USA Table Tennis

History of U.S. Table Tennis Volume 13: 1984

CHAPTER SIX

            1984: USTTA E.C. Election Candidates’ Campaign Statements.1984: Election Advice. 1984: Election Procedures. 

            Since the Campaign Statements of those running for 1984 USTTA Executive Committee office appear in the Feb. issue of SPIN (24+), and I’m in general proceeding through the year in chronological fashion, I’d best get to those Statements now.

            Running for Association President are incumbent Sol Schiff and former Association President Tim Boggan.

            Here’s Sol’s Statement: 

            “This is the first time in the 51 years of the existence of the USTTA that you, the voters, must decide the future fate of the Association. You must decide if it is to become the Boggan TTA or continue being the USTTA. As President of the USTTA and as Editor of his own magazine (and possibly ours), Boggan will control the E.C. and greatly influence the thinking of the membership. This is a situation that should not be permitted to occur as we will become a dictatorship controlled by Boggan.

            Boggan was a former President of the USTTA, a position he quit and resigned in 1975. His Executive V.P., Charles Disney, was named as his replacement. Boggan’s reason for quitting was that the position was too time-consuming and he had to spend more time with his family. Yet at approximately the same time he was not too busy to sign a USTTA contract made up by Disney to continue as Editor of “Topics” at a salary of $500 per issue. This contract could only be broken with the unanimous vote of the E.C. Oddly enough during this same year, Boggan ran for VP which did not have the same pressures as the Presidency.

            I do not think that Boggan wanted to be President of the USTTA until he was replaced as Editor of “Topics.” I think he wishes to cater especially to professional players at the expense of the amateur competitors, which is a policy that may not be liked by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

            Boggan quit as President in 1975 when the USTTA budget was about $60,000 per year and there were no special groups with which he had to work. This year, I have a budget of $283,000 and must work closely with the Olympic Committee, USTTA Headquarters, USTTA-sponsored tournaments, Melia Travel Agency, manufacturers, and other projects. If Boggan could not handle his simple operation, how can he be expected to handle the complicated work that I have done and which is now required of the President?

            Let us see what Boggan accomplished in the three years (1972-75) that he was President.

            Between those years table tennis publicity was at an all-time high due to the China-U.S. Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Table tennis was featured on front pages of leading newspapers and with feature articles in many of the nation’s leading magazines. The E.C. did nothing at all to take advantage of this great opportunity of promoting our sport.

            In 1973 the USTTA was awarded the rights by the ITTF to conduct the 1979 World Championships. Boggan, instead of giving it to a responsible qualified promoter, awarded an exclusive contract to his best friend Dick Miles, to find a sponsor and site to conduct the tournament. Miles was unsuccessful, so in 1976 the ITTF took back our option and awarded the tournament to North Korea.

            In 1976 (before I became USTTA President), Boggan, along with Fernando [sic: for Fuarnado] Roberts, was a leader in organizing a short-lived professional group which organized a strike and boycotted the U.S. National Championships in Philadelphia. This was the most shameful occurrence in our history. Herb Vichnin, who ran the Nationals and who was Philadelphia’s leading organizer, became disenchanted and shortly dropped out of table tennis. Since then, table tennis in Philadelphia has practically become non-existent.

            This past year or so, Boggan has been trying to promote a North American Federation composed of Canada and the U.S. If this move is successful, it would put the U.S. in a position where we would not be in full control of our own Association. We have always been close with Canada and they will always have our full support and cooperation. A Federation is good on other continents that have many countries but it is not necessary where only two friendly countries are involved.

            Now for some of the things I have done during my terms in office.

            I alone established good relations with the striking players and their professional association was dissolved. I established a method of selection in 1976 in which young players had a better chance of making our world teams. I (with Bowie Martin) initiated a U.S. Headquarters with the first two years of the Executive Director’s salary and office costs paid by the manufacturers. I worked out a contract with the Tamasu Co. to supply all our international teams with complete uniforms and worked out arrangements with the Nittaku Co. to be a large sponsor of our National Championships and other tournaments. I also worked on approval fees for manufacturers that bring in more money than in the past. I (with Pat O’Neill) made an excellent financial contract with the Melia Travel Agency. I moved the Nationals and Open to the Tropicana Hotel and had the USTTA sponsor both of the tournaments. The Tropicana purchased 50 Butterfly tables at $350 each, gave us $12,000 for each tournament, provided most of our workers free rooms, and permitted us to keep all of the entry fees. No other sponsor ever gave us as good a deal.

            Internationally, I helped South Korea to be accepted into the Asiatic Union and I was most instrumental in getting Taiwan admitted to the ITTF. Both South Korea and Taiwan have helped us financially when our teams visited their countries. They have also supported us by competing in our Opens.

