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History of U.S. Table Tennis Volume 14: 1985-86

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN 

            1985: E.C. Developments. 

In moving toward the E.C. Meeting in Dec., I, Tim, note that USTTA changes will likely be forthcoming. 

USTTA’s Financial Situation

            It’s a little shocking to me that MONEY is being treated with such reverence by many members of this non-profit Association. It used to be casually said, now it’s seriously said, “If the USTTA had $1,000,000 they wouldn’t know what to do with it.” McClure, in a Letter to the E.C., argues, “We should spend more time working toward getting sponsors for different projects before we start one. [More time—how much time? So long as we repeat the past and can’t spend money we don’t have, projects and sponsors, in time, will materialize? And what now do we have to offer those prospective sponsors?] We cannot continue to operate like we have. [That’s a double entendre if ever I heard one.] We’d better start running our Association like a business instead of the haphazard wishful thinking like we have in the past. [How much haphazard wishful thinking has our E.C. done in the past? Not much—though there might be something to be said for wishful thinking.] For every idea on spending money we should also have an idea on raising the money to do the job and if it is really important, helpful, and necessary.” [Ideas on raising money have not been the USTTA’s non-profit strong point, and even getting agreement from E.C. members on what spending is “necessary” is no given.]

            In my Oct. 30th Update to the E.C. members I wrote:

            “It’s quite obvious we have a cash-flow problem and need money. For some time now, it’s been apparent that our earlier decision to put into our Foundation ALL of the remaining money we’re to get from the L.A. Games is just not day-to-day practical, or perhaps even possible. I’m therefore asking everyone to please reconsider this decision.

            Dennis Masters is rightfully worried—we all have to be worried—for it’s an absolute certainty that we do not have enough cash on hand to pay the prize money and the expenses of the upcoming U.S. Closed.

            The third installment of the L.A. Olympic Games windfall money, which has been delayed, will be forthcoming in part, perhaps, in maybe four weeks. At least that’s what Jimmy says. He’s just come back from a USOC Meeting in Philadelphia with the news that, though the LAOC is reluctant to release any money right now, they may be prevailed upon to release $100,000 to each NGB (presumably, other NGBs need to use some of that money too?), in which case we’d have to sign a waiver that, if the IRS insists (surely not much likelihood of that), we’d have to return said $100,000. As for the fourth and final installment (that’s about $500,000, is it?), well, look for that in the spring?

            All this is far more uncertain that I for one thought it would be, and though I don’t regret going for a class Closed and the Lake Placid Program, I recognize—as we all must recognize—that we’d better come up with $35,000.

            So, how might we do that?

            The more than $500,000 in LAOC money we’ve already put into our Foundation rests secure for posterity. However, the (what?) two-month interest we’ve accrued is usable. Still, that’s not much.

            The only sensible thing to do is establish a $35,000 line of credit—and pay it back with the forthcoming windfall money.

            I’m hereby asking the E.C. permission to do that.

            You may well agree that there really is no other choice, that I, as President, have forced this on some of you. But neither I nor anyone else was so premeditating or calculating as to plan this uncertain situation. It certainly appeared to enough of us as we voted for the Closed and the Lake Placid Program that we had enough maneuvering room, or that some of that third installment of the windfall money could and should be used. A legacy of more than $1,000,000 ought to be enough for posterity. Meanwhile, we try to MOVE the sport.

            Permission was granted by the majority of the E.C., and I then agreed that we immediately put the remaining $65,000 into the Foundation.         

            Jimmy also said, “We need someone to make sure an honest and legitimate budget is adhered to. We have been running the Association like the U.S. government—the only difference is that we can’t print the money.”  I’ve full confidence that Sheila, Lyle, and Emily are honest, conscientious, and caring workers and that at our Dec. E.C. Meeting much needed Budget improvements will have been made. 

             I note that on Nov. 20th Dick Evans wrote the E.C. expressing his strong feelings. Here’s what he said (coupled with an interpolation or two of my own):

            “Amen to Jimmy McClure’s letter regarding our financial crisis! For the first time in our history we have money and, after one year of outrageous fiscal irresponsibility, we are in worse financial shape than we have ever been before. [I don’t think I’ve been outrageous, certainly not as outrageous as you in saying that we’re in worse financial shape than ever before.] Inexcusable! It takes time and judgment, as well as money, to move the sport forward. [Lots and lots of time…without money and manpower.]

            If you as a member of the E.C. vote to reverse your decision to preserve the Foundation money, I will never vote for you for an elected office again.

            It’s that simple and I feel that strongly. ” [This ultimatum is simple-minded. I don’t think the question of spending or saving is simple. I know I want to spend—but it’s not that simple.] 

Anyway, despite my friend Dick’s strong feelings—whether we spend money or don’t spend money, there will be people who don’t vote for us—I really insist that my E.C. members have another discussion on what we want to do with the last installment of the L.A. windfall money. I take to heart what Stan Robens said, “If we don’t raise money, our Association, our Sport’s, doomed.” 

Hire Christian Lillieroos?                 

As we’ve recently seen, I’ve been urging the E.C. to hire Sweden’s Christian Lillieroos (now based in Westfield, NJ), and, since his alien residency papers are being filed in Iowa, we should soon be able to legally do that. I continue here with (see Chapter 15) Christian’s activities as he’s reported them to me:

 “OCTOBER—On Oct. 4th, needing local help and getting it, I staged an exhibition at a junior high school. I got a table from Stiga, 18 barriers, and two scorecards. To transport these things I had to borrow a van from one of the players at the Westfield Club and will probably have to depend upon him again when another exhibition comes up. That’s his only vehicle so I hate to bother him. By way of thanks since he’s of such help to me I made Stiga give him some table tennis equipment. Alan Fendrick, a Westfield member, does the talking at our exhibitions. He works two nights a week as a stand-up comedian and magician and is a key person in any exhibition. Most of the time I do my exhibition with John Shareshian, but I’ve also done some performances with Barry Dattel, Mark Kane (the guy with the van), Matt Kane (Mark’s twin brother), Brian Eisner, Ai-ju Wu, and Eyal Adini. Before every exhibition I rehearse four hours or more.

