USA Table Tennis
1985: Pre-U.S. Open Potpourri. 1985: Historic Match in California Between China and Chinese Taipei.
In Gothenburg, according to the Minutes from an Apr. 4 Meeting at the Opalen Hotel, the ITTF Olympics Commission came to some conclusions about participation in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. It was agreed that “the table tennis players should be of the highest international standard and that the participants should be drawn from all continents and from as many countries as possible.” [Surely these are contradictory aims: powerhouse China will be denied entries in favor of weak third-world participants who’ll provide geographical representation but won’t look Olympian.] In Men’s Singles, there will be 64 players, 16 of whom will be based on the World Classification (Ranking) list and 4 nominated by the ITTF. With regard to the remaining 44 players, the recommended apportionment (through qualifying competition) is as follows: Europe (12); Asia (12); Latin America (8); Africa (8); North America (2); Oceania (2). In Women’s Singles, there will be 32 players, 8 of whom will be based on the World Classification list and 2 nominated by the ITTF. The remaining 22 players will be apportioned as follows: Europe (6); Asia (6); Latin America (4); Africa (4); North America (1); Oceania (1).
“The maximum number of players from any one country shall be four men (maximum of 3 in the Singles) and 3 women (maximum of 2 in the Singles). The limit on the total number of players means that each doubles pair must contain at least one player who is qualified for singles. Each continent will be allotted half as many doubles entries as singles. Doubles of mixed nationalities will not be allowed. The nominations reserved for the ITTF will be used to adjust the numbers of doubles entries where the number of players qualifying from a Continent is odd. [This means that North America and Oceania will each be allowed 1 women’s doubles team.]”
Of course both the U.S.’s Jimmy McClure and Canada’s Chandra Madosingh opposed this allocation and urged that for North America the allocation be enlarged and for Latin America reduced—or, put another way, the allocation be for a combined Americas. Question is: how can that be done? Both Jimmy and Chandra specifically objected to the gender disparity, and Canada thought the allocation for the not-so-strong African women should he halved. Can it be right that one Championship Division Team, China, be assured of 7 entries, and another Championship Division Team, the U.S. be assured of none? And how the hell can we get support for a U.S. TEAM at the Olympics with no assurance that U.S. Players will even be there?
Think our voices will be heard?
At the ITTF Delgates Meetings in Gothenburg, where Gus Kennedy and I represented the U.S., it was decided that all rackets had to be of two colors only—easily distinguishable red and black (Tamasu’s Butterfly Company was politicking hard for this). Agreed? Gus voted Yes for this (and to some outside snickering) I voted No. Later, I heard that some delegates were against the color black because they weren’t satisfied with its elasticity. And Danny Seemiller, for one, didn’t think the red/black ruling fair. He has to get rid of his other colored rubber, and that’s going to cost him quite a bit of money.* This black/red rule will go into effect in the U.S. in major events as of July 1, 1986 and in all events as of Jan. 1, 1987.
Some interesting proposals that failed had to do with being able to use the uncovered side of the racket blade; being required to play with the same kind of rubber on both sides; and being forced to serve cross-court in singles as well as doubles.
As I’d mentioned in my last volume, the U.S. wants to abolish the ITTF limit on prize money being offered in competition, and of course, following up on a letter I’d sent the ITTF member-countries earlier I’d made this point again to the delegates. At the moment, one could win only 1250 Swiss francs (about $600) in any one event and still keep his/her Olympic eligibility. This, I argued, in a world of glamorous money-oriented sports was such a pittance that it made table tennis look laughable, ridiculous. With such a burden, how could one create in the United States a positive image of a competitive sport that would be taken seriously by the masses?
The delegates agreed that what I said made sense. However, my companion argument was rejected. Why, when a tournament event offered more than 1250 Swiss francs, did the ITTF feel the need to impose a “tax”—5% of the total prize money—on promoters, which if not paid, would deprive anyone who played in the tournament his Olympic eligibility? I really didn’t get a satisfactory answer to this question.** Weren’t promoters, especially in the U.S., to be encouraged?