            At present the USTTA’s financial condition is fairly tight. We had to absorb a loss on an unauthorized contract signed by Bill Addison which removed any profit we made on the Dorsett Gant ESPN television contract.

            Another big expense is the necessary cost of running our Headquarters and this will be corrected soon. The EC at our last meeting took steps to cut a good part of this expense which will take effect next June. I have every reason to believe that by the end of this year we will be in very good financial shape.

            I have run unopposed for three terms, which makes me believe either that I have been very good or that no one else would take on a job in which so much work and aggravation is involved. Most of the nicest people I have ever met have been through table tennis. The most disappointing ones are the people who run and win election to the EC and then do not do any work or else quit. One of these months (if permitted by the Editor), when I have some spare time, I will write about this and also about some of my experiences in my 58 years of table tennis.

            Here are my recommendations for EC offices. For Executive Vice-President, vote as if you were voting for the President. This person will become President if for some reason the President cannot complete his term. For Vice-President, I would recommend either D.J. Lee or Bill Hodge and then hope for the best. For Secretary, Rufford Harrison is the only man whose excellent credentials you can consider. His dependable experience, ability, and international respect make it mandatory that he be reelected. I need him, but, more importantly, the USTTA needs him.

            In conclusion, I ask and beg you to vote. This is the only statement I can write while Boggan has the advantage of writing in this issue of SPIN as well as in his own magazine. I feel a large vote would help me, but a small vote would be of great advantage to Boggan. You must decide whether you wish to have a stable USTTA presided over by me, or a chaotic and disruptive USTTA run by Boggan

            Please vote and thank you.” 

Here’s Tim’s Statement:

            “Why I’m Running

            I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I don’t know any more than you do what I can accomplish as President. But I do know there isn’t anyone else strong enough or willing enough to even attempt to get the membership out of this slough of despair that Sol Schiff has gotten us into. I’ve got a good head—a much, much better head than I had 10-12 years ago—and, since I’m not afraid to take responsibility, not afraid to try for change, I don’t intend to just sit passively by and allow us all to suffer. I’m running for office not only for myself but for all of you out there who are as dissatisfied as I am.

            I’m sick of political maneuvering, of false promises, of lies and evasions of responsibility. With your help, I’ll succeed as President, as I’ve always succeeded—with honesty, hard work, open-mindedness, and, ultimately, regardless of what anyone says, with my own right feelings.

            It must be obvious to everyone that I intend to open up the Game to the membership: that I’m going to be just the opposite from Schiff and his ‘enforcer figure’ Rufford Harrison; that I want to communicate not dictate. My job is to energize the Association. So of course I want as much give and take, as much dialogue, between the members and me as possible. I want to talk with them in person and on the phone, want to exchange correspondence with them, and hold open meetings with them at big tournaments. I do not want secrecy. I want all voices to be heard—as I’ve always allowed them to be heard in Topics or Timmy’s.

            The Timmy’s/SPIN two-paper situation, in the interests of harmony, for whatever’s the greater good of the membership, I’m at least willing to talk about. But of course, as of now, I certainly intend to keep editing the paper, going after subscribers, for I enjoy doing it and think its breadth and free-press reality valuable to the Sport.           

USTTA/USOC Relationship/Executive Director’s Role

            Under Schiff’s administration, much has been made of our connection with the United States Olympic Committee and the historic benefits to be derived therefrom. But, despite Executive Director Bill Haid’s often glowing rhetoric, the truth is that the membership has really been kept in the dark and all is NOT going well at all.

            As anyone who attended the recent EC meeting in Las Vegas knows, the increasingly uncommunicative, uncooperative Schiff has actually been jeopardizing our relationship with the USOC. Unbelievable. The membership simply cannot allow this to continue.

            As for Haid, who’s been something of an EC scapegoat for do-nothing Sol and so at another’s mercy, he’s often caught trying to save face, trying to pretend there’s a harmony when there isn’t any. I have to say—though he does have some defenders—that he just hasn’t been doing the kind of Executive Director job that for six years now most of us hoped he would. His position, his plight, raises the question; what dividends has the membership a right to expect from a $27,500-a-year ED with a secretary? Is he not to be something more than a USTTA/USOC liaison?

            Despite the thousands of dollars received from the USOC, and the thousands upon thousands more hopefully we will receive, the Sport in this country continues to deteriorate. What is all this Olympic Committee money being spent on? Does the membership know? Do they have any input at all in the matter? In the next four years, two U.S. players (three at the most) will qualify for the Olympics. Good for them. But there’s got to be a lot more to table tennis in the U.S. than that.

            At the Closed in Vegas, Carl Danner gave me his Campaign Statement to read and I agree with what he says about the USTTA’s need for rebuilding and openness. I think Carl’s very capable, independent-minded, fair, and I think he’d be a big help to me on the E.C. I’d like you to vote for him.

