levels of play the difference between men and women in table tennis is about 12
points on 21. Of course, Chen and Batzlinger were not parallel in their
respective divisions. Chen was as good as any woman in the world and—well, Hugo
was Hugo. Chen was a bandy-legged speck of a girl, and an adroit Oriental could
have picked her up with chopsticks. Nevertheless, she played the typical Far
Eastern attacking game, standing close to the table and smashing every shot
with apparent recklessness. More important, she was armed with the newfangled
sponge bat. Hugo was befuddled. When he played at the Broadway Table Tennis
Courts his opponents were content to caddie his wild shots and let Hugo beat
himself. But Hugo's reputation had not reached Taiwan, and Miss Chen fought him
for the offense on every point.
Hugo lost the
first game 21-14. Then, to cover his embarrassment, he assumed a nonchalant
hauteur, standing in one spot, primly erect, as though any display of athletics
or effort against so lowly an opponent as a girl was demeaning. When the score
was 15-8 against him in the second game and it became obvious to me that Hugo
was about to flow down the drainpipe, I called out:
fight! Play to win. Let her make the errors. Go back on defense."
Hugo whipped his
neck around (ignoring a ball that passed through his backhand for a point) and
said grandly. "What? Play defense? Against a woman? Haven't you got any
principles, Miles? Do you want me to lose face in Hong Kong?"
The next day the
Hong Kong papers quoted me on my partner's behalf. The headline read: HUGO
BATZLINGER SWEARS REVENGE.
Two days later
Hugo and I were back in Japan giving table-tennis exhibitions to the troops.
One evening when we were through, a shavetail lieutenant named Murphy took us
to Itzauke Air Force Base to watch 18 stalwart paratroopers in a judo class.
The tiny Japanese instructor in the white frock with the black belt was
effortlessly tossing paratroopers over his shoulder as though they were
lighter-than-air creatures from another planet. The sight was disturbingly
improbable to apprehend, yet there it was. The instructor was a frail,
lethargic creature with long black glistening hair that bounced, and he had the
wearied expression of a man who heaves sacks of potatoes for a living. The
paratroopers were on line, each awaiting the instructor's nod. At the nod, the
leading man jogged down the mat toward the tutor, a rubber dagger in his hand
raised to the striking position. As contact was made the arm fell, yet the
dagger never reached its target. The wrist was intercepted, twisted, pulled
and, with his foot used as a brace, the imp with the black belt sent the
massive load tumbling over his shoulder to the mat. The paratrooper fell
slowly, gently, smoothly converting his motion into a somersault and, springing
to his feet lightly, he went to the end of the line. Meanwhile, another body
was gliding through the air.
impossible!" Hugo said flatly.
pipsqueak Japanese! He can't do that. Why, those guys aren't even
pipsqueak Japanese," said the lieutenant meaningfully, "has eight black
belts. And 10 is the highest degree."
same," persisted Hugo, "I'd like to see what would happen in real life.
Supposing one of those big guys just grabbed that runt instead of trying all
that Fancy Dan stuff with the dagger. Why, he'd pop."