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Forrest Gump Really Should Have Grown Up Somewhere Else

Silicon Valley engineers products and then exports them to the rest of the world. The latest innovation: ping-pong-playing robots disguised as small children, built from scratch to ruthlessly dominate the Olympics and win eternal glory for America. U-S-A!

Many of these kids are the sons and daughters of immigrants-turned-Silicon-Valley-staples who, in their spare time, transform from terrifyingly smart engineers into something much more important and intimidating: Ping-Pong parents. They're the new soccer moms and Little League dads, reports The New York Times. Of course they are! Our cultural norms were so inferior. According to USA Table Tennis — it exists! — 80 percent of the top U-14 players are Asian-Americans, or, as a board member of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association called them, "hyphenated kids."


Minor tangent: I always loved table tennis. Every year, my high school would bring in a ping-pong table for about a week, and we would play some absolutely epic matches, trudging late into class, dripping sweat. Then we'd go back after school and play best-of-seven series that people actually would stick around to watch. Ping-pong is repetitive, migraine-inducing and fairly boring when you're a spectator. But slicing a drop shot or ripping a forehand or nailing one of those spin serves that just barely nicks the edge of the table and richochets off — well, just thinking about it gives me a hankering to go grab a Flex-o-Lite and start pounding ping-pong balls into one of those folding tables that never misses a return. But make no mistake: I never thought ping-pong was particularly cool or made me less dorky in any way. Kids these days:

Min Zhou, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that among Asian-Americans, there was a perception that the children would not excel at football or basketball, and that table tennis "is a sport where they have an advantage because of cultural affinity."

"Being too academically oriented has become a stereotype of the Asian-American kid," she said. "Parents are grounding them in sports so the kid does not appear as nerdy."

Actually, there's another game with ping-pong balls and a table that makes teenagers appear less nerdy. It involves lots of really, really cheap beer.

Taking Hold in Silicon Valley, a Ping-Pong Boom [The New York Times]

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