I might mention here the occasional U.S. tournament promoter who doesn’t care about the ITTF or its prize-money restrictions—Windsor Olson, readers may remember as being the prime example. He’s back again, sticking it to the ITTF with his Nov., 1984 tournament for the “15th Annual World Professional Table Tennis Title” (thus irritating the ITTF who lays claim to any World table tennis title). Though ITTF Secretary-General Tony Brooks insists that the ITTF has no list anywhere of “professional” players, Danny Seemiller cheerfully acknowledges he certainly is one. And so on May 17th I sent round, if not to the ITTF, to my E.C., this piece of information that came my way:
“Turns out that last November Danny participated in the Windsor Olson-promoted ‘Seattle Sockeyes’ vs. ‘Haiti’ match for the ‘15th Annual World Professional Table Tennis Title.’
Danny said that Olson paid him well for his evening’s performance and paid all the players something. Over the years Olson has held a number of these ‘Seattle-Haiti’ matches—though what the Haiti connection is I don’t know. Perhaps since that country has no ITTF affiliation, Olson feels he won’t get any hassle by using that ‘International’ cover (though years ago he ran at least one tournament in Port-au-Prince).
Certainly the 500 or so spectators in Seattle who paid ($25 a seat) or didn’t pay to get in couldn’t care less about the composition of the teams or who had beaten who to get into this ‘Final.’ [Poor Danny, though, was asked on TV who his Seattle team had beaten in the semi’s—and could only stumble out an “Oh, they weren’t very good.”]
For those interested in the team rosters, playing for Seattle were Danny, Zoltan Pataky, and Hong Pham (Quang Bui wanted to play, but for whatever reason wasn’t available); and playing for ‘Haiti’ were Jay Crystal, Mike Bochenski, and Mark Walsh.
‘It was more like a show than anything else,’ said Danny—‘like a big-time wrestling show. We played with a large ball—almost twice the size of a regular ball—and of course the play was slowed down. But the spectators were really into it—like in Jamaica. The publicity for this ‘Title’ match was good, and the TV set-up was excellent. Olson must have had $5,000 media expenses alone.’
I’m reminded of two of Mel Eisner’s “Upbeat” columns (SPIN, April, 1985, 25) and July-Aug., 1985, 22) in which he offers tips to those who want to do exhibitions. He stresses that the participants “recognize that they’re giving a performance rather than a demonstration of serious table tennis.” He says, “Your audience is waiting to be amused and stimulated.” So, remember, you get out there and “It’s Show Time!” Which is exactly what this ‘Title’ match successfully aspired to be.
While at the World’s—the ITTF World’s—USTTA officials had a meeting with John Loring, Export Sales Manager for Stiga. In return for providing tables, nets, surrounds, umpire’s tables and scorers, Stiga had proposed a six-year contract, renewable, covering the U.S. Open, U.S. Closed, National Sports Festival, Bill Hornyak’s Duneland tournament, Indiana’s White River Park Games, and the 1987 Pan Am Games. After I’d signed a Letter of Intent with John, I had to send him the following May 10 letter:
“…Since my arrival back in the States, I’ve been getting a great deal of criticism—from USTTA Executive Committee members not present in Gothenburg, from outside confidants, and from our USTTA lawyers—over just exactly what Jimmy McClure, Dennis Masters, and I were selectively doing in the name of the USTTA in that Letter of Intent with Stiga. So, sorry, John, but I have to insist now that the USTTA responsibly clarify and modify this Letter of Intent.
First, we must protect our Association in case we get outside commercial sponsorship—that is, of course, a non-competitive sponsor to Stiga…say a beer company. That sponsor must have access to the inner surrounds—a certain percentage of those surrounds. That kind of control the USTTA must keep, for it’s primarily those surrounds that we, the USTTA, have to sell to nation-wide TV. Also, though I certainly don’t anticipate any such commercial sponsor forbidding Stiga to film matches, my lawyers want me to allow for that unlikely possibility.
Also—a new point—the USTTA wants the right—even if we won’t likely exercise that right—to approve any party that Stiga might want to assign their agreement with us to. Naturally we wouldn’t be unreasonable, wouldn’t whimsically withhold our approval.
And, lastly, the length of the contract: not 6 years but 3 years, as Jimmy and you, John, first talked about—that’s what our Association insists on, though of course after those 3 years Stiga has the first right of refusal.
I ask you, John, to please realize that our conversations in Gothenburg escalated so rapidly from talk of 1 year’s tournaments, to 3, to 6, to include not just the U.S. Open and the Closed but other tournaments which, as we made changes in Gothenburg, got left out of the Letter of Intent. Our little group of Jimmy, Dennis and I, and you and Bengt [Stiga owner Bengt Andersson] were all so casual as not even to specify, say, just how many tables and barriers you were to provide or what delivery costs you were to incur.