            But as important as Carl knows the USTTA/USOC relationship to be, he also understands that we just can’t go to sleep on the soft-couch cushion that at the moment we’re being welcomed with on high at Olympic House. The gods help those who help themselves. We need, with or without help from Colorado Springs, to at least try to initiate some Programs. 

What I Want to Do

            A recent Harris poll says that since the 1960’s there’s been a150% increase in physical activity among men and women. What’s keeping a lot of these people from playing table tennis? The answer’s obvious: there are no decent places to play. And so it will always be unless the USTTA, with or without the help of the USOC, tries to do something about it.

            I’d like the USTTA (hopefully through its Executive Director or a paid professional fund raiser) to find 75% of the seed money needed to establish a prototype club, a model club, somewhere in this country—to be run as a private business so that its owner might make a respectable living. My idea is that just as the USTTA has come to have ‘Approved Equipment,’ so in time will they come to have ‘Approved Clubs’—with all the good conditions and services to the players that would come with the right kind of USTTA sanction.

            Naturally, just exactly where the first of these professionally-staffed USTTA clubs would be would be up to the membership, and I would immediately set up a committee to decide as fairly as possible which of the prototype club proposals seemed best, so that through open bidding an order of give-it-a-try priority could be established.

            This club would have to be large enough for leagues and major tournaments, perhaps even national tournaments. And it would have to be in a decent area and continually well kept up so that women and juniors would be encouraged to play there.

The USTTA, with or without the help of Colorado Springs, would then fund a school program in the locale of this club—which means, probably (I say ‘probably’ because I’d really have to seek professional help to firm this up), having an exhibition team of 2-3 people, the well-paid leader of which must be quite verbal and sophisticated enough to be very understanding of the different kinds of school officials, teachers, and pupils he’d be talking to. This team would also have an action film to show, for, as Bill Steinle, among others, well knows, films can be of enormous value to the USTTA, and much more money ought to be allocated to this committee.

But whatever student-play this exhibition team would start regularly, in whatever schools, they’d still have to make every effort to get these students to play (preferably free) in the prototype club. ‘Why should kids play this sport seriously?’ is a question that has to be convincingly answered or we’ll never have any more junior players than pathetically we do now.

Surely the membership must know that I’ll want a referendum for them to ACT. We all know how things drift on now. So many players from all over the country go socially to ‘night school’ once a week. But they really don’t get as much play for their time, don’t really learn to improve their game there as many of them would like to. Indeed, many of these players never come to have any understanding of, or appreciation for, table tennis excellence. I want to change their self-inhibiting attitude. If such enthusiasts had a real club to go to, not just one night but any night, if they could and their children could take lessons from a professional and view films of the world’s best, if they could actually watch very good players live and perhaps even talk to them, it would surely make a difference in their attitude. They’d begin to be proud of THEIR CLUB, THEIR SPORT, and they would care far more than they do now about helping our Association grow.

If just one decent club were to provide a good living for its owner, and then another, another, and another, in just one pocket of this country, and then another, and another, healthy rivalries could be fostered between local area clubs. State associations could then be formed and strengthened; a cooperative network among regions encouraged; and limiting-local-loyalties extended to national ones. Really, it could all be done—it’s happening now in 1984 in a way in California, and it could happen, say, in Indiana.

Of course while this new prototype club development was going on, the USTTA would be trying to stimulate inter-club play (especially initially) in those states that showed the most activity. Certainly the Association could be offering members more help than they’re offering them now. As Russell Trenholme suggested to me, they could pay an experienced man a salary and expenses to contact tennis clubs around the country, so that, serving as an experienced liaison figure between tennis and prospective table tennis managers, this man could get USTTA clubs established in respectable surroundings.

I think if one person—me—really got behind this project, more experienced heads would rally to help me, and you would begin to see clubs formed. [Sounds very good, Tim, but would you really get behind this project? You’d soon see you’d need a lot of help.]

And if and when you started to get NON-PLAYING spectators at these clubs, you’d know, the TV people would know, that table tennis was in shape (as it definitely wasn’t for cross-country Addison and crew) to show on the home screen.

Another idea the USTTA might try is to look for alternate ways of making the Sport attractive to spectators. All over the world their absence is a soul-destroying problem. The finals of the Tokyo World Championships three decades ago drew 10,000 spectators. In 1983 they drew less than 1,000. Even initiates want to see something more than a staccato serve-and-follow game, something more than this herky-jerky nervous winning through an excessive number of unforced errors. They want to see power combined with grace—want, need, to appreciate style.