 I’ve had experience doing exhibitions in Sweden. My table tennis high school had set up a table tennis show and I did all the planning and choreography for it. Here in the States I don’t charge anything for my exhibitions, and I pay all expenses myself. My phone expenses for Sept. were $100 and for Oct. $40.

I went to the Maryland Open and paid all my expenses. [Obviously Christian is very money conscious, has to soon be in a position where he can begin to make a living.]

In the East, I have the help of Steve Kong of Princeton who’ll run tournaments there, and Lim Ming Chui in the Boston area. And probably Pat O’Neill in Virginia, and definitely Eva Gustafsson in Ohio.

On Fri., Oct. 18th, I started the first class in the Stiga table tennis school—from 6:00-7:00 p.m. Joan Fu was my assistant coach. We had 12 players: two 9-year-olds, one 11-year-old, the rest from a 13-16-year age group. Five of the players were from Cranford, NJ, where I did my first exhibition; the other seven were as a result of contacts I had with different members of the Westfield Club, and from people who had seen my poster (I’d put up 200 of them in our local area).

On Oct. 22nd, after the Westfield tournament, I met with the supervisor of the Woodbridge Township Board of Education. A tennis pro, who’s a friend of Barry Dattel, is helping me get table tennis into after-school programs. In February, I can start a Saturday morning (9:00-12:00) program consisting of three groups of juniors from the 4th to the 8th grade for a six-week period. I can also offer an adult program on Wednesday and Friday from 7:00-8:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 11:00-12:00 a.m. and from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. This program will be listed in a course catalogue that will be distributed to all households in Woodbridge. The catalogue is 30 pages, with 1 page devoted solely to table tennis, and it will go to 100,000 homes. The adult program will be for eight weeks. Other townships could be offered the same course. If it’ll work in the biggest township, all the smaller ones will want to have it too. The tennis pro who’s helping me with this is the Head Coach at the Woodbridge Racketball and Tennis Club, the biggest in the East. His name is Jim Annesis, and he believes in the potential of the sport—that’s why he’s helping me. [Eleven years later, the Jim Annesis mentioned here is, I presume, the same Ph.D. sports psychologist Dr. Jim Annesis who’ll write some columns for the Larry Hodges-edited Table Tennis World.]

On Fri., Oct. 25, I gave an exhibition at Essex County College in Newark from 10:00-12:00 a.m. for 50-100 people.

On Mon., Oct. 28, I started my second class in the Stiga school—from 6:00-7:00 p.m. Six players attended, all from Westfield, all 8-9 years old. One girl didn’t want to play with just five boys, so she quit. Four other players couldn’t play on Mondays, but are waiting for a new class to start.”

[It’s so encouraging to me  as I constantly look for help to have a new and ambitious face DOING something positive for the sport almost daily.]

Christian gives us some background on his four assistant coaches. “John Shareshian holds a clinic at Princeton University every Friday from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Under my supervision he’s also been giving private lessons to four or five people in the Westfield Club, and on Monday evenings serves as an assistant to me. He very much wants to improve his play and to that end practices every day and does physical training twice a week. John was a 2000 player—now he’s 2100 and soon will be 2150.

Barry Dattel gives one private lesson a week and on Monday evenings assists me. He plays table tennis every day and has gained 100 points since June when I started to coach him. He’s now over 2300.

Joan Fu is my assistant on Fridays, and is a very good coach. The fact that she’s a woman in a sport that badly needs women helps. She’s gained 80 points since September.

Chris Lehman gives one private lesson a week and, like Joan, assists me on Fridays. He hasn’t played in any tournament since the U.S. Open in Miami where he gained 100 points. Chris coaches wheelchair players once a week. He’s also a USTTA Regional umpire. [And also a marathon runner who doesn’t believe smoking should be allowed in a club’s tournament area where matches are being held.] He’s very much involved with the Westfield Club overall, sells equipment as a convenience for Club members and doesn’t make any money for his efforts.”

[Christian continues his report to me:]

“NOVEMBER—On Nov. 2-3 I went to the Duneland tournament and talked with a number of people.

On Nov. 9-10, I was in California, at the San Diego tournament, and talked with various people about some future plans I have. I also played there. Sixteen Stiga tables they put up and take down every night in a big gym. Though the Club has great potential, it has no coach. This trip to California I paid for myself. I lived with Mike Dempsey.

Then on Nov. 12th I went to the Hollywood Club and met some interesting people, including Bernie Bukiet. They have seven Detroiter tables and are open every night.

By Nov. 16-17 I was back in New Jersey. The Westfield tournament had new Expert VM tables. I made Stiga believe in the advertising value of me coaching on these tables, so the Club got them for $350 each (normal price is $1,200 each). I also got 30 barriers and 10 scorecards for free.

On Monday, Nov. 18, Eyal Adini and I gave an exhibition at a Great Neck synagogue that had been arranged by Mel Eisner. This synagogue has six tables and wants to start a club. Also, I’m in regular contact with Victor Reyes who wants to build a table tennis club on Long Island, and I’ve given him quite a bit of advice about how to run a place like that and make it work. Any time I’ve traveled to Long Island on table tennis work I’ve paid my own expenses.

On Nov. 28-29, Mel Eisner will be putting on his Big Apple Sports Festival at Madison Square Garden. Instead of going to the National Team Championships in Detroit over Thanksgiving weekend, I began working with Mel. I was responsible for the table tennis equipment that was necessary for our three-day promotion at the Garden—tables, barriers, scorecards, and PA system. I was also responsible for training the players—Scott Boggan, Brian Eisner, Alan Fendrick, and Mark and Matt Kane—for the desired exhibitions. And for making sure coaches were available for the clinics.

DECEMBER—On Dec. 7-8, I will have a Coaching/Education session for a new round of coaches—eight in all for all the programs that will start in February.

On Thursday, Dec. 12, I’m doing an exhibition at Princeton University between halves of a basketball game. Programs for my exhibition will be printed up (2,000 of them) and given to spectators.

