Playing Ping Pong for the Coach

I learned how to play ping pong on a permanent metal table bolted on a deck in the park behind my house. At night, the sprinkers would leave puddles of water on the table causing the table top to rust and blister. When it got bad enough, a new sheet of metal would be installed with a fresh coat of industrial paint. While the ball didn’t bounce exactly like it does on a wood table (or sound the same), I got good enough at it to where I came in fourth place in the city ping pong tournament. Okay, table tennis, whatever.

The paddles and the net for table provided by a park director who all the kids called “coach.” Coach also provided crayons, construction paper, popsicle sticks, Carroms, chess, checkers, backgammon, playing cards, cribbage, Parcheesi, Trouble, Sorry, basketballs, kickballs, four-square balls, softballs, bats, bases, footballs, flags (tackle football was frowned upon), frisbees, and sometimes donated tennis balls and rackets. I remember the mildewy smell of the coach’s office like Marcel Proust and a lot of the coach’s names: Curt, Pam, Karl, Gary, Jan. My family went to one of their weddings.

When Proposition 9 passed (California) and all of Coach’s salary went kaput, I lost a small piece of faith in humanity.  I couldn’t understand how my city would get rid of all of the city park’s coaches. I felt like my city and state didn’t care about kids. That ping pong table is gone and the city doesn’t even hold ping pong tournaments anymore. You can still be a ping pong champion out of your own pocket, I suppose.

With all of the handwringing over Obama’s stimulus package, get over it. It will be stimulating.

Update: Jay breaks it down in hard numbers.

See also this debunking of the right’s perpetual FDR myths.

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