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A Bat about Ping-Pong
Dick Miles
October 17, 1966
Hugo Batzlinger, bespectacled table-tennis addict and onetime 10th-ranking player in the U.S. (a war year), is a self-proclaimed logical positivist who may not beat you but will drive you crazy
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October 17, 1966

A Bat About Ping-pong

Hugo Batzlinger, bespectacled table-tennis addict and onetime 10th-ranking player in the U.S. (a war year), is a self-proclaimed logical positivist who may not beat you but will drive you crazy

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"You'd be crippled or dead before you got your hands on him," said the lieutenant.

"Well, maybe yes or maybe no," said Hugo. "All the same, I wouldn't mind trying him in a mixed bout—my wrestling, and him using his tricks."

Hugo's words were beginning to kindle within me the tiny warm flame of treachery. I said to Lieut. Murphy as sweetly and tentatively as I could manage:

"Do you think you could arrange a bout like that, lieutenant?"

"It's possible," said the lieutenant. "Do you actually want to give it a try, Mr. Batzlinger?"

"Sure I would," said Hugo.

"The theory of judo seems to be that the judo expert can take the momentum and weight of his opponent and turn it against him. Theoretically, it's fine. But as a logical positivist I'd have to dismiss it as meaningless until it can be demonstrated empirically."

The tone of Lieut. Murphy's voice made it seem as though he had stood up.

"In this man's Air Force, Mr. Batzlinger, we don't waste our time with meaningless theories. If you really want an empirical demonstration of judo, I can arrange it."

So they fitted Hugo out in a judo suit ("What do I need this thing for?" he said), and they made him sign a form ("red tape") that released Uncle Sam from responsibility and gave him shipping instructions for the body. Meanwhile, on the mat, Lieut. Murphy was doing his best to make the puzzled peewee from Japan understand that they had a disbeliever on their hands. Murphy seemed to be making headway, for finally the little creature's face expanded into a grin, and from there on he began bowing and nodding and grinning and saying, "Ah so," and drawing air in an "issh" between the gold points of his teeth and bowing and nodding. He looked more like a lamb than a wolf, and I was beginning to think he would fail. Not that I wanted to see Hugo maimed in any way, you understand—after all, we still had a few exhibitions to play.

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