On Dec. 14-15, Westfield will hold the Stiga Grand Prix tournament that I’ve encouraged them to hold. Students from my table tennis school enter their age groups free, and on Sunday they will be scorekeepers for the Open event.

On Dec. 15, at 6:30 p.m., my plane leaves for Sweden and I will be on it—my ticket’s already paid for. [At the E.C. Meeting in Dec., we’ll see whether Christian stays in Sweden, or whether the USTTA will offer him a job.] 

Club Grant to Sweeris?

             In an Aug. 15th letter to the E.C., Dell Sweeris asks for a three-year Grant from the USTTA. He wants us to co-underwrite a Table Tennis Program with him so he can key into the USTTA at a local level. He wants to establish a tax-exempt Table Tennis Foundation in Grand Rapids—80% of the money would come from the USTTA, 20% from donations Dell would raise. Specifically, he wants $30,000 for a three-year Program—$10,000 a year.

            With this money, and money he himself would raise, he’d establish an Executive Director position (the Director might change through the years but not the position).

            Dell would expect the Foundation to establish:

            A club that would meet at least two nights a week for open play, and at least two nights a week exclusively for coaching juniors.

            A club that would run one “Promotional” tournament a year that would not be open to those  already playing in USTTA tourneys. Recently, Burger King gave $3,000 worth of sponsorship to this kind of tournament and Dell’s club tripled its membership.

            A club that would run one local USTTA Open tournament a month. Just from this the USTTA would get back $1,000.

            A club that would run one MAJOR tournament a year—on the scale of, say, Bill Honyak’s Duneland tournament.

            A club that would hold a City tournament.

            A club that would hold statewide, even Regional Junior Olympic tournaments.

            A club that would run Clinics—especially on holidays and during the summer.

            Dell recommends utilizing facilities in rec centers, Y’s, and churches (he has connections in this regard). He says the time for hiring a Director is right, for now he and wife Connie could act in an advisory capacity. Having established and run such a club himself years ago, he absolutely believes that a Grand Rapids Club would be so successful that the USTTA over the years would get their $30,000 back and more.

            Of course, as with anything that costs money and doesn’t offer a sure return, there will be voices that don’t want to offer support for it. One responder said in passing, “I’d be the more inclined to consider the proposal if Dell himself would put up half the beginning amount needed.” Following is the (Aug. 26) rather predictable reply I received from E.C. member Rufford Harrison:

            “A laudable objective. But after seeing what sponsors have done over the years, I won’t believe that we’ll get any profit until I see it. If the USTTA itself can’t do it, why should we expect an affiliate to manage it? [Because someone’s personally interested in doing it?] Still, a worthy objective. So how do we get Dell his first-year’s $10,000? We have a surplus now, you say. Possibly, but only because we didn’t put all the USOC largess into the Foundation. Next year there will be no such largesse. We’ll have to work off our own funds. We had quite a problem balancing our budget this year. Next year will be far, far worse. Where is next year’s $10,000 going to come from?

            We are spending far too much money. Let’s go with what we’ve done [and what is that?], and see how it [what?] works out. Then we can decide if we should try a new tack, like this one. Besides, how do you answer all the other people [all the other people like the experienced Sweeris?] who want to start clubs?” [The E.C. will make its recommendation at their Dec. Meeting.]

 New York City/Long Island Clubs?

            As you may remember, about this time last year, supported by a good many New Yorkers, I thought I had a good shot at getting a club started in the City, but it didn’t work out. The potential number of players there without a club to go to is probably the highest in the country. So we’re getting killed there membership-wise—USTTA players at $20 each equals $10,000 (or is one tournament player after another now buying a $5 playing permit?). Of course at the moment there’s the Chinatown Club on Lafayette Street, but, hearing that the loss of it might be imminent, on Aug. 14 I wrote a letter of support for it—though it looks like it’s a goner. Also, with Mel Eisner, a very active E.C. member whom I solicited for help, and his fellow New York enthusiasts Doon Wong and George Grannum,* I went to look, alas, hopelessly, at a supposed prospective site under the Brooklyn Bridge.

             Then we had, it appeared, a good chance for a NYC club, thanks to Madison Avenue’s Julian Studley who found a spot for us at the Norman Thomas School on Park and 33rd. Mel and I went to the School, once with our benefactor Studley himself, to see if we couldn’t get enough facts, figures, and a commitment to our liking. We could have a 6-8 table Club in a windowless room maybe five stories up, three nights a week and one weekend a month. The high-up, tucked away enclosed location and sporadic play (who’d be responsible for managing or taking responsibility for play? I was out on Long Island) wasn’t to my liking, and though I appreciated Studley’s gesture I didn’t pursue a commitment.

            As for Long Island, I’d been encouraging Victor Reyes, a Marketing Manager for Pfizer, to open the prototype club I’d said I wanted back in my Presidential Campaign Statement. He and his associates seemed to be interested in, and have the wherewithal for, a plush, racquetball-like club that, if successful, would help to raise the image of our sport. My sons Scott and Eric were enthusiastic about the possibility of such an Island club. But nope—it didn’t happen.

Imagine if I had to make a living trying to promote this Sport. 

“Wiggy’s”—a New Table Tennis Magazine Takes Hold

            Here are Letters received from readers of Scott Bakke’s slick-cover new magazine (Wiggy’s, Nov. 6, 1985):

             “I’d like to commend Scott Bakke (and give an acknowledging nod of thanks to his staff, particularly his illustrator George Karn) for the energy and enthusiasm he’s shown in his welcome Wiggy’s publication. (I know how much relentless effort and determination such work takes.) [Here’s Scott in an Oct. 17th letter to me: “I found out the week after the Nissen tournament that mailing the publication is almost more of a project than managing to come up with and position the articles in it. Boxes and boxes of Wiggy’s were stacked all over my grandfather’s ping-pong table and it took an entire week, even with the help of my staff, to stamp, label, presort, and select from the USTTA mailing list the over 3,000 copies I eventually brought to the post office!]

            I like Wiggy’s emphasis on current coverage, its humor, its color, and variety of viewpoint.

