Greatness vs. Mediocrity

So over the last few days, the wife, kids and a bunch of family members went camping in Pennsylvania along the Delaware River. We stayed at one of those glamp-grounds—which means that, while the area is, indeed, wooded and many people do use actual tents, there’s a nearby bathroom, myriad power supplies, a small store, a pool and different activities. Hence, glamping: Glamorous camping.

Anyhow, it was announced early on that, at 8 o’clock Sunday night, a table tennis tournament would be held inside the main building. I signed up, as did about 10 other schlubs with C- games and limited paddle histories.

Then, there was Christian.

Christian (above, right) is my sister-in-law’s boyfriend. He’s a smart dude; a math professor from Germany whose two great skills (in his words) are “math and table tennis.” Because he loves the game, and because, well, he’s a competitor, Christian agreed to participate. Which had me torn because, on the one hand, I officially had zero shot of winning; but, on the other hand, it’d be cool to see him dominate the competition.

In this regard, I was not disappointed. Christian ate up the competition. He rolled through the first four games, winning by an average of, oh, 21-5. Save for one random shot, all his lost points were of his own doing. A missed slam. A misguided serve. On and on. As his dominance progressed, word started to spread. “This guy’s a player” and “I hear he’s nationally ranked.” (Which, at one point, I believe Christian was). Yet something else happened, and it was strange. Even though few people there knew Christian, you could see people start to root against him. He was too good, too efficient, too crushing. He had a funky, Dontrelle Willis-esque serve, and his slams reminded me of Mike Tyson body blowing Marvis Frazier. In basketball terms, it was sorta like Chris Paul showing up at the neighborhood Y and roughing folks up. Although he beat a pretty capable opponent in the finals, “capable” was a relative term. He was capable of crushing me (I won my first-round match, then lost to some 16-year-old kid with awesome spin Sigh.). I think Christian beat him, 21-6.

I’m not sure the point here. I often think it’d be cool to try and hit a Justin Verlander heater or try and tackle Brandon Jacobs. But, truth be told, it wouldn’t be. Watching greatness is euphoric and fantastic and dazzling.

Confronting greatness, however, is just plain …