95-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency
Day 95, May 29 Introducing Adam Bobrow, “The Voice of Table Tennis”
On March 11, the ITTF announced its search for “The Voice of Table Tennis,” with a promise that the winner would have the opportunity to audition live in Tokyo during the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships. Steve Dainton, the ITTF Marketing Director, stated, "We are looking for somebody to bring table tennis to life. Somebody with passion and knowledge of the sport and is looking for a new career in the game they love."
Just over a month later, on April 17, the ITTF announced the winner: Adam Bobrow. Today Adam shares his thoughts with us.
Congratulations on winning the popular ITTF contest "The Voice of Table Tennis." What were the steps in the competition?
Thanks! Well, at some point before the deadline all entrants had to submit an audio track with their commentary for a specific game that was chosen from a recent professional match. After that, if they were chosen to be in the final 3, then it was up to the public to vote, so promoting that was an important step.
How did you celebrate once you were informed that you won?
Good question. Well, I was with my family on a vacation in Costa Rica, so I continued to enjoy that and then started contacting friends in Japan to let them know I would be back for my first time in a while. Other than that, I guess I just had to keep up with everything else in my life, prepared for Japan and then the celebration for me was the experience at the WTTTC in Tokyo. My acting coach would say that doesn't count as a celebration, so I guess I still owe myself one. 8>D
A big thrill must have been seeing your name posted at ITTF.com as the winner and being invited to the World Championships in Tokyo. In what pleasantly surprising ways were things different there than you might have expected?
It definitely was!! Well, different in Japan? It was pretty similar to how I remembered it. I think I saw fewer girls wearing jeans under polka dot skirts. Maybe that style isn't quite as popular now. I saw more ramen shops where you ordered from machines and even a sushi restaurant where I ordered on a computer and a machine delivered my sushi to my seat. I made a video about it and put it on my FB page.
As far as the WTTTC goes, I was really impressed with the DJ they had for the majority of the event. His music was EXCELLENT and really made it feel EXCITING and INTENSE, like a major sporting event rather than a massage parlor or a meditation space.
I was very impressed with the atmosphere surrounding the stadium. It was like a carnival for fans and almost a mini-table tennis theme park. I expected it would be spectacular and it was. I was expecting that Japan would make it an exciting event and they sure did. I guess I was very impressed to see how humble many of the top players were when I spoke to them in person. This was hands down the most spectacular table tennis event I have ever been to and I think it really raises the bar for creating events and working to make this more of a spectator sport. 8>)
As The Voice of Table Tennis, what will your responsibilities be going forward?
The WTTTC was sort of my audition. It was a chance for the ITTF and the people who hire commentators to see if I could perform under pressure. It seemed to go very well. And while I have a lot to learn, they liked what I did enough to book me to commentate at 4 world tour tournaments in 4 different countries in June and more in the future. So, hopefully I will be doing lots more commentating for table tennis and learning more every time I do it. From a responsibility standpoint, I guess it is my responsibility to watch EVEN MORE table tennis, read MORE articles and do my best to stay informed so that I can be up-to-date and share useful information. We'll see. I am pretty open to new and exciting possibilities. 8>)
How can we follow your commentary?
Well, anyone who follows my personal account on FB should be kept informed of upcoming events I will be commentating (and I often share other table tennis videos that I find really exciting). So that's probably the best way to know which tournaments I will be commentating. Also, many of these pro tournaments should be streaming live on ITTF.com so people can get more than just the highlights. And I can tell you, it's really a cool experience watching it live. You sort of feel like you're there. 8>)
You obviously love the sport so much. What is it about table tennis that speaks to you?
Indeed! It's very creative. I really love the combination of physical and mental in the sport. I love playing sports and I love thinking (or pretending to). I think the things I love about chess combined with really quick reaction time and the physicality of it makes it very exciting. I love that everyone can play: young and old, seated and standing, arms and no arms (or arm singular), in GREAT shape and people can even be in pretty terrible shape and still be much better than I will ever be. I love the feeling of control. I love the elements of deception, trickery and surprise. And I love the sound of the ball hitting the table, hitting the rubber, and even the sound of it hitting the net -- as long as it stays on my opponent's side. From extreme concentration, to how clever the sport is and how the combination of hard work and creativity results in some FASCINATING points ... THAT speaks to me. It's also extremely challenging. And I've often enjoyed a great challenge. 8>)
There was a lot of talk in Tokyo about President Sharara's decision to "change his focus." What was the buzz you heard and what are your personal thoughts?
I wasn't a part of many conversations regarding President Sharara and since I understand little about the change, I am not sure how much my thoughts or opinions should matter on this topic.
I think the best I can do is just sort of echo what I heard, which was that the switch of title/position doesn't really matter much. He will still be actively involved in the ITTF in many of the same ways he has been during his Presidency. That's what I heard.
Regarding his focus on the Chinese domination, well, it's definitely real and it's definitely not making the sport more suspenseful or exciting. I even hear from many of my Chinese friends that in China they find table tennis less exciting to watch because there's so little question about who will win. And, of course, a China vs. China final makes it much less exciting to be patriotic and demands more from an audience to really care who wins. So while I think it's a big issue, it concerns me a little if we put too much effort into trying to make China worse rather than trying to rise to the challenge and make other countries stronger to close the giant gap.
Of course it won't be easy, and probably will take a while, but it seems ideal to have the highest level of play possible rather than trying to ask the #1 to play nice, or simply try and trip them up. If we change rules or equipment, I have trouble imagining that that would stop China from being the hardest working country in the sport.
President Sharara has a lot of hands-on experience working on this issue, so I am aware that he must know a lot more about it than I do. I applaud his efforts and hope that with his help we can work to increase popularity, develop much better training and support for the sport around the world to really raise the level and be competitive with the Chinese, not because we dragged them down but because we met them at the top. 8>)