            Above all, I like the idea of Editor Bakke winging it via his own 18-year-old sensibility.

            I quickly sent Scott and Wiggy my $15 subscription check [price for 17 tri-weekly issues $15; for 6 such issues $7.50], and I urge everyone else who loves the sport to do the same.—USTTA President Tim Boggan, Merrick, NY.”

                                                            ***                                                     

            “Good luck on your publishing venture. However, I must point out what others no doubt have already—that your introductory issue should have been letter perfect. It was not! Numerous errors in the photo captions: Eric and Chen; Rick (not Danny) and Charlie; Domingo (not Danny) in the middle. Although you refer to page numbers, the pages were not numbered.

            The above not withstanding, your effort is commendable and I wish you every success.—Dick Evans, Hillsboro, W. Va.”

                                                            ***

            “I’ll try a six-month subscription [he who corrects stands corrected: he means a six-issue subscription], and hope you last longer than that. Check enclosed.

            Comments you wanted, so comments you’ll get.

            If you are going to refer to page numbers, then NUMBER THE DAMNED THINGS!

            There are a number of misspellings (as ‘dias’ for ‘dais’), mixed captions, and so forth. Even so-called high-class publications seem unable or unwilling to proofread, and it is only of importance to old cranks like me, but after anything is written, it should be read over. This is all it takes to catch the worst ‘howlers,’ like Scott Butler’s ‘bother’ Jimmy. [Surely that’s not the worst but the best howler (but probably not done on purpose).]

            Don’t get overly cute with this Wiggy-the-Pooh business. Your main aim is to inform us; amusement is secondary.”—D. M. Gunn, California

            [Wiggy’s, for better or worse, but so unlike SPIN, offers (Sept. 25) this (informative? amusing?) read:

             According to the Associated Press, “All-out bedlam and pandemonium broke loose at the San Pedro Boys Club outside of Los Angeles, CA last June when a novice hardbat player lost a match, and his senses.

            In a sheer case of insanity, William ‘Ricardo’ Holmes broke his paddle following the loss and then ate parts of his handle!

            Holmes, 25, was rushed to and revived at Harbor UCLA Hospital after his heart had stopped beating. Doctors performed surgery to remove the broken-handle pieces which had lodged in the wall of his throat, making him unable to breathe.

            Although he initially survived near death and was released from the hospital, he did die several days later in a similar choking incident.

            Wiggy’s sources, unaware that the man had died, tried unsuccessfully throughout the month of August to gain the paddle-eater’s full recount.

            Surprisingly, it was only after two separate impersonators by the same name claimed to be the deceased victim that Wiggy contacted the San Pedro Boys Club and Los Angeles Police Dept. to learn the actual, unfortunate truth….”]

                                                            ***

“C’mon, you’ve got to be kidding with those wild and wacky stories. Even the most drastic loony couldn’t possibly eat his paddle…My friend says you’re already desperate for material.—Steve Grahams, Amarillo, TX.” 

                                                ***

“Here’s my check for a full year’s subscription. Wiggy and the cartoons are worth the price alone Wiggy is sure to give this magazine that special dimension even ‘Topics’ couldn’t rival. I look especially forward to seeing the adventures of Wiggy vs. The Spin Monster.” 

                                                ***

On Dec. 8,1985, Jack Carr sends a subscription check to Scott, and a letter (copy to me) that says, “You asked for a critique,” and so he gives him one that covers 24 points, each of which is never more than a sentence or two. I note that he can address Scott with typical Janusian double-speak: “I like your idea of mailing so it [Wiggy’s] is received each Wednesday [actually Scott had scheduled it every third Wednesday]. Unfortunately this won’t happen in all sections of the U.S. and is overly ambitious. He also likes in half his points to refer more than glancingly to the two previous editors Wintrich and Boggan:

Wiggy’s covers are better than Spin’s (Jack didn’t like either magazine’s name). Glad Scott realizes his proofreading requires improvement; Wintrich didn’t. Glad Scott’s going to edit; Wintrich mutilates. Glad Scott’s going to publish tournament results; don’t know why Wintrich doesn’t publish more. Wiggy’s is interesting, amusing; SPIN is dull, dull, dull. Why is Wintrich getting over twice what Boggan was paid? Wiggy’s says something; SPIN doesn’t, except for Ratings and Tim Boggan.

I like poetry provided it rhymes and pertains directly to table tennis. I’d like to see controversial critical articles with the rebuttals in the same issue, part of the same article. I’m thankful neither you nor Wintrich use profanity or obscenity. Glad your articles are not too long-winded with private side remarks. One page of foreign news is about right.” 

What impels Jack’s need to write these many gratuitous attacking lines? [Tim, Tim—like everyone else, he wants his voice, his being, to matter.] What impels YOU to continually show the Carr that so irritates you?...Answer: I think it may have something to do with the poem “My Name” by Mark Strand that appeared in The New Yorker some years ago. This single 12-line sentence of a poem that doesn’t rime is for you and me, Jack: 

                              MY NAME 

One night when the lawn was a golden green

and the marbled moonlit trees rose like fresh memorials

in the scented air, and the whole countryside pulsed

with the chirr and murmur of insects, I lay in the grass

feeling the great distances open above me, and wondered

what I would become—and where I would find myself—

and though I barely existed, I felt for an instant

that the vast star-clustered sky was mine, and I heard

my name as if for the first time, heard it the way

one hears the wind or the rain, but faint and far off

as though it belonged not to me but to the silence

from which it had come and to which it would go. 

 

“Your magazine is so cool, and Wiggy makes the perfect star. I’ll be rushing home from school every third Wednesday, and I hope Wiggy will be waiting at my mailbox.—Myles Zerlock, Thunder Bay, Canada.” 

                                                ***

“Congratulations on a terrific magazine. What a wonderful surprise and undertaking. We wish you good luck and long success.—Kathy O’Neill, McLean, VA.” 

                                                ***

“Please send me a full subscription to Wiggy’s World. It will sure seem good to read something besides SPIN which is always a little one-sided toward all the top players in the country. I hope you will give those of us who are the lowly faithful a little attention.—Jack DeVine, Ferrisburg, VT.” 