Anyway, my lawyers think it’s better for what we hope will be a long-term relationship with Stiga if we carefully clarify this Letter of Intent and spell it all out in a formal contract between the USTTA and Swedish Table Tennis AB (STT) [Stiga]. Agreed?”
[No immediate contract was signed, but a Gentlemen’s Agreement went into effect.]
In Gothenburg, Dick Miles spoke to the Chinese, and I spoke to the Russians about Miles and his alliance with BWI, a sports-promotion organization whose proposed services to the USTTA will be to promote and fully financially support an upcoming tour of major U.S. universities that will feature both foreign (including some very necessary Chinese) and U.S. players. Here’s part of the follow-up Apr. 6 letter I wrote to my Russian contact, Vladimir Kosmatov:
“This will confirm our talk during the World Championships in Gothenburg. The United States Table Tennis Association wishes to invite a Men’s Team from the Soviet Union to the United States sometime either in the fall of 1985 (mid-October/mid-November), or, more likely, in 1986, between January 15/March 15 for a period of about three weeks.
As I explained to you, the Chinese have tentatively indicated that they will participate in this Tour. [Later, a China Sports Service letter to Miles and a telegram to me (in response to a query on my part) confirmed that the Chinese feel that the first half of ’86 is ideal for a University Tour.] The venues we’re proposing are approximately 12 major universities. The matches would be Davis Cup-style, and would include, if everyone accepts, a 3-man Team from the Soviet Union, a 3-man Team from China, and two U.S. Teams. We would play, for example, U.S. vs. Soviet Union and U.S. vs. China—with the two winners playing in the final.
Financial arrangements are as follows. In addition to 3 players from the Soviet Union, we would invite any two additional representatives you would care to have accompany your Team—for example, a coach and an interpreter. We would promise round-trip transportation for all five members of your party, first-class hotel accommodations, all meals, and an honorarium of $500 per week for each of the 5 people. The Chinese and the Americans would also be receiving the same amount.
We look upon this event as more of a Friendship/Competition Tour than as a series of tournaments. We would bring this Tour to the universities under the sponsorship of a major U.S. corporation—probably one that would be interested in firming up business relations with the Soviets and the Chinese, as well as presenting its product to the college market.
…We do not ask that you commit yourself in advance to this proposal until we can provide you with all the details. However, it would be of great benefit to us if you could, at the earliest possible moment, send us a brief letter expressing your interest in this project….
We are very anxious for your cooperation, and we remain your true friends in the sport of table tennis.” [I have the strong feeling now, as I write, that this is more a Miles letter than one of mine.]
Time passes, and though USTTA liaison Mel Eisner and Miles have arrived at a finished version of Dick’s contract with the USTTA, I haven’t got a response from the Russians. What then will follow?...Anything?...[Nope. BWI couldn’t get the necessary funding.]
Meanwhile, the World #2 Swedes, helped by Stiga, have agreed to send a Men’s Team to our June 26-30 U.S. Open. Specifically, our USTTA responsibility (from June 24 through Sunday, June 30) is as follows: $2,000 air fare, 3 hotel rooms, and $20 a day meal allowance for each.
As far as World Champion China being our guests at the U.S. Open I strongly pushed for that, though not unmindful that the Beijing-Miami-Beijing airfare for a group of 7 is about $10,000. Jay Harris, our Fund-Raising Chair, who’s been trying, can’t begin to guarantee that, without a sponsor, we’ll get National TV, but if we had the World Champion Chinese at our Open (in addition to the runner-up Swedes) we’d have a better chance of getting TV—and if we had TV we’d get $5,000 more help from the Miami Beach VCA.
I think inviting the Chinese, who’ve indicated they want to come (and, perhaps because our interest in them coming have made them receptive to Miles’s proposed University Tour), is worth some thousands in continuing goodwill. U.S. Team Manager Dennis Masters and I think that the E.C. could either treat this airfare expense as a U.S. Open tournament expense or else budget some of the windfall money that the E.C. has kept back for special projects or occasions.
I asked for varied opinions from my E.C. members, and received this feedback from Rufford Harrison:
“I agree with you that inviting the Chinese would be a great goodwill gesture, but I don’t think the goodwill that we’d get would be worth $10K. I’d have to vote No.
