by Frank Villanueva
Mount Angel Seminary has yet again added a new sport to the hilltop. Ping pong, also known as table tennis, has been played here on the hilltop for many years, but it has never been a coordinated sport until now. Seminarian Anh Tran from the Archdiocese of Seattle has helped to change the face of this sport here at Mount Angel.
Anh has been playing ping pong since he was 12 years old but has been serious about it for the last 11 years. His love of the sport and his enthusiasm for getting others involved in it has been the driving force behind this growing sport here on the hilltop. There is a ping pong table on the basement floor of the Anselm building in the dormitory, and most seminarians play there. However, the increase in the interest in the sport has brought outsiders onto this mountain top, and they have brought along with them four more tables. These tables have been generously donated to the seminary on a loan basis.
Every Saturday between 1 and 4p.m., people from Salem, Portland, and many other places in Oregon come to join the seminarians for a game of ping pong. “Saturdays are more convenient for open play, and it is easier for any seminarian who has an interest in picking up this sport to come and try out” Tran said.
Tran also explained some of the history of ping pong. Ping pong is a game that originated in England during the early 19th century where it was played by those who were of upper-class as an after dinner parlour game. However, their way of playing and the set-up was quite different than what we see today. Those who played the sport would line several books across a long table to create what we see today as the net. They would also use books as paddles and a golf ball for their ball.
This unconventional way of after dinner entertainment gave the name table tennis. Shortly after this, the sport gained popularity amongst the families, which led game manufacturers to sell equipment commercially. Early rackets were often pieces of parchment stretched upon a frame, and when swung it generated an unusual sound that went sort of like “wiff-waff.” From that came the name “ping pong.” Later, a famous game developer, Parker Brothers, purchased trademark rights which gave them trademark rights for the term “ping pong.” In the 1920s these rights forced the various competing associations to change their names to the original “table tennis.”
Sports have proven to be a healthy part of a seminarian’s life. When asked how ping pong has helped in his vocation, Tran said, “it helps me in my [confidence] and [gives me] encouragement.” Tran also said, “the most important of all is [the] human relations that are fostered with those who [come to play] this sport” and that’s what makes this game so much fun.