                                                ***

“Sign me up! Wiggy’s is a wild and wacky winner in my book. Keep up the good work and give the SpinMonster hell.—Trevor Kuzma, Jacksonville, FL.” 

The magazine’s wild and wacky, did he say? O.K.—one last letter here. But—surprise—it goes not to Wiggy, but to Eric Boggan, authenticated (as written Oct. 13) and reprinted exactly as it was received :

“I am a table tennis nut, like you are.

I play every chance you get

I am sewenty. year old

I would would be willing to make a small wager that I could get 7 to 10 points in a game (against you).

I am going to play in a comtest for cenyour citizens for the Vet. Admin. in Albany Georgia. Oct. 31, through Sebt. 3, 1985. At Marine Corp Base.

I know it would be greatly appresheated if you showed up.

                                    Your truly,” 

SPIN and Editor Wintrich

            On Oct. 2, I sent round to my E.C. the following comments concerning SPIN and Editor Tom Wintrich:

            “Initially, Tom did NOT accept the 11% raise to $16,000 plus the raise of $500 in travel money we agreed at our last E.C. meeting to give him. However, he did not resign as SPIN Editor. Instead, he offered a compromise.

            I’m a little wary of Tom’s voice sometimes. (Each issue has been better than the last….Everyone liked the look of every issue, did they? I didn’t.) SPIN admittedly was weak in content in the beginning. But in Sept. of ’84, despite the weak content of past SPINS, Tom ‘compromised’ the amount of a pay raise he wanted by as much as $2,400. Only to say in Sept. of ’85 his salary had been a “fair” one up until then. Still, none of us is perfect, eh? After a quick consultation with a number of the most easily accessible E.C. members, I being, I think, of sound and certainly of the same mind as others, agreed, with some reluctance to Tom’s latest compromise. This is: that he accepts his E.C.-approved raise (a raise that was retroactive through July, Aug., Sept. with the proviso that the E.C. also gives him $800 a month more for Oct., Nov., Dec., or another $2,400. [As we’ll see shortly, I made a serious error in misreading, misunderstanding what Tom asked for.] It’d been clearly understood, however, that at our Dec. Meeting we would assess his work and decide on whether he’d get the $18,000 a year salary he’d like.

            So now, forewarned as it were, I’m on the one hand at least glancingly looking into the possibility of replacing Tom, moving SPIN out of Colorado Springs (I think the magazine puts undo focus on Bob Tretheway’s preoccupations), even as I’m on the other hand considering how cooperative, pleasant and personable Tom often is, what an asset he is to Headquarters not just as Editor but someone who can be called on, especially in a pinch, to do other things, and how I must do my very best to work with him to make SPIN all that we want it to be.

            As was made clear at our Sept. Lake Placid E.C. Meeting, we do want Tom to take note of the following directives (do want him to be judged by his observance or lack of observance of them):

            More international coverage. (What are the world’s best players doing, where? What are their lives like?)

            More human-interest stories. In such writing, the most important thing is the Individual Voice we hear. So, m’god, we want different voices, variety.

            More articles on Juniors. If SPIN were my paper, and I were trying to reflect the youth movement we’re all supposedly pushing for, I would definitely go for the rhetoric of a four-page removable Junior Section. (In the Hoosier Open, there were 48 entries in the U-17’s. Several stories on Juniors could have and should have been gotten at that tournament.) [Yeah, Tim? Then why didn’t YOU get one?]

            More assigning of reporters to cover major tournaments. Dammit, I had to ask Paul Vancura to please write something on the every-four-years, Olympic-like World Masters (Over 40) International in Toronto this August. And if I didn’t write at least something on the 313-entry CNE, the 220-entry Hoosier Open, and the 168-entry Westfield Open, these tournaments very possibly wouldn’t be covered. That’s not right—we lose goodwill that way.

            Tom is certainly cooperative about putting my stories in when I do them, but he also seems to have the attitude that it’s not part of his job to go out and hustle, to insist on coverage. If Sue Butler was too slow with her copy (she says Tom had it in plenty of time)—specifically her copy on the Junior Olympics that had time value, Tom should have pushed her to get the story to him quickly so as to make the Sept. issue.

            Tom says he thinks about reducing SPIN to 24 pages. Is this an Editor who thinks first and foremost of making the magazine better, or in terms of “Hell, this is a lot of work”? To reduce SPIN to 24 pages would be a disaster. I honestly don’t think Tom realizes how critical a number of players—tournament players—have been of the lack of readability in the 28 pages he has now (and perhaps my Up Front column contributes to it). At the Sept. E.C. Meeting, we rightly urged him to cut down the monthly rating lists and to avoid using a whole page every issue listing USTTA Approved Equipment—thus freeing pages for other things. I do think Tom’s out-of-the-blue coaching article in the Sept. issue was worthwhile, and I’d like more such creative and personalized articles…from anyone.

             This Oct. 2 letter of mine drew an Oct. 17 response to the E.C. from Tom:

            “I was dumbfounded to read in President Boggan’s Oct. Update that I was to receive $800 more a month for Oct., Nov., and Dec. As much as I would like to collect this unexpected, unrequested amount, I simply can’t take advantage of Timmy’s misunderstanding concerning any salary negotiations.

            What I actually suggested was that the USTTA pay me $16,800 for this year instead of $16,000, with the expectation that my salary be raised to $18,000 at the Dec. Meeting pending E.C. approval. In other words, I asked for $800 more for the three months remaining in this year, NOT $800 more a month through December.

            I was equally dumbfounded that no E.C. member called me to question Timmy’s explanation, especially when the amount stated EXCEEDED my official request of $18,000 [$16,000 plus $2,400=$18,400].”

 However, though Tom apparently felt he would be paid $18,000 for the next year, we had not authorized that, and I specifically had told him we’d have to decide that at the Dec. Meeting. So I thought (if you could call it thinking) in terms of this $800 a month being a temporary measure (though something of a “hold-up”) to pacify Tom for the next three months. I didn’t want Tom to abruptly quit and thought to buy time. Clearly, my head wasn’t on straight to make this excessive adjudication, and neither was any other E.C. member’s, for no one questioned this unsound move.

