Part III: The Lamentable Spongezoic Era (Editor’s note: This gets freakier and freakier) (Lao Du: It’s just the truth, so help me.) (Editor: Okay, we’ll help you.)
The Paleozoic era saw little improvement or modification in ping pong rackets. The fossil record shows that the blade might have increased by one ply over the course of 300 million years. It was truly deep into the Triassic and Jurassic that the paddle reached today’s recognizable laminated form with the arrival of the newer synthetic sham trick rackets used by most modern-day ping pong hustlers. About 230 million years ago, a larger ball – in this case, a 44mm rat instead of a 40 mm mouse – was also adopted officially, in order to slow down the monotonous 3 ball game (serve, return, put away) that had accompanied the latest Paleozoic technological advances.
The Cretaceous Period, of course, was quite eventful. The first primates emerged, and numerous cave drawings indicate that by that time some troglodytes were using a Seemiller grip – which is why this species of cretins eventually died out.
The Cenozoic Era is when mammalian diversity occurred, and when the modern ping pong ‘bat’ truly surfaced. The advent of sponge (Spongezoic Era) actually marked the end of the golden era of Ping Pong, and this evolutionary cataclysm can be traced directly back to the formation of the ITTF Rules Committee.
Sidebar pertaining to Sponge: The advent of sponge paddles in the Spongezoic Era was actually one of those random/chance/capricious accidents of nature, in which some cave dweller washing himself with a loofah (the thing in your shower that looks like a pool noodle except it’s fibrous and harbors bacteria waiting to devour you), swatted a bat (the flying mammal) with it. He found that it provided robust spin, which when imparted on those nocturnal fiends flying around his head, would knock them temporarily unconscious and make for easy pickings for a meal. Low and behold, the first sponge paddle was born. And then, VAVOOM! Loofah was hastily replaced by a 2 mm synthetic sponge which, when teamed up with a hard and slightly tacky 1.7 mm top sheet, provided these early savage barbarians with the ideal racket/weapon to whack to death these dinky spheroidal vampires which, ironically, except for their black color, closely resembled a 40mm Gewu tournament ball.
The end of the Cenozoic was momentous and was brought to life by one of ping pong’s most landmark archaeological discoveries. It was made by four French teenagers who were following a dog into a cave one day in 1940. The dog was probably sniffing some excreta on the walls inside, but it wasn’t until Fido actually raised his legs and squirted that cave paintings were revealed in their magnificent splendor for the first time in 40 millennia. And let it be known, that between a couple of the bulls, some deer and lion drawings, were distinctive red ping pong rackets with rather sophisticated flared handles. Note: in the Upper Paleolithic (started 40,000 years ago; please don’t confuse this with the Lower Paleolithic), it was not required to have red and black colored paddles, hence we see only red paddles in the cave paintings. This all changed with the advent of ‘funny rubber’ when the red and black rule was adopted.
Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthals, stone age Homos (we modern humans are Homo sapiens), both lived in Monaco during this period – up to 40,000 years ago – probably because there is no tax there. Both had large skulls (numbskulls?) and their ping pong rackets were also proportionately larger than those of us owning our own rackets in these modern times. The rackets found beside these skulls – most with long handles, unequivocally suggests that these predated all of the shorter handles that Bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) and pen holders use today.
Sidebar pertaining to Cave Drawings: There are lots of theories going around as to why prehistoric man painted animals on the walls of caves. One of these dumbass theories posits that these illiterate and ignorant heathens wanted to decorate their apartments (or whatever) with animal pictures because animals were important to them. Yeah, a few phony so-called men of science imitating anthropologists, present themselves all of a sudden as ancient art critics for the NY Times. What do they know about art? Hey, that’s not their bailiwick. Never the less, they all say “The pictures speak to them!” Jeez, c’mon! The ancient cave dwelling halfwits did this cubistic, Picasso-style junk drawing, because there were no Velvet Elvises available at the time. Period. But, regardless, the cave guys (and gals) did put some ping pong paddles in their paintings. Not that these are clear, mind you. It’s more avant-garde-type art – way ahead of its time, and you got to twist your head and contort a little to see it. But it’s there. Oh, it’s there all right. Yeah, okay, it speaks to me! … but not loudly. Yeah, not that loud. (Hey, I don’t need no medication.) (Editor: Yes, you do.)
In the next edition, Part IV, we’ll be investigating ping pong in the Metal Ages (Bronze, Iron, Titanium), and we’ll be especially probing the unique and extraordinary contributions made to the sport of ping pong during biblical times. (Editor: Yeah, like Jonah played ping pong in the whale?) (Lao Du: I never said that. The table kept moving, the lighting was atrocious and it was extremely slippery in there – no one could play under those conditions.)