Unlike certain hipster bars that offer a ping-pong table with their beer, there’s absolutely nothing cool about spending a Friday night smacking a featherweight ball around at the New York Table Tennis Federation. However, you may be shocked to discover that if you tell your friends you’re going to take a sketchy elevator down to the basement of a nondescript building in Chinatown to play “table tennis” (as the experts like to say) alongside some ferocious Balls of Fury–style players—including a one-armed man with a wicked backhand—suddenly, you’re rolling 10 deep to the NYTTF. Amateurs are often politely directed to the back of the hall, where they can wildly whack the ball off the ceiling and walls without disrupting the concentration of the pros. With 10 tables and one ball machine, there’s almost never a wait, and at $18 an hour for one table with paddles, it’s cheaper than a movie. Warning: If an eight-year-old challenges you to a game, do not accept—unless you love being humiliated in front of your friends, who will never let you forget the time a small child creamed you 21-0.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 15, 2008