            So let’s show some independence, let’s be revolutionaries again (as we once were with the Expedite Rule). Let’s forget, for a moment anyway, the two-color rule and have a tournament—no, a Championship—where we experiment, use only standardized rackets. Would the spectators, the players, like these matches? We won’t know until we’ve tried. [But would the manufacturers, distributors, and individual sellers of equipment like these matches? We already know, don’t we?]

             We want to search for ways to make the Sport more fun to play and better to watch, right? Are players with unpredictable ‘magical’ combination-rackets ‘tricksters’? (But then what player doesn’t have tricks?) Are those with different-side rackets more fun to watch than players with standardized equipment? Quite possibly not. Why shouldn’t 90% of the matches between good players be predictably interesting? Why shouldn’t the spectators be constantly entertained? In the interest of experimentation, for the good of the Sport, wouldn’t the ITTF, the USTTA, be willing to waive an occasional rule? What the hell did anyone ever accomplish without taking a risk or two?

            Why, by the way—just because the contact had already been made, just because it’s easy?—must both of our biggest tournaments, the Open AND the Closed, repeatedly be held in Las Vegas? Is this geographically fair to the membership?

            I speak of risks, and of course any worthwhile project you talk about is sure to cost money and demand hard work. Where, oh where, is the money to come from? Well, we can always start by talking up front with the USOC people. They’re not stupid. They can understand it’s not just Colorado Springs we want to pour all those thousands of developmental dollars into. If we show them we have other very good uses for the money, and they really want to help us build up table tennis, they’ll be cooperative.

            And, m’god, surely our members have some backbone: surely they can help us fund some worthwhile programs. And we can always be looking for an entrepreneur who’ll subsidize maybe eight players on a multi-city tour. Our grab-bag, 55-event National tournaments are so awful-looking, so unprofessionally staged, that no one could seriously think they give the Sport any visibility at all.

            What we desperately need in this Sport are proper venues and promoters willing to take a calculated risk to sell tickets to spectators who, liking what they see, will want to root for their favorites and will want to come back and root for them again and again.

            In the meantime, if you like what I say, you’ll continue to root for me too, eh?”

Other Campaign Statements

There now follow the Campaign Statements of others running for EC office. First, we’ll take (SPIN, Feb., 1984, 18) the two candidates running for Executive Vice-President—Gus Kennedy and Yvonne Kronlage, one of whom will be elected. Then (SPIN, Feb., 1984, 19) the three candidates for Recording Secretary—Rufford Harrison, Dennis Gresham, and Judy Todd, one of whom will be elected. Then (SPIN, Feb., 1984, 20+) the five candidates for Vice President, two of whom will be elected. In summarizing what they say, I’m going to go easy on the listed accomplishments of those familiar to you, and I’m not going to include statements that aren’t relatively fresh or specific—such as “I would be honored to serve the Sport” or “I have always thought table tennis to be a dynamic sport, one of mesmerizing entertainment, and promotable when performed by our top athletes.” It’s understood that I’ve limited space here for this coverage, that all candidates want to serve, and that they all think highly of the Sport and its possibilities.

For Executive Vice-President:

            Gus Kennedy says he’s “a professional electrical engineer—a details man.” Gus emphasizes that the USTTA E.C. needs to be conscious of the money they spend. He tries to set a good example. At the Dec., 1983 E.C. meeting, he voted not to raise the membership dues. Meanwhile, he saved 60% of his budget as International Chair, and, as a fund-raiser for literally a decade, this last April he brought in $3,500 to help fund the U.S. Team to the World’s. Gus enjoys going to tournaments here and abroad, and writing his International column. “This participation gives me direct knowledge of players’ needs and concerns,” he says, “as well as problems tournament directors and sponsors have.” Yes, he’s interested—interested enough to “write over 700 letters a year.”

            Gus is concerned that the EC hasn’t really identified the way the Development funds we’ve received from the USOC are spent. He says, “I’ve worked with USTTA Olympic Chair Jimmy McClure on a spending plan that will “shift funds from Headquarters’ operating expenses to athlete-oriented projects….Headquarters needs to be restructured. We spent over $50,000 for administration expenses. Our National Teams, both junior and adult, should be funded at least a third of this amount.”

            We also need “to structure the USTTA with more state associations—because the local clubs are our backbone.”

            Yvonne Kronlage says, “I have served on the E.C. as Treasurer and I have run a club in Maryland for 20 years. I have been involved in four Eastern Championships and one Nationals. Every year I hold a USTTA Training Camp in Maryland. I run 10 tournaments a year—a circuit for all players.”

            Yvonne wants: “a National Championship for the top 32 players with TV and good sponsorship”…also, “a traveling coach to cover all clubs to give clinics and to coach ALL players.”