“How can we possibly afford to be so flippant about expenditures,” says Tom, “when we are currently $34,000 in debt?” [Point well taken, and I appreciate Tom’s “Team Player” cooperation in making this correction. Bravo, Tom!]

            Tom continues [and now I’m not liking what I read]: “I am happy with my current salary and [$2,000] travel-expense budget. You must realize that my request for a raise pertained more to the Editorship than to Tom Wintrich, Depending on what happens at the December Meeting, there is a distinct possibility that I will not continue as Editor in 1986. If that proves to be true, the E.C. will have to deal with another Editor and I will forewarn you now that when you ask someone to single-handedly produce a near-monthly tabloid, you can hardly expect to pay any less for that talent than you presently do.” [When, after 13 years, I was fired as Editor of our National Magazine, I was netting $5,000 a year.]

            As the Dec. E.C. Meeting approaches, I wrote to my E.C.: we’ll soon find out if Tom wants to continue as Editor. Whether we want him to continue is something we’ll have to discuss. I think he’s the second best Editor we’ve ever had, and in that sense it’s ironic that people are dissatisfied with the magazine.

I continually have mixed feelings about Tom, his work. The finish of his Oct. 17 letter did not sit well with me. He writes: “I do not want to quit the USTTA, but I’m frustrated by our lack of a business mentality and a bona fide plan for growth, Consequently, I am preparing a business plan in terms of the Editorship and other responsibilities connected with that position. It will be written from the Association’s point of view, not mine. I expect to submit this to you by the end of November, and all that I ask is that you consider it as a business proposal that requires business decisions.”

            I, Tim, don’t believe this voice. I don’t believe Tom is “happy” with his current salary. I think he thinks very much of himself, his salary, more than intensely, enthusiastically he does the magazine. I don’t want his “business plan”—I don’t see him as a businessman. [To my knowledge, I never got such a plan from Tom; certainly I don’t have a copy of it.] I want him, instead of writing letters like this, to make contacts in the table tennis world, here and abroad, and get some variety, some life, into the magazine. When I don’t hear honesty in a voice, when I hear confusion, I lose confidence in that voice. Still, I know, I know, everyone has his weaknesses and what one says at any one time is not necessarily definitive. However, Tom’s psyche is undeniably not wholly with the magazine.

            Tom should be praised, though, for getting those Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year write-ups to The Olympian on the spur of the moment. A Thanks, too, to Bob Tretheway for quickly researching out the best candidates. The Selection Committee went on to pick Sean O’Neill and Diana Gee, our U.S. Amateur Players of the Year, and Tom has agreed to again get trophies…which will be presented to Sean and Diana at the Nationals. Tom, who’s been something of a catch-all employee, is going to be paid $1,000 for readying Jeff Mason’s book for sale. [Nope, this apparently didn’t happen, for in my Jan. 20, 1986 Update to the E.C., I wrote: “I’m finishing the editing of Mason’s book—and am sending it back to the original typist to pick up the corrected copy in the correct type.” Both Bob Tretheway and I thought it had, in Bob’s words, “real value, a lot of good information”—but we both thought it too repetitive.]

            It’s ironic to me that we’re trying to do more—more certainly than most administrations before us—and yet the argument is: we’re just not getting our money’s worth. What people want for their money, what they get—it’s all relative. To some, money means a lot, to others not so much. It’s hard to get out of penny-pinching habits, hard to get out of spendthrift habits. It’s difficult to act when you’re not used to acting and are wary of doing so. One thing is sure: we cannot move the sport without spending. We cannot think the way most administrations in the past have thought. Without money and manpower the USTTA will sit as they’ve almost always sat, listening to their critics, not themselves doers, offer only advice and complaints. 

Tretheway’s Responsibilities

            I definitely have mixed feelings about Bob, who’s making an all-out effort—does it amount to a showdown ? (I hope not)—for an E.D.-like job. I don’t think for what Bob wants he’s proven himself to us—and therefore I personally, under no circumstances, would consider giving him a year’s trial at Executive Director’s pay. Back in August, one longtime observer said to me, “Look, he’s worked hard at being Coaching Chairman. If you want, give him a bonus for that, and forget him. He’s a lightweight—don’t even give him a three-month trial: you’ll get locked in with him. We need a heavyweight Executive Director.”

            I can’t forget Bob. On the contrary, I’d like to monitor his progress. For example, since apparently almost anyone can come to Bob’s coaching camps, I’d like to have a list of (the 30?) “coaches” who’ve attended this year and any evidence that they are indeed coaching. It’s clear that those who have attended are pleased with Bob’s organizational work.  He matters—he’s a liaison man who gives his charges attention, who does something for them, who hustles and wears the face of optimism. But does the fact that they enjoy the experience lead to USTTA progress? I’d also like Bob to “track” the (53 junior, 23 adult?) players who’ve attended his camps in ’85 (SPIN, Dec., 1985, 14) and check their ratings now with what they had, say, a year ago. Since one of the reasons—perhaps the major one—we hired Bob was to increase our membership, I’d like to know specifically how he’s doing. I note that in a “Junior Olympics” article in SPIN (Dec., 1985, 14) juniors got “a free, one year, full benefit membership for participating in a Junior Olympics-oriented tournament at any level.” While the conclusion was that “this didn’t promote as much tournament activity as expected, 278 new juniors are now members of the USTTA (130 from Colorado). How about some specifics? How many of them ever paid money to play in a tournament again? That goes for participants at junior camps held in other places besides Colorado.

            In Sept., Bob was also requested to explain before the Dec. meeting how his current projects would help the USTTA achieve another major reason we had for hiring him—to get table tennis into the schools. As National Program Director, Bob’s objectives are?…In what time frame? Has he got any PLAN—either  short-term or long-term, either in promoting programs or in fund-raising from non-T.T. sponsors? (What product do we market? How?)