I don’t for a moment think it would be only $10K. The very minimum number of people I can see coming would be 8, and the Chinese are likely to bring more. But even at 8, how could we keep the cost down to $10K? The air fares alone would be more than that. Then there is food—no small item this; you don’t feed the Chinese a la Valhalla [perhaps an ironic reference to the terrible food offered the players/officials in Gothenburg]—and hotel rooms and local transportation. And telephone and telex. And transportation for our own players who have to be with the Chinese when they play matches outside the U.S. Open. And our officials—umpires, captains, president, manager, etc. And incidentals like a trip to the zoo or the beach or the Everglades. They don’t just fly into Miami the day before the tournament and fly home again the day after. If we did that to them we’d get no goodwill at all.
Let’s budget something next season for a lower-cost team—Sweden, France, Korea, England?—and run a tour right. And demonstrate that we are ready for a Chinese tour. [Tour? We’re inviting the Chinese to our Open; we’re not inviting them to a Tour.]”
Finally, an E.C. vote had to be taken: the result was 7-2 FOR inviting the Chinese. We promised to invite 7 people, pay airfare, hotel rooms, and give them a food allowance. They accepted.
Jay Harris and I had a recent three-way phone conversation with John Brooks, who was involved in the telecasting of table tennis tournaments some years ago (I remember at one U.S. Open in particular he and Jack Howard worked well together as an announcing team). John says an Oklahoma group, Advantage Sports, would like to work out a TV agreement with the USTTA that would guarantee the USTTA five years of hour-long U.S. Open shows on ESPN, USA, or the Turner network—providing the USTTA put up $50,000 the first year, $25,000 the second year, and went 50-50 partners the third through fifth years. For this year’s U.S. Open, Advantage would want $25,000 in hand before starting to film. Questions are there to be explored, agreements possible…but the USTTA wasn’t ready to get involved.
Bard Brenner, the local Organizing Director for the 1985 U.S. Open (first time the Open’s ever been in Florida) writes an article (SPIN, July-Aug., 1985, 16) in which he describes the needed “U.S. Open Groundwork.” Here’s something of how that played out:
“…The first major hurdle, the prize money, was solved with the $15,000 provided by the lead commercial sponsor—Capital Bank, with the approval of its President, Abel Holtz.
The most difficult item, the playing site, took four months to resolve. Last February, Norman Litz, Convention Center Director, quoted a $22,500 rate to Dennis Masters. I appealed first to the advisory board and then the city commission to get rent reductions to $18,300 and finally a base rent of $12,500….Then in March, the Visitor and Convention Authority (VCA) of Miami Beach approved a $2,500 grant plus another $2,500 matching grant. The next month, the Council of Arts and Sciences of Metropolitan Dade County approved $7,500….The sum total of government support thus covered the cost of the concrete-floor playing site.
With a choice of three official tournament hotels available to us, we eventually picked the Biscayne Bay Marriott in Miami. They offered to pay for peak-hour shuttle service to the tournament, provide a complimentary player’s party, and reasonable room rates….
The cost of hosting both the Chinese and the Swedes exceeded $17,000. In addition, President Boggan went for a rented four-table basketball floor in the main arena (rental cost $2,500) surrounded by 5,000 cushioned chairs, and an outrageously expensive Program put together by Boggan under too casual advisement of Jay Harris who, selecting the printer, apparently, like Boggan, wasn’t responsible enough to consider what the cost might mount to….
Problems encountered: (1) Foreign teams entered in record numbers (20 countries represented), but many sent in their player-information late. This caused havoc as it hurt pre-event publicity, and helped drive up the cost of the 46-page Program to almost double the budget. [Why was that?] (2) Too many U.S. players stayed home. At one early point we thought we might have 800 entries; we ended up with 525 or so. (3) Assembling the tables, despite Director of Physical Operations Dick Evans’s expertise, took a day longer than planned, and, though the players enjoyed the extra practice time, it cost the USTTA $1,500 to have the lights turned on. (4) The hostage crisis preempted half of our pre-tournament television and some of the in-progress footage shot by the local network affiliates. (5) And of course we were up against Wimbledon. The end result: tournament expenses escalated. [I’d like to see now—what I don’t have—a detailed listing of what those expenses were.]***
On the plus side, players and officials would consider it a highly successful tournament. The luxury-line hotel with its waterfront location, varied restaurants, shopping mall next door, and night life within the hotel were all much appreciated. Publicity for the tournament was good. There were table tennis commercials on Channel 7 WSVN (Miami’s NBC affiliate) up to 15 days before the competition. And there were over 60 different articles in the newspapers, including the New York Times, thanks mostly to the efforts of local publicity director Bob Gordon. (The Times article by Jon Nordheimer struck the right note by opening, “After a long climb out of the American basement rec room, the game of Ping-Pong is spinning toward acceptance as a sport in this country.”) Jay Harris got ESPN to do limited national coverage, and we even had a TV crew from Chinese Taipei beam the action via satellite to Taiwan.”