              There are a number of hard questions Yvonne wants answered. “How come we’re in hot water with the Olympic Committee after being with them only a short time?...Why was the name ‘Topics’ changed after 50 years? Who was the authority for that name change? Why was the new editor given a substantial salary increase from the old one? Why did our Junior membership drop in half from Nov., 1981 to Jan., 1983? Why aren’t there more programs for the Juniors? Why is money being reduced for the Junior camps when they should be increased? Why don’t we have a Junior Championship instead of mixing Junior play with the Nationals and Open? Will we have any good players who can make the 1988 Olympics? Why don’t we have more women players? Are the prizes the cause? Is it that they get put on the back tables? Is there not enough coverage and glamour to entice them to play? Is there not enough international competition to keep them interested? Why did two vice-presidents resign? Why is the USTTA always broke? How come there’s no table tennis on TV?

Let’s get our act together and know our priorities. The majority of you out there—the Under 2000 players—you are the ones that keep this Association going. Sound a voice as to what you feel is needed….

            Help me to help you.”

For Recording Secretary:

            Dennis Gresham. “I have been an active player for more than 30 years. I organized the table tennis club in Austin, Texas and was president of the club for many years. When I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I organized the table tennis club and served as its first president. I have since been serving the club as treasurer. 

            For the past nine years I have taught a credit P.E. class in table tennis at the University of New Mexico. My wife, Liz, daughter Toni, and I feel it safe to say that playing in tournaments at the local, regional, and national level are the high points in our year….

            As far as a profession goes, I am a computer analyst programmer, and it may be that the methodology of analysis might be useful to a member of the EC.”

            Dennis would particularly like to see: “the USTTA solve its money management problems…have more clubs and more Association members…a nationwide grass roots program to attract more participation and instill more respect for the sport…and more training camps for players of all levels.”

Rufford Harrison—has for a quarter of a century been in the service of the USTTA. As we’ve importantly seen, most recently in my last volume and already in this one, Rufford is in lock-step with Sol—they’re one entity.

Judy Todd.  “…I am involved on a local (Columbia, MO) and regional (Great Plains: Wisner, NE and Iowa City, IA) level…I would like to help bring the USTTA back toward a ‘grass roots’ orientation: to help make the EC more aware of the needs of its members and affiliated clubs….Voting for me would be like voting for yourself. I am from among the masses of the USTTA membership….

I am a secretary by profession. I have the knowledge and experience to provide minutes to EC meetings that will be both readable and understandable.” 

For Vice-President:

            Carl Danner. “The upcoming Olympic Games signify the start of a growth opportunity for table tennis and the USTTA unparalleled since the U-S-China exchange of the early ‘70’s. I want to ensure that this opportunity, unlike the last one, is not wasted. Table tennis needs talented and qualified management and leadership NOW. I can help to provide it.”

            Of particular interest to voters is Carl’s background in management and leadership: “I have organized and run local clubs and tournaments…run a small equipment business…assisted at major national events, and in particular assisted my father with the strategic planning that resulted in our membership in the Olympic Committee and the establishment of the National Table Tennis Foundation….

            …I hold a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard University (and I expect to complete my Ph.D. during my term). The Public Policy program rigorously trains professionals for public service in government and in organizations like the USTTA. Skills in finance and management are sorely needed on the Executive Committee: I have them.

            …When the Chinese Team visited us in 1972 major stadiums were filled with people watching table tennis matches. But where did all that momentary publicity get us? Not very far—we missed out. Without a professional-quality EC, we could miss out on this Olympic opportunity.”

            Carl sees the following tasks as central to USTTA progress: rebuild a strong committee system to perform necessary tasks…use Olympic benefits well…bring our bickering factions together constructively…use our central office to promote professional sponsors and encourage our non-Olympic resources to do the same…urge our leaders to be more open, show more candor; and urge our members to scrutinize EC actions to help prevent some of the conflict-of-interest excesses we’ve seen in the past.”

            Carl believes that, as we’re “poised on the brink of new opportunities,” he can bring “fresh leadership and professional management to the USTTA.”

 Bill Hodge

            Readers are surely familiar with Bill’s background that’s been covered extensively in my volumes. He doesn’t emphasize anything specifically new in this year’s Campaign Statement, except perhaps to pique one’s interest when he says, “It is important that everyone becomes involved, gets scared [sic], and votes.”

Patti Hodgins

…For the past several years I have been a T.T. instructor for Saddleback College, and have also been coaching young players….Just recently I raised over $3,000 from donations, tournaments, and exhibitions to send Jim Lane and help Mark Kennedy to China for training….This year, with the help of wonderful club members, I organized three tournaments and got publicity for them.”

Patti believes that “we need more communication between the EC and members”—for example, “the membership should have been consulted about the name change of ‘Topics.’

“Fortunately,” says Patti, “because I work in real estate, I am able to travel to meetings….And I have the time, the experience, the will, and the energy to work for you.”

