In Part I we met the “hole puncher” – my emotionally intense goombah who took fist to wall when things weren’t proceeding … shall we say, swimmingly. Now I’ll introduce you to another example of a guy with ‘control’ issues but with a much different constellation of symptoms. This man actually often wins, but he doesn’t appear to enjoy himself all the time. Most of the time his affect is blunted, but he will transform his face to a scowl if things aren’t going right. When he misses an easy shot, he can be seen doing a lot of gesticulating (he’s a real gesticulator, this one). He’ll throw his arms up and shake his head in disbelief and usually asks the Lord the “Why Me?” thing. But he never makes war with a wall or other inanimate objects (such a good boy). Perhaps even more detrimentally, though, he frequently talks to himself in a most disparaging manner. He’s been heard to refer to himself as an idiot or a “Big Turkey,” or his favorite – “You Big Dope.” His monologues are epic and loud enough for anyone within 25 feet to overhear. They go something like this: “Jeeze, you know this guy wants to hit a forehand topspin, why the hell are you feeding him a topspin serve to his forehand, YOU BIG DOPE!” Then the ‘walk around’ after the mistake, well into his high dudgeon, when he turns away from the table seeking divine intervention while shaking his head in disgust and taking the Lord’s name in vain. If you watch this guy closely subsequent to the blaspheming, he’s likely to screw up for the next 3 to 4 points (vengeance is mine, said the Lord). At these moments he might serve a ball off the table twice in a row (which is the ping pong equivalent of baseball’s ‘golden sombrero’ = a player striking out 4 times in a single game).
What we have here is an example of impaired brain function (accompanied by dysfunctional behavior). This second guy, just like the kuku, harum-scarum wall puncher, is also indeed an out of control dude (a Big Dope) – though more restrained to be sure. And you should know that both of these doofuses (doofusi?) aint on crack and have never been admitted to an insane asylum. Nevertheless, each, in his own way, has definitely gone off the deep end (to some degree) and they are both, in effect, playing against an opponent and THEMSELVES! They present a daunting challenge for behavior modification. Question: Can we help either of these self-destructive boychiks?
Before we answer that question (spoiler alert: the answer is ‘yes’), let us not presuppose that ping pong is unique in fostering deplorable conduct. There’s been a lot worse in all kinds of sports. Do you recall that Roger Clemens threw a bat at Mike Piazza, or that Ron Artest (basketball player) ran into the stands and punched out some fans (absurdly, afterward he changed his name to Metta World Peace – get’s a high number on the irony meter, wouldn’t you say?) ? And do you remember all of McEnroe’s outbursts or – and this one takes the cake – the time that Mike Tyson (“Iron Mike”) bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear (he was hungry, wanted an earful)? Kinda makes punching a few holes in the wall at our ping pong club seem so very tame and subdued. Nevertheless, let’s go directly to Go (Monopoly) and begin our discussion of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) as it relates to treating our own two tortured souls. … Eh, next time. I’m hungry. Talked myself into wanting to eat an ear of my own. (I’m talking corn.) Lao Du