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Celebrities Cross Paddles

Plus our ping-pong haiku contest

Dan Klein
November 12, 2010
Judah Friedlander with his championship trophy.(Everything Is Pong)
Judah Friedlander with his championship trophy.(Everything Is Pong)

Losing 11-1 at ping-pong could rattle anyone, but Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Everything is Illuminated) seemed particularly confused Wednesday at Lincoln Center. “I love Cabinet Magazine,” he insisted repeatedly.

Foer was competing in the Tournament of Champions, a celebrity table tennis competition that also featured Will Shortz, Davy Rothbart, Judah Friedlander, Jeff Staple, Nancy Franklin, and Sloane Crosley all fighting for table tennis honor and to celebrate Roger Bennett and Eli Horowitz’s new book Everything You Know Is Pong: How Mighty Table Tennis Shapes Our World.

After Rob Stone (the founder of Fader Magazine and a guy who almost certainly eats animals) routed him in the second round, Foer defiantly told me, “If I was in my basement, I would have won.” Yet when I asked him if his defeat changed the way he felt about ping-pong, he shook his head. “Ping pong isn’t the best game. It’s the only game.”

In the end, only two remained: Will Shortz (mastermind of the New York Times crossword) and the hirsute Judah Friedlander (comedian, 30 Rock star, and self-proclaimed World Champion of the World). Friedlander came out strong, taking four points before crumpling against Shortz’s overwhelming rally, 11-7. He retaliated early in the second set and managed to fend off the puzzle-master, 11-8. Finally, with all the chips on the table and the ball flying over it, the set was tied 9-9 before Friedlander took the last two points for the win and the impressive five-foot trophy.

Along with the warm feeling of brother- and sisterhood among table tennis lovers, we also brought away from the event some promotional copies of the new book Everything You Know Is Pong—and we want to give them to you, the paddle-happy readers of The Scroll. Here’s the challenge: Write a haiku about ping-pong. That’s it! Leave it in the comments or email me ([email protected]). We’ll the announce the winner in a week or so.

Why should you want this book? Here’s what co-author Roger Bennett said: “We truly believe the world is a better place thanks to pong, yet its role has never truly been recognized. It remains the sleeping giant of fast-paced fun. Our deepest desire is that our book can play a small role in changing that.” Write a haiku; change the world.

Related: Smash