            Perhaps the majority of E.C. members feel that at our upcoming Meeting both Tom and Bob should be fired. Their patterns of worth to us have been established—and we’re either enthusiastic or at least satisfied…or we’re not. Bob’s Coaching Program is suspect, is it? As is his long-range networking of Recreational Table Tennis—with, for example, repeated emphasis on aligning with the Boy Scouts (SPIN, Dec., 1985, 13)?

Of course, Bob, even more than Tom, has always had catch-all duties—sometimes important duties, like just writing a very helpful Grand Guideline for the Southern California TTA that’s trying to get funding from the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Southern California. Recently he was in Orlando for the State Games Meeting and gave a well-received presentation (SPIN, Dec., 1985, 14). As a result, he thinks T.T. will be in more State Games next year, and wants to tailor material for them.** Bob also held a helpful meeting recently with the Executive Director of the National Junior College Athletic Association in the hope of getting inter-scholastic play going in two-year colleges. And—hooray—thanks to Bob (SPIN, Dec., 1985, 14), the ACU-I finals will return and are set for Colorado Springs, Apr. 26-27. All finalists will be given free food and lodging, and play will be in the Sports Center (on a spacious hardwood floor).

History shows that, like any of us working for the USTTA, Bob and Tom do largely what they feel they can do, are comfortable doing. So if I fire Bob, I might as well fire myself? 

Danner Article and Boggan Rebuttal           

            In his “protest” Letter to Spin (Oct., 1985, 4), Carl Danner said that “the USTTA” is not serving the interests of players who want to go to our National Championships; said, in fact, that both the U.S. Open and U.S. Closed are being ruined for the average player.

            He choice-of-weapons asks me if I, as USTTA President, or perhaps just plain Tim, would up-front care to discuss the matter.

            I would. Though I insist on prefacing my remarks with this thought: that with Carl, who’s generally got uncommonly good sense, I usually touch glasses not swords.

            My first thought is that, despite all the goodwill and several readings I can muster for Carl (and Ummmph! Here’s a big kiss for you sweetheart), it’s taken me awhile to tell just where his head is….What’s that? You think it goes without saying that 2082-rated Carl, who modestly describes himself as an average player, is publicly protesting in the average player’s cause? I think not.

            My second thought is that, regardless of what I perceived to be Carl’s confused expression, his conflicting value judgments, I don’t agree with him that I have been or am derelict in my duty to serve, don’t agree with him that our most important Championships are being ruined for the average player.

            What was at first difficult for me to understand about Carl’s argument is not that there’s been a proliferation of events in the U.S. Open since 1972 but that the proliferation has been, as he says, “pointless” from the point of view of the average player or, what’s worse, has contributed to the ruination of the tournament for the average player.

            This year there were 52 events in the U.S. Open (not counting the men’s and women’s international team matches) and there will be 34 events in the U.S. Closed. In the ’72 U.S. Open, where there were a good many Over 40…and Under 17…events and Wheelchair and various Doubles events, there was nothing else but a Men’s, a Men’s A’s (for players 2150-2300?), a Men’s B’s (for players 2000-2150?), and a catch-all Men’s Consolation; also, a Women’s, Women’s A’s, and a catch-all Women’s Consolation. Obviously, back then the average player—shall we say 1250-1750?—had, by today’s standards, very, very little play.

            What of course the USTTA, by increasing the number of events in its U.S. Open, its U.S. Closed, has undeniably done in the intervening 13 years is to give not only every U.S. Open/Closed tournament-goer more play but in particular the average U.S. Open/Closed tournament-goer more play.

            When Carl, as spokesman for the average player, speaks of the “pointless” proliferation of 1985 U.S. Open events, he means the “pointless” U-1000, U-1150, U-1300, U-1400, U-1500, U-1600, U-1700, U-1800 events, the very events the average player participates in. When he speaks of the “pointless” proliferation of events—round robin events—in the 1985 U.S. Closed, he means the “pointless” U-1100, U-1300, U-1450, U-1650, U-1750 events, the very events the average player participates in. Thirteen years ago this wasn’t happening, he says—better to go back to those days, better for the average player. M’god, could any sane person really believe that? Could Carl himself really believe that? And, if so, does his viewpoint represent that of the average player? I think not.

            Carl’s choice of comparing the ’85 Open to the ’72 Open is interesting to me. That Eastern locale had a backyard potential for players unmatched anywhere else in the country. The tournament drew 740 players, the great majority of whom were not players of even Class B (2000-2150 ability). But although there weren’t that many events for them to play in, they wanted to be part of the special action, play right there with the best players whom they enjoyed watching. And with all matches being single elimination, one can see how the tournament could be finished in three days. But back then who didn’t think they were getting their money’s worth?

            Not Carl certainly. Back then, in that historical reality, 13-year-old Carl could commute to his Long Island home in between however many events he wanted to play in—Men’s, Men’s A’s, B’s, Jr.’s, and perhaps in Men’s and/or Junior Consolations. But now for 27-year-old Carl to go to Miami Beach, to Vegas, it’s like taking a vacation, and, oh, oh, paying for a vacation.

            What Carl wants now is not to fly to a four or five-day Major Championship, but to a two or three-day one—Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, it would “cost much more”—for another day or two—in hotel expenses and lost pay. And wouldn’t it be nice to pay not $85 in entry fees for expanded play but $5, $10, or, say, for five events, maybe $25. And if only we could get rid of all those proliferating events for U-1000-U-2000 average players (for sure, extra days to play them)—or, to put it another way, get rid of all those average players themselves, then every six months Carl could three-day get in and get out—and hurry back to the business of his life. And that sure would be a service to the USTTA and the average player.

             Carl says he feels “taxed” to pay a five-event Championship entry fee of $85—and, hey, I sympathize. I feel taxed myself sometimes. Even this writing—which I deem a duty of the spirit—taxes me. But, you know, it’s becoming clearer and clearer now, I’m beginning to understand: Carl isn’t writing from the point of view of the average player, who’s concerned with the actual amount of play he gets in coming to a tournament, he’s writing from his own 2082-rated point of view. And now there’s an added concern that surfaces as he speaks. He thinks, quite unlike many a 1250-1750 average player, that his game qualifies him to win some prize money.