D-J Lee

            Of course over the years our 6-time National Champion D-J Lee has continually caught our attention. He says: “As U.S. Champion, I toured throughout the States, visiting clubs and colleges, giving coaching clinics and exhibitions….I opened and managed my own table tennis club. We held coaching clinics six times a year, established a program to bring in and develop players, ran leagues for the lower-ranked players to give them tournament experience, and held USTTA-sanctioned tournaments regularly.

            I was the first American player to play in the European Leagues. As a member of the prestigious Bundesliga, I established the contacts needed to open the door for other American players to go to Europe to train and play….

            Up to now, table tennis in this country has been controlled for the most part by people who have not been motivated to promote, or had the ability to promote, the sport in such a way as to give it a chance to rise and develop as it has elsewhere in the world.

            Most of the people who have controlled U.S. table tennis in recent years have either promoted their own selfish interests, or haven’t had the ability or desire to affect the necessary changes. These people have served only as stumbling blocks to those few good people who occasionally find their way on to the E.C. and are quickly frustrated….I have the ability and courage to implement the necessary changes.”

            What D-J would do if elected: reorganize the major tournaments so that they’re more appealing to spectators, prospective sponsors, and the media…place our most promising players in training programs abroad…set up a U.S. coaching system for all levels of players while also working to get USTTA coaches into U.S. high schools…and improve our relationship with the USOC by following their directives regarding player representation.           

Fred Tepper

            Fred, for close to eight years the Program Director of the Liberty Road TT Club in Randallstown, MD, says our Association has to develop credibility. He looks for a four-point improvement. 1. Work on attracting spectators. 2. Encourage fan identification that would link the sport’s spectators with the players. 3. Command the attention of the media. 4. Follow by acquiring sponsors. All four of these parts are locked together.

            Fred complains that table tennis is looked upon as a ‘Mickey Mouse’ game-room activity by the sports fan, the media, and sponsors—and that this is “a mirrored reflection of the lack of leadership on our EC over the years.” We need, he says, “a dynamic, entertaining presentation of our Sport to attract fans, sponsors, and the media.”…Our first priority ought to be “a vibrant, dynamic, imaginative and ongoing public relations and advertising campaign.”

            Fred is also interested in developing junior players and coaching and training sites for them…and in getting schools to help us in developmental programs.

            Fred wants to serve, but, he says, “I have no intention, no desire, to be part of an EC that is not, in its entirety, moving in a positive and expeditious manner toward credibility and acceptance of table tennis as a major athletic sport in America.”       

             Eventually of course we’ll see who wins office. But in addition to articles I’ve already shown that speak to the election there are several more. Here's a pertinent excerpt from an undated letter Bob Tretheway sent me:

“...It was encouraging to hear that you intend to run for USTTA president. While I cannot obligate myself to support your candidacy I feel that the situation of the past, no opposition to Sol, has been an unhealthy one for the Association.

It is hoped by myself and many others that your campaign will (1) stress a restructuring of the USTTA’s management team [meaning what?...fire Executive Director Bill Haid...and replace him with who?] and (2) focus on fiscal responsibility. I have been in Colorado Springs for the past six months and have had an opportunity to observe a great deal with respect to the operation of the USTTA. I am convinced that the burden of responsibility for what has happened, or hasn’t happened, with the sport has had very little to do with the E.C. Some would argue that the E.C. has been afraid to make decisions; I would argue that they haven’t been properly informed so as to make intelligent decisions and set the policy for the organization. There seems to be a serious inability on the part of Bill Haid to communicate with the E.C., and after having been here for these past months it is easy to understand why....” [So much for Bill Haid.]

In articles that appeared either in SPIN or Timmy’s, Tretheway and Mel Eisner urge the membership to vote, but both (not wishing to offend a future President?) obscurely only hint at who they favor. Here’s Bob (SPIN, Feb., 1984, 5): 

            “The apathy of the USTTA membership at election time has become legend, as has our ability to belittle and complain. This year it is, I think, more important than ever before that YOU vote. Cast your eyes upon the future—cast your ballot.”

            And here’s Mel (Timmy’s, Feb.-Mar., 1984, 5):

            “The campaign reaches white hot fury as charges and counter-charges, promises and non-promises, meaningful and meaningless statements are made.

            I urge every USTTA member who has not yet voted to send in his or her ballot before the deadline.

            In deciding who to vote for, please do read the campaign statements carefully, for they reveal who has purpose and dedication and who will provide the driving power that is needed.

            Vote. It is YOUR organization and YOUR time to have a say in how it is run.”