Before the Open, in Los Angeles, Dennis Masters and I, Tim, had had an encouraging talk with Dr. Jiing T. Wang who’d head a support group that would take good care of the Chinese from the time of their arrival in L.A. until they were to leave for Miami. Ai Liguo would serve as our USTTA liaison, would meet the Chinese at the airport, would accompany them and see that all was well. Liguo and the Chinese would be joined in Miami by Henan Li Ai (after she’d finished her Camp at Colorado Springs).
The Chinese were sending both of their 1985 World Champions, Jiang Jialiang and Cao Yanhua, to this U.S. Open. With the Swedish World Doubles Champions Mikael Appelgren and Ulf Carlsson also there, it would be every bit the prestigious tournament we’d hoped for. The Chinese were due to arrive in L.A. on June 21 and go to Miami on June 24. After the Open was over, the Chinese would spend two more days in Miami before leaving on July 3rd.
Historic Match Between China and Chinese Taipei
That said, the opportunity immediately presents itself for me to segue into a lead-in to coverage of the U.S. Open that will follow. To close this chapter, here’s Mary McIlwain with that lead-in (SPIN, July-Aug., 1985, 6):
“For the first time ever, the Peoples Republic of China and Chinese Taipei met head to head in an historic international team match that excited a packed Almansor Sports Complex Gym June 22-23 in Alhambra, CA. The two teams’ meeting served as warm-up play for the U.S. Open to be held just a few days later in Miami.
Two-time and present World Women’s Champion, the tall, stunning Cao Yanhua, and teammate Li Huifen went undefeated against the Chinese Taipei players. The best match was played by the petite Lin Li-Zu who won the first game from Cao at 16 but lost the second at 14. Both players put on a brilliant display of shots in the third with Cao finally pulling it out 22-20. In the companion singles, Huifen was too 10, 14 strong for Huang Mei-Jen. The tie was then quickly won when Cao/Huifen took the doubles from Chuang Shu-Hwa and Huang Mei.
The handsome, debonair Men’s World Champion, Jiang Jialiang, was well received by the 850 fans (tickets went for $5 upstairs, $15 downstairs, and $50 for special seats for Chinese businessmen). But the real stars of this two-day tourney were the Chinese-Taipei men’s team consisting of 1984 U.S. Open Men’s Champion Wu Wen-Chia and his winning Men’s Doubles partner Huang Huieh-Chieh who decisively defeated China 4-1. Both Taipei players attacked continuously as if their lives depended on winning, and the crowd went wild after every point they scored. The very personable Huang won all his matches, including his thrilling -17, 17, 17 victory over Jiang. Huang was especially polite when asked if his picture could be taken. He answered in good English, ‘It would be my pleasure.’
Jiang (CHN) vs. Wu (TPE) at 1985 US Open
Both teams stayed at the same hotel, were courteous, extremely patient with fans, and were impeccably dressed. It was a special joy for those of us who would not be able to attend the Open in Miami. Of course, the majority of West Coast table tennis enthusiasts who had never seen world championship play cheered and gave standing ovations to the talented players from both teams.
The first California U.S. women’s team, consisting of National Champion Julie Au and U.S. #2 Lan Vuong, played very well against Chinese-Taipei, though they lost 3-2. Both Au and Vuong defeated Chuang but lost to Lin. Against China, however, the Americans couldn’t take a game. The second California U.S. women’s team, Kerry Vandaveer amd Kim Gilbert, gained valuable experience and played some good points against Taipei, especially Vandaveer who won a deuce game from Huang and scored 18 and 14 against Lin.
The selected men’s team representing California was made up of Erwin Hom, Masaru Hashimoto, Craig Manoogian, Tony Koyama, and Mike Baltaxe. These players were honored to meet such talented opponents and, though none of them could win a game, they demonstrated sportsmanship equal to their competitive rivals.