            “At least in Miami,” he says (just as if he were there, which he wasn’t), “we average players had a shot at some prize money--$3,800 out of $13,100, or 29% in non-Championship events.” Whereas in Las Vegas, ‘the odds will be awful—less than 10% of the prize money.” Gee, such terrible odds. That is, were they for a game having much to do with luck. But Carl, a serious student of casino blackjack, who knows the odds, realizes full well that table tennis is a sport not where luck but skill pays off, and when it comes to winning prize money the odds for lower-rated players in any event are always awful—and justly so.

            “The whole entry-fee thing,” says Carl, “resembles a betting pool into which all pay, but from which only a few may draw a winner.” That is NOT a good analogy. For Carl to equate Skill with Luck is just nonsensical. He doesn’t represent the average player—he who recognizes he has minimal ability to win prize money but is interested in as much competitive play as possible. In fact, as I hear Carl talking, I don’t believe he represents himself.

            For the good of table tennis, Carl wants our Major Championships to be as inexpensive for attendees as possible. Trouble is, this attitude, this cheapness, has been, and still is, the scourge of the sport.

            Perhaps historically, though, it’s understandable, for, until Fred Danner’s hard work and Jimmy McClure’s foresight allowed us to receive that L.A. Olympic Games windfall, there was never any maneuvering money for the USTTA to even try to change the longtime deplorable IMAGE of our sport—that sport in which player after player has grown up scrounging as much as he can while paying as little as he can.

            The Miami Beach and Vegas high-quality tournaments I supply-and-demand pray will not be lost on the real average player who I hope has acquired more Association spirit than Carl seems to show at the moment.

            Carl taxes me, offends me, when he resents what my USTTA Tournament Operations Directors do with the entry fees they collect, if indeed, says Carl…and Dennis Masters and Dan Simon, whom I can’t praise enough, must have loved this sweet thought: if, really, the USTTA gets the entry-fee money, for Carl can only snidely guess it does.

            Carl taxes me, offends me, when he insists that “unless sponsorship or spectator revenues are developed as a source of funding,” we just can’t afford to try to raise our longtime lamentable IMAGE by spending money as we have spent it on our ’85 Open and are going to spend it on our ’85 Closed. To this my charged spirit says just the reverse: that we must spend money and that, as we spend, the sport will expand, not shrink. The pursuit of excellence demands all the encouraging, rewarding prize money for the International and U.S. stars at our Open and Closed we can muster; demands for every player the best hospitality arrangements and playing conditions we can provide; and the smoothest, most cooperative running of the matches we can possibly schedule.           

            My article drew this response from Baltimore’s Bob Lee (SPIN, Dec., 1985, 4):

            “Tim Boggan did not respond to the central points of Carl Danner’s letter. I am not ‘2082 Carl Danner’: I am Under-1500 Bob Lee and I am not willing to pay the too high entry fees intended to generate higher prize money for top players.

            I do not intend to be taxed to donate to their purses by paying exorbitant entry fees, and many of my table tennis friends feel the same way.” 

            Tim responds: I most certainly responded to ALL points in Carl’s letter. But, Bob, you can’t see it. You just don’t get it.            You think you donate, are taxed, when the prize money goes to the elite players. So, o.k., have it your way—but then you can’t watch them play matches, hopefully in the finest venues available that you yourself play in, until you pay a daily admission fee. 

            Here’s Jimmy McClure responding to my response to Danner:

            “I have to agree with some of what Carl Danner says. It is getting very expensive to play in the Nationals. We cannot continue to depend on the entry fees to pay for the prize fund and all the rest of the cost of the tournament. The distribution of the prize fund is not fair to the average player. Either charge more for the so-called “elite” players [the “so-called ‘elite’”? what would YOU call the best of our players?] or give a bigger more fair [Fair!] share of the prize money to the poorer players who make up the bulk of the draw. Better still have an invitational tournament with the 32 best players, according to ratings, who enter and get a sponsor [of the 32 how many do you think would get a sponsor?] and maybe charge each player $50 to enter a two-day event—singles and doubles only for both men and women. If you don’t have a sponsor for the prize money—just don’t give as much.” 

            Tim responds:

            “So, Jimmy, if no sponsor can be found, you want our best players to put up the prize money they themselves will win? And then as they often play exciting match after match, how much of a daily admission price do you think they ought to charge those who want to watch them? And if a sponsor can be found, and the players put on show after show, again what do you think they ought to charge those who want to watch them?” 

            Over and over again, year after year, I continue to rail at (it’s long infected even Jimmy too) the entrenched amateurism in the Sport. As President of the Association, I oppose it because it’s give-up mired in the past, is against progress, against Hope. 

SELECTED NOTES.

            *George Grannum had a bad experience he recounted in SPIN (Mar., 1985, Mar., 4):

            “My buddy Don is gone. He tried to call me his table tennis Nemesis, but, over the 14 years we competed against each other, neither one of us was ever able to consistently dominate the other. One of the original members of the Topspin Team in the Greater New York Table Tennis League, Don was alternately my friend, my teammate, doubles partner in league and tournament play, traveling companion, and, more often than not, my toughest competitor.

            Donald Basemore, 51, collapsed and died Friday evening, Feb. 8, 1985, while competing in a table tennis match that I was umpiring. Up 12-10 in the second after losing the first, Don calmly placed his bat on the table and slowly sank to the floor. All efforts by onlookers, fire department personnel, paramedics, and, later, doctors at Mary Immaculate Hospital, were in vain. 

            He left a wife, three sons and a daughter.” 

            **Mel Eisner recently went to and won the N.Y. State Senior Table Tennis Games. If I heard him correctly, he said they played 15-point games, and that there were more women than men there. It would have been nice, Mel said, if the USTTA had been ready to present the winner with a free USTTA membership (in which case of course Mel would have lost the final). Coming up are the Long Island Senior Games…supporting the idea that Senior play, as Bob Tretheway suggests, is becoming more popular.