            Stan Robens had earlier taken a swipe at Topics Editor Boggan when, on receiving the first issue of Tom Wintrich’s SPIN, he’d written in a Letter to the Editor, “It’s about time we had a professional table tennis magazine…the new USTTA magazine will elevate the image of table tennis….” Now Stan writes another Letter (SPIN, Feb., 1984, 5):

            “The forthcoming USTTA Executive Committee election is perhaps the most important election in the history of our Association and it’s time for a change. “Change’ is the key to this election. What’s needed is new thinking by dedicated and competent people who have the welfare of our membership in mind plus a new era of growth for table tennis.

            The past few years have been a disaster! No growth; no communication; no leadership; and financially….who knows—it’s been kept a secret. The present people serving on the EC have allowed our Association to become stagnant.

            Only the voting membership can initiate a change for the better. And the people I believe who can make this change a reality are; Tim Boggan for President, Yvonne Kronlage for Executive Vice-President, Dennis Gresham for Secretary, and Carl Danner for Vice-President.”

            The last of the articles in SPIN or Timmy’s at this time bearing on the Election is written by Fred Danner (Timmy’s, Feb.-Mar., 1984, 19-20). He says:

            “This USTTA election provides a unique opportunity to get some new, very well qualified people placed on the Executive Committee. I would like to first describe the kind of qualifications our executives need to bring U.S. Table Tennis out of the dark ages, and then to show why some of the candidates have the unique talent to accomplish this.

            What are we missing on our present E.C? I think the biggest problem we have been experiencing throughout my 25 years in table tennis are financial. Back in the 1960 to 1975 time period the available funds were so low that either the USTTA E.C. saved up money and did nothing, or they tried to develop unsupported programs leading to no profitability for the organization and went broke.

            From 1976 to 1982, as Vice President during Sol Schiff’s term as President, I succeeded in establishing through the U.S. Olympic Committee affiliation over $100,000 per year of benefits to table tennis—some $49,000 per year in development funds which USTTA could use and control, and the rest in player, office, officials, and training center subsidies. When I had to resign in 1982 because of family illness, we had not done much to bring our national program under any satisfactory financial control. We had a lot more money (also from sources other than the USOC) but still weren’t doing the right thing with it.

            It’s great to have a quarter-million operating budget for USTTA and Sol Schiff had a major role in promoting much of these newly available funds, but he must also take the major share of responsibility for not properly enforcing an efficient spending policy. As an E.C. member, it was difficult to do any good financial planning when the president would come in to a meeting and drop 19 ‘emergency actions’ in your lap—several of which involved spending hundreds of dollars. The instability which results from a lack of budget control tends to prevent good longer-term table tennis development programs from ever being started.

            What can we do to solve this type problem? First, we need E.C. members who can do detailed financial analysis and relate how each new program being considered affects the overall association financing. Carl Danner, a candidate for USTTA Vice-President, has his undergraduate degree in Economics from Stanford and is currently working with the California Public Service Commission to financially analyze major west coast utilities to protect the public from excess rate charges. He is an expert in macro and micro economic analysis. He can tear a corporate balance sheet apart and tell what’s wrong with it. We really need his special talents on the E.C. Vote for Carl and maybe we will be able to stop USTTA E.C. members from spending money like drunken sailors on non-productive projects.

            A second quality will be essential during the next few years to bring efficient and effective management to USTTA. That is the ability to deal with the data-processing revolution. Our E.C. members need to understand how to use computers well and to make trade-offs on what projects should be done to support local and regional table tennis programs. Do we pay to rent a computer terminal in the USTTA office? Share someone else’s? What should it cost to process Membership? Ratings? And so forth.

            Look at your list of candidates. Who has the technical background to help resolve the many data-processing decisions? A review of the campaign statement and past personal knowledge shows that Gus Kennedy has some of this capability. He has used it to generate fund-raising letters and summaries over the past several years. Carl Danner teaches graduate engineers courses in computer cost analysis of utility projects. Finally, Dennis Gresham—Candidate for Executive Secretary—is a professional computer analyst/programmer. It is almost mandatory for anyone doing USTTA Secretary work to have access to data-processing equipment and networks. Rufford Harrison has a technical background but to the best of my knowledge he hasn’t used data-processing techniques in any of his past E.C. work. Many new avenues of communication between the E.C. committee chairmen, and members are possible when computers are properly used. Within five years good sports management organizations will depend on computer systems.

            A third quality badly needed on the present USTTA E.C. is leadership which directs a team effort through the entire E.C. and demands that each member carry out independent development work as part of an integrated group. I don’t see how this quality can develop under Schiff’s leadership. He, in my opinion, exercises far too much individual power as President which can frustrate E.C. members who take their job seriously. I was fortunate because Sol was very much in favor of the Olympic work I was doing; but if he didn’t want something else to happen, he would delay it or obstruct the item until it disappeared. One such item was the attempt to limit his discretionary authority to commit funds between E.C. meetings without advising the rest of the E.C. prior to the decision.