The effort behind this historic event was considerable. After Tim Boggan and Dennis Masters had indicated when they were in California for the Pacific Coast Open that this event might occur, Dr. Jiing T. Wang, the Southern California TTA International Chairman, worked tirelessly in arranging the details. He was aided by Dr. Eugene Taw, Ichiro Hashimoto, Harold Kopper, Lyn Smith, Rich Livingston, Craig Martin, David and Kiem Huo, Masaru Hashimoto, and others from the Alhambra TTC. Also helping were the Almansar Sports Complex crew under the direction of Roxanne Tomito, Alhambra Parks and Recreation Coordinator.
Ex-officio Mayor of Alhambro and present City Council member Mary Louise Bunker graciously gave full support to this event as she did in welcoming the teams on their way to the ’85 Open. She presented the keys to the city of Alhambra to both teams and awarded special pins to the working committee.
A dinner sponsored by the Council General of the PRC in San Francisco was given Friday evening after the players and Coach Chou Lan-Sun had taken a tour of Universal Studios. On Saturday, the SCTTA gave its dinner, and on Sunday the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce hosted the third dinner of the weekend at the Kin Hing Chinese Restaurant where Chamber Executive Manager Dick Nichols enthusiastically presided and introduced other city officials.
Results and photos were all over the front pages of the LA Chinese papers, but [has “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” fallen out of fashion?] unfortunately nothing reached the LA Times or other leading newspapers.”
*It wasn’t only Seemiller who was unhappy with what the advent of new rubber would cost him. Florida’s Lenny Chew, in a Letter to the Editor, had this complaint (SPIN, Apr., 1985, 3);
“I would like to pose a question to any, or all, of the major U.S. table tennis equipment dealers. I, like many of my table tennis-playing colleagues, am concerned over the steady increases in retail prices over the last few years.
We are all accustomed to paying more for our various consumer goods due to inflation and related factors. But since virtually all of our table tennis equipment is foreign-made and exported to the U.S., I am puzzled as to why prices keep escalating at the rate they do while the U.S. dollar is at record-high exchange rates abroad. For example, against the West German Deutsche Mark, the dollar at the time of this writing is at a 13-year high. It is almost twice as high as it was against the Deutsche Mark in 1980. Much the same can be said about the dollar’s performance against the Japanese Yen. Foreign inflation rates alone have not been high enough to affect retail prices here in view of the much stronger buying power of our dollar overseas.”
**Since many delegates of ITTF member-countries were agreeing that prestige money tournaments were important [and would increasingly be so], I thought now would be a good time to let you hear Tom Wintrich’s interesting thoughts on prize money topics. In his “Directors’ Decisions” article (SPIN, Mar. 13, 1985, 13), he makes the following points:
As if making up for what Director Power Poon had perceived as Wintrich’s excessively negative comments about Power’s recent Louisiana Open tournament, Tom opens this article with a paean to Tournament Directors everywhere: “Directors should be greeted by arriving participants eager to exchange handshakes as an expression of their gratitude for the superb competition about to begin.”
First topic: “Hard Rubber Singles—a nostalgic event, a fun event. But the multitude of juniors that the USTTA would like to add to its membership during the ’88 quadrennial will not play with hard rubber, will most likely not even be instructed that it is an option. Why, then, do tournament directors and the USTTA itself include it in competitions? Worse yet, why do some tournament directors waste prize money on hard rubber singles?” [Answer: Because it has a glorious history, and because it demands skillful play that is invariably enjoyed by spectators; thus its practitioners should be rewarded?]
Next: “Handicap/Point Adjusted Singles—another fun event. But, like the hard rubber event, it means more matches to time schedule, so why offer [even the usual minimum prize money] for that. It’s place, if any, is in a 1-star tournament.”
Next: “Combined Rating Doubles. In such an event it may be that a 2500 player could combine with a 1299 player to compete for prize money in an Under 3800 Doubles.” That presents a problem for two near U-1900 players, for it won’t produce fun competition for them.
[Fortunately, that lopsided pairing doesn’t happen often because the strong player, out of his element, may well feel his participation, even to please a friend, cheapens him.]
