(by Steve Hopkins)
As COVID caused tournaments to be cancelled and clubs to close, many of the normal sources of content vanished. Butterfly reacted with a series of weekly interviews called PongNow. The tag line of the interview series is “talking table tennis with some of the best players and personalities in the sport”, and that is, indeed what we did. We learned that Bowie and Melba Martin started their Butterfly business in the U.S. with a $60 investment, we talked to Larry Hodges about 17 of his books, we talked to Mal Anderson about some of the most iconic table tennis photos ever taken, talked to Dean Johnson about his experiences in the golden era of table tennis in New York City, and we convinced Dell and Connie Sweeris to join David and Donna Sakai on the same screen- arguably representing the most national championships on any screen at any one time.
The list of modern champions as guests included David Zhuang, Sean O’Neill, Tim Wang, Peter Li, Michael Landers, and Kanak Zha. Stephanie Sun added Chinese-language interviews with well-known Chinese immigrants Tao Wenzhang and Liu Juan. We interviewed two upcoming Paralympians: Tahl Leibovitz and Jenson Van Emburgh. We talked College table tennis with Willy Leparulo, Christian Lilleroos, and Richard McAfee. We laughed with the three of the Boos Brothers, and were caught up in stories with Wally Green and Adam Bobrow. And some of the other amazing players and coaches included Lily Yip, Thomas Keinath, Ernesto Ebuen, Derek May, Marv and Caron Leff, Adam Hugh, Brian Pace, Shigang Yang, Adoni Maropis, Joerg Bitzigeio, Vlad Farcas, Ty Hoff, Truong Tu, Dora Kurimay, and AJ Carney.
Check out this list of Top 10 favorites by the PongNow Team:
- PongNow: Bowie and Melba Martin – The couple who carried Bowie Jr. from tournament to tournament as they built this great company from scratch.
- PongNow: Dell and Connie Sweeris and David and Donna Sakai – Two couples that table tennis brought together who have amazing accolades from their youth may have been outshined for this generation who know these folks more by their years of service to the sport and hundreds of age division titles.
- PongNow: Boo’s Brothers – Jim McQueen, Pete May and Derek May joined us for an interview where we talked about their era in the sport – where these huge personalities made the whole sport smile.
- PongNow: Sean O’Neill – Sean agreed to be our first interview – and his favorite stories were the perfect start to the series.
- PongNow: Adoni Maropis – Arguably the most famous table tennis National Champion is Adoni Maropis… because of his following through his acting career where he is recognizable for his roles in Hidalgo and Mortal Combat and the series 24.
6-10. The rest of this list in no particular order: Willy Leparulo the Godfather of College Table Tennis, Brian Pace (pretty sure I beat you the last time we played – and yes, I realize you were about 12), Timmy Wang who was once my personal tour guide in China, Adam Bobrow who continues to remake the definition of success in the sport just by being himself, and Christian Lillieroos who played a big role in my personal development in the sport.
Thank you to everyone that has been willing to share your time and your stories. If you are a Hall of Famer, National Champion, or a fixture in the sport and you’d like to share some of your stories – please reach out to Steve Hopkins (shopkins@ butterflyna.com).
Tune in this January as we talk to Dora Kurimay, AJ Carney, and others.
*Click here to see ALL PongNow videos.