our heroes. Some of our favorite players we can recall their most amazing shots, victories and even their breakthrough tournaments. The match that made Michael Maze the talk of the world, the tournament that put Quadri Aruna on the map, the unlikely success of Masato Shiono over his entire national team, the match that made you watch for Isabelle Li’s next several matches just to see what could happen… we REMEMBER these moments.
We can admire the footwork of Xu Xin, the backhand of Persson, the serve of Ding Ning… but wouldn’t it be really cool to know the personalities of these world classplayers that we love to watch. Sports are a form of entertainment, and while the performance and athleticism might be the main elements that we watch for, in general if all else is the same, it’s more exciting to watch players that we are familiar with. When we feel like we know the players we have some context, know their history, perhaps the rivalry at hand or the significance of the bigger picture… suddenly the match that we are watching means more to us and really engages us.
Many people watch movies and sports for an escape, and while I often watch for an escape as well, I personally feel like I need to care about the people in the film and even more so, I have to care about their welfare and outcome. If I don’t care about the characters in a movie, then the lead character could disappear at any moment and it doesn’t matter so I am not invested in the experience.
In sports, I feel the same. If I am routing for a team, suddenly I care about what’s happening and the outcome. It creates suspense, drama and can have me on the edge of my seat. If I don’t know much about the players, I find myself usually routing for the underdog as it would be more interesting and create not only a surprise but a more notable and newsworthy match.
But what if you really could RELATE to the players you were watching. Not just because you both love table tennis, but because you know that player’s hobbies, upbringing, upbringing and what challenges and struggles she has faced to get to where she is. What if you felt like you knew this player on a personal level and felt like you were friends. Well, I think it’s an important factor in how table tennis players can become stars and really add another level to the experience for the viewer.
When ITTF made me “The Voice of Table Tennis” they wanted me to make a webseries. They thought something like “Bobrow Travels the World” or having me play in different places, and while I am not opposed to that, I thought … “what could be most interesting for table tennis fans… and what could help grow the sport more?” I was trying to think of a way to make it more about the players and also include the fans. I thought “it would be exciting for fans to really get to know their favorite athletes and see them having fun for a more complete picture of their favorite players’ personalities in addition to their professional demeanor. And since fans can’t always fly out to tournaments and interact with their heroes, wouldn’t it be cool if they could be given a chance to ask them a question, any question they wanted… and even hear their favorite player say their NAME?!?!”
This was the birth of Ask a Pro Anything. This is a chance for you to interact with the best players in the world even from the other SIDE of the world. You can see some that have already been done, World #1, Ma Long, the #2 defensive female in the world, Seo Hyowon and for World Tour event I go to, you will get to meet another player in a light hearted, chill atmosphere where his guard is down.
I feel very fortunate to have a job where I am constantly surrounded by my favorite athletes, from every meal, to bus rides, to the training halls I am in a fairly unique position to see behind the scenes and make some friends in the process. It sometimes feels a bit surreal and I realize that if I can share stories and videos from where I am sitting, I can bring others with me in a sense and hopefully be a portal into a closer look and make others insiders. Feel free to come along for the ride. I’ll be keeping you updated on my facebook page. Excitement is always just around the corner. 8>)
About the photo: The short story of this picture is, I was sitting with the Chinese coaches, Ma Long and Fan Zhendong over dinner tonight and Ma Long’s coach saw my wristband and pointed at it. Then showed Ma Long who got excited. I said “OH! LONG!!!! Yes, ‘dragon’.” I realized I had Ma Long’s given name on my wrist in Chinese. He asked “does the other wristband say ‘Ma’ on it?” to which I said “no… WAIT… it DOES say ‘PU-MA’ “… so I held my wrists together and it said “PU…MA Long” which sounds funny I know… so I told him we had to make awkward smiles.