Next: “Concrete Floors.” What to do with major tournaments, like the U.S. Open, Closed, or U.S. Open Team Championships that offer only venues that have such floors? Definitely a recurring problem. “Change them completely to play on wood floors in venues just large enough for 8 to 16 tables, and say bye, bye to our mass event, mass-entry tournaments?” [Or pay, as in this year’s U.S. Open, to put in a floor for just four arena tables, an expense perhaps not practical? Or wait patiently for what’s sooner or later coming—“carpeted” flooring?]
Next: “Entry Fees/Prize Money Trap. One of the biggest problems of non-sponsored purses. The trap is set like this. One hundred to 150 entrants at $75-$100 each will generate over $10,000. So what if we have to schedule 20-40 events to lure players into the $100 entry range. So what if the tournament can’t end until late Sunday night after a late finish on Saturday night. So what if it’s impossible to time schedule? Hey, we got a $10,000 tournament here. Won’t everybody be happy?”
Obviously not. But in the U.S. especially, money talks, and successful player after successful player in sport after sport, receives his (her) due in CASH. If one is to be proud of playing his sport seriously, very seriously, if one—like Bill Hornyak or Power Poon—is to be proud of hosting a tournament, there must be, in this culture of recognition he’s so much a part of, a desired prize-money criterion. There’s self-pride in doing a good job, and for many that may be enough. But for others it’s not enough—they feel they deserve for all their hard work a vanity reward in which money plays an important part.
. Tom throws out the suggestion that “maybe we should give up big money tournaments.” Says that’s not as heretical as it sounds—that we might be able to promote professional table tennis more successfully by offering less prize money. Instead of offering $10,000, offer $5,000. But pay it out in one event only. That means bucks even to the guy—maybe a 1900-2100 player—who loses in the sixteenth’s.” So many others, if their entry fees would be considerably reduced, would be happy to play for a trophy? Perhaps. But I think in our sports culture an event is considered more important if it offers money prizes. Tom’s right when he says “just one money event would focus attention on that event.” But who would watch it? The players—anymore than they would ordinarily? And the spectators would come from where?
Next: “Semifinal Round Robin Matches.” Tom says, “This is no way to conclude the major event of a tournament, especially when big money’s on the line. Much more drama in Single Elimination where you don’t have the awkward complications of a three-way tie.”
Finally: “Time-Scheduled Competition: Players love time-scheduled tournaments because they know exactly when they have to be in the hall; and so too do spectators and press people….In learning how to time-schedule (see Tom’s “Idiot-Proof Time-Scheduling”—Vol. XIII, Chap. 28, 423-25), start by thinking small. Be content to organize a one-day local tournament with five to ten events…Remember, players are committed to self-improvement and competition organizers should be too.”
***I note SPIN (Nov., 1985, 4) does give this accounting (under the large-lettered heading “LET!” in bold black, followed by “U.S. Open Co$tly”:
“The near final accounting of the 1985 U.S. Open shows the USTTA losing $27,671.31 in producing the event.
Thus far, expenses total $106,552.72 offset by income of $78,881.41. The two largest debits of the tournament were airfare for the Chinese team of $10,790.78 and the production costs of the U.S. Open Program book at $9,175.” (In a Report to the E.C., June ’85 Minutes, Jay Harris said that the Program was “expected to lose $3,000-$5,000 because advertising promised by local members was not produced.” Still, when this money wasn’t forthcoming, many would argue that Harris and Boggan should have reduced the number of pages.
Rick Sullivan, from Aiken, S.C., in a belated Letter to the Editor (TTT, Jan.-Feb., 1986, 22) had this to say:
“First of all I would like to commend Tim Boggan and tournament coordinators for a job well done on the 1985 U.S. Open in Miami, Florida. As a rising amateur to the sport the ’85 Open was my first tournament and was thoroughly enjoyed. I was sorry to see that the financial status of the Open went into the red. The $9,000 spent on the impressive but perhaps too elaborate Program can understandably be justified. However, the $17,000 spent bringing the Chinese team warrants no sympathy from me whatsoever. True, some benefitted, but can anyone tell me that they would not have come anyway? Anybody will come for a free ticket. [Is this last sentence supposed to be an answer to the question asked in the previous one?] I worked hard to earn my $500 to attend, participate, and enjoy. If my way is paid for the 1986 Open I’ll promise I’ll be there. [Maybe your way will be paid, and that of half a dozen of your friends too. I’ll have to check you out, see what, like the Chinese, you have to offer.]