(by Steve Hopkins)
It’s no surprise to anyone reading this post that my sport doesn’t make headlines in the US. Because of this, I like to find table tennis angles to most of the big sporting events. In early January, I used table tennis logic to pick the winner in the Clemson-Alabama College Football National Championship game (correctly selecting Clemson, you can view that article here). At this time, I’m going to apply the same process to the NFL and am announcing my TT-focused pick for the 2019 SuperBowl.
Fans have some strange ways of picking winners in important games across all sports. Some cheer with their heart, having followed a team and developed an attachment over the course of a season. Others pull for underdogs or favorites and rely upon the experts and the betting lines and the resulting buzz.
During the 2018 world cup soccer tournament for instance, there were several stories about animals selecting winners including Paul the Octopus in Germany, Shaheen the camel in Dubai, and Marcus the pig in England. Many rely on commentators or Las Vegas to pick the winners for us (the current Vegas odds have the Patriots as 2.5 point favorites). It is not my intent to suggest that this pick has more science behind it than the experts in Las Vegas or the cuteness factor associated with selections by an animal.
Just for fun, I’m going to make my pick based upon something closer to my heart – how closely table tennis is associated with each team.
A quick GOOGLE search brings ample references to table tennis and both the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. The Patriots had a number of years participating in a table tennis fundraiser in Boston with some of their most popular players (See the patriots.com article on Ninko’s Ping Pong Challenge from 2016 which involved currently Patriot players Edelman, Gronkowski, and Chung). There was also a 2017 article on boston.com titled The Patriots take Playing Ping Pong Very Seriously that noted that Edelman and Amendola were playing three times each week and that there was some trash talking on Twitter between players about who was the best Patriot at the time. And there was this reference from a 2016 SportsCenter appearance by former Patriot Amendola where he said during his first week with the Patriots, Tom Brady challenged him to ping pong and that Brady was so competitive that he broke a paddle after his loss.
On the Rams’ side, there is a USA Today article this week highlighting defensive star Aaron Donald’s exchange with a Chinese reporter on the topic of table tennis. Donald noted that he’s been playing since he was 14. Apparently the Falcons training facility where the Rams are based this week has a ping pong table, and Aaron Donald has been spending free time challenging teammates. Donald and the Chinese reporter discussed the sport and Donald said he’d like to try his luck playing some of the table tennis pros. The Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff and receiver Pharoh Cooper matched up in the Rams facility in this NFL Films video showing a clip from the show Hard Knocks.
Obviously there are ties to table tennis across important players on both teams. However, the record shows that the most important offensive player and the most important defensive player on the Rams are fans of table tennis. I am using my Table Tennis Logic to give the advantage to the Rams, and will declare them the likely winner. It may not be the most exact or scientific approach, but I will note that after picking Clemson last month, I am 1-for-1 on Table Tennis Logic picks for major football games in 2019 (and by my math that is a 100% success rate).