            While Tim Boggan is not the best possible candidate for USTTA President, I think we should make a change and elect him. Sol has in many ways done a fine job as President, but he has the same problem as Tim did as Editor of Topics. Both of them thought they were either indispensable or that they ‘owned’ the job. When Tim first became Topics Editor he put out some truly great issues (look back to 1971-73 and see). Later, in my opinion, the quality of some issues were relatively poor. It’s hard to work at a job which you took as a challenge, and, after many years, now think of as an obligation.

            Tim did run a very fine E.C. as past USTTA President in the 1972-73 season. It was downhill after that as his actions as President were affected by sheer overwork and related family and financial problems. If we elect Tim as USTTA President I am confident that he will be able to do an excellent job. He doesn’t have any major outside headaches at present.

            If Tim Boggan is elected, I would recommend that resolutions be passed to limit the maximum term of any USTTA President to six years. If this were done, any newly elected President would have enough time to put together a long-range USTTA development plan and see the results of the effort. We shouldn’t make a life sentence out of the job. Some similar rule ought to apply to the SPIN Editor.

            Please take an active interest in this most important election. Vote for the candidates you think will be best able to promote and expand the Sport of Table Tennis in the best way possible.”

            Appropriately enough, I’ll give the last word on this Election to Mal Anderson, Nominating Chairman, who will tell us about the “Election Procedures” (Timmy’s, Feb.-Mar., 1984, 12):

            “The following election procedures have been put into operation for the casting of ballots and counting.

            After all eligible nominees for offices on the Executive Committee had been submitted and approved, they were notified they could submit a campaign statement to the editor of ‘SPIN’ for publication in the February issue.

            I have worked with Bill Haid to produce election ballots, mailing envelopes and the needed voting procedure. Copy was written, approved, set in type, and printed.

            Only those USTTA adult members whose membership was current as of January 1, 1984 received a ballot.

            Bill Haid was able to acquire the services of four volunteer workers from the USOC and they affixed the labels, matching up the names for the mailing envelope and return envelope. The mailing, as scheduled, was mailed ‘bulk non-profit’ five days after the February SPIN mailing.

            Inside the envelope, ballot directions state, ‘Mail this ballot to USTTA Headquarters in the small envelope enclosed.’ That means one ballot to be returned in that envelope.

            Each ballot as received will be date-stamped on the envelope and will remain sealed. The person’s name on the return address is checked off on a master computer print-out of only those people eligible to vote. Ballots are put into a sealed carton, with a slot opening at the top.

            On Monday, April 16, four volunteers from the USOC, who will be selected on that date, will assemble in a conference room to open the envelopes and count the ballots.

            Ballots will not be counted until all envelopes have been opened and ballots removed. If any envelope contains more than one ballot, then all ballots from that envelope will not be counted.

            After counting and tabulations have been double-checked, all ballots, envelopes, and the computer print-out will be sealed and put in storage until the E.C. request they be destroyed. I feel this is a very sound system of maintaining a secret ballot.

            No individual will be given any information on this election until the ballots have been counted and results tabulated.”

            O.K., while we wait for the results, let’s find some fun action….

SELECTED NOTES

*Since it was I who became President in 1972, I’m sensitive to Carl’s statement—much too glibly, definitively put—that in 1972, given the table tennis publicity the Chinese brought to the U.S. with their reciprocal visit, “we missed out,” failed to take advantage of the opportunity.

How much of an opportunity, I think, is quite debatable. The Chinese hop-scotched around the country, and of course wherever they went they drew crowds. How much of this had to do with watching table tennis, wanting to play table tennis, is questionable. These players were from Mainland China, “Red China,” and were an unknown. People came out to see them and to take part in a moment of history. To think that many of them couldn’t wait to get home and start playing ping-pong is more of a stretch than for any one of them to try to counter a ball to his forehand.

I note a parallel in golf. Columnist Mark Hermann, writing in the long Island paper Newsday (June 17, 2012), says that, “Even before Tiger Woods fell from the highest of his heights, the game’s grass roots never experienced the groundswell that was expected.” Of course the golf parallel has a variable. “While Tiger Woods has been great for the professional game,” says Hermann, “his success didn’t trickle down.” Table Tennis in the U.S. in 1972 had no Tiger Woods, and no professional game, to interest people—far from it. Our opportunity for success, the opportunity we “wasted,” was to do what? How? Hermann concludes: “The boom in everyday American golf that was expected after Woods grew popular in 1997 never did materialize. Many courses that opened back then are struggling to stay afloat now, if in fact they have stayed afloat. A survey by the National Golf Foundation indicated that more American courses are shuttering than opening, and it’s not even close. There were 19 startup courses last year as opposed to 